Last week I attended M.I.T’s graduation to see my son receive his Ph.D. in Aeronautic and Astronautic Engineering. The guest speaker was Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States. Here are a few key points she made that I thought worth sharing along with my comments:
- “When we work in technology, we get messy — it’s not straightforward. You can’t learn to play baseball by reading a book.” The same is true of leadership, management, and especially innovation. Innovation is messy because you won’t innovate through bureaucracy and managing projects. With leadership and management, books and seminars may be good ways to learn concepts, but there is no substitute for experience, mentoring, and coaching.
- The importance of teams to get things done. Her point was about knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, focusing on improving your strengths, and teaming up with people who are good at your weaknesses. That’s why it’s so important not to surround yourself with people who are like you.
- Kindness is not a weakness, but an extraordinary strength. Bullying is widespread in corporate America. Remember that the objective of a bully is to bring others down to his/her level. bullies need to be told to chill-out. Be kind to yourself, and to others. Help yourself and others to perform at high levels and to grow.
You won’t get a Nobel Prize for doing what you are told.” Engender both the confidence to learn and a profound humility of being able to innovate and create new futures.