Yes and… understand your stage

Blog post by David Week

Last week Alfredo Ortiz asked the question, “Should we be encouraging and training students to challenge dominant practice? ” What drove you and your firm over time to engage in this risky yet rewarding shift that you are attempting.”

My view, yes. I did my first degrees at Berkeley, which at the time (1970s) was all about challenging dominant practice. And this changed me forever, in that I never take it for granted that the way things are done = the way things must be done. (On the other hand, it took me some years to understand that there are reasons why things are the way they are, and a value in understanding the dominant practice before attempting to change it.)

If I were in your position, I think I would aim to teach these:

  • how to do the work (the ideal)
  • the art and science of execution (including change)
  • understanding the history, pragmatics, and political economy of current practice
  • social entrepreneurship | organisational intrapreneurship

“What drove you and your firm over time to engage in this risky yet rewarding shift that you are attempting?”

I think of the average adult lifecycle in three phases:

Stage 1:Under 30 Few obligations. No mortgage. No kids. Free to take risks. Before I was thirty I had started a social enterprise in Papua New Guinea and grown it successfully for 7 years.
Stage 2:30-50

 

Kids. Mortgage. Risk averse. Even if you run your own firm (as I did) one is “chained to the wheel of turnover.” Clients have be treated as gods. All focus on winning work, doing work to external satisfaction, meeting payroll, managing cashflow. Would be the same if one had a job
Stage 3:50 and onward Some assets accumulated. Financial buffers in place. Professional standing more secure. Kids left home. An opportunity to take risks if one chooses to. Some don’t. We have.

If I were training young professionals I would advise them:

* don’t think in terms of job, unless it is as very clear short-term experience or cash generator

* think instead of long-term personal mission, to be carried out through a small firm, collective or as a free agent

* use Stage 1 (above) wisely, and start thinking from the beginning of how to navigate Stage 2 so you aren’t pressured into risk aversion and conformity

* don’t just learn your profession: learn your business as well.
* congregate with others of like mind.

Best, David

David Week

David Week

DAVID WEEK HAS MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS EXPERIENCE IN THE SCOPING, PLANNING, DESIGN, MANAGEMENT, MONITORING AND EVALUATION OF CULTURALLY APPROPRIATE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC REGION. DAVID HAS DIRECTED, MANAGED AND EVALUATED THE DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF OVERSEAS AID PROJECTS FOR AUSAID AND THE WORLD BANK, THE PLANNING AND DESIGN OF FACILITIES FOR ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAITS ISLANDER COMMUNITIES, THE DESIGN OF CORPORATE WORKPLACES BASED ON ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE, AND ASSISTED RESOURCE COMPANIES TO FULFILL THEIR COMMUNITY OBLIGATIONS
DAVID IS CURRENTLY THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ASSAI, A PROFESSIONAL SERVICES FIRM THAT PROVIDES DESIGN, PROJECT MANAGEMENT, CAPACITY BUILDING AND HUMAN RESOURCE SOLUTIONS ACROSS TWO CORE AREAS: 1)SOCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE FOR DEVELOPMENT, IN BOTH INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA; 2)  EVALUATION FOR SOCIAL CHANGE