Tell Me Who You Have Changed?

Today is the UCF Starter Riot. If you read my blog Monday, you know what I am talking about.

It’s important to know why we are so committed to creating events that help us build a culture that stresses engagement, smart risk-taking and getting out of your comfort zone. This week I saw a timely post from Seth Godin that captures the essence of what we hope to achieve when we focus on this very challenging idea.

“One reason it’s so difficult to teach entrepreneurship is that we’re not teaching tactics or skills. We’re not teaching spreadsheets or finance or even marketing. No, when we encourage entrepreneurship, we’re actually trying to get people to the place where they care enough and where they are confident enough to stand up and try to make things change.

Don’t tell me what you invented. Tell me about who you changed.”

This is the seed of a successful riot…..

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Starter Riot

A few months ago, Cameron was working on a presentation about entrepreneurship at UCF to use at an alumni gathering we were hosting in South Florida.  Most of the people scheduled to attend the event were entrepreneurs themselves and I wanted Cameron to put something together that would capture their attention.  As he was walking me through his presentation, he came to a slide with the CEL’s organization chart. I quipped: “Cameron stop showing the org chart to entrepreneurs–they don’t care–they are all anarchists.”

If you know and love Dr. Ford like I do, you know that he is “coachable” and sure enough he removed the org chart from his presentation.  Little did I know at the time, Cameron was way ahead of me.  He knew his people were anarchists. And he was planning to have them riot.

The riot occurs Thursday in the Student Union.  Frankly, I think it is genius. So if you are a creative type looking to start something new, different and irreverent.  Or maybe you want others to know about your big idea. Or you just want to hang out with people who are really different from you.  Or you like cupcakes and candy and want to redefine Halloween (seriously, it is an ancient holiday with an industry that could use some disruption)…Show up and make some noise.  You are only college students for a short time….don’t miss this.

To learn more click here.

How to Get Promoted

I once had a direct report who brought me every problem he encountered. He would describe them to me and then sit and wait for me to “give him the answer.” At times I think he was stumped. Most of the time he just wanted to cover his butt or be able to blame the decision on me if someone complained. This went on for about a month, when finally I asked him: “What is your recommendation for how we should handle this?” He looked surprised and said he didn’t have one. I told him to come back when he did–that if I had to solve all his problems for him, that I really didn’t need him. It took him a while, but he came back.

A wise man once told me that you get promoted by bringing your boss solutions, rather than problems. Think about it this way–every manager or leader has plenty of problems. They don’t need you to bring them more. What they are really short on is solutions. Providing people solutions gets you noticed. Being a reliable provider of solutions, gets you promoted.

This is why we put such a heavy emphasis on developing student problem-solving skills in business schools. The more difficult (and inherently risky) problems you can solve, the more they will need you, and the farther you will go. Don’t leave here without developing the ability to solve problems–the more wicked, the better.

Do you like our new Website?

Thank you for taking time to give us feedback. Launching a new website is wild ride and involves being ready to “go” and continue to build it after it’s up and running. We have been getting great input from people and are working to incorporate much of it over the next few weeks. Some of our links are not yet up and many of the page designs are still in process. The site gives us great capacity to incorporate video and provide a more interactive experience for the users and particularly our students and those who are looking for good solid business content. The poll provided me an opportunity to test our interactions and i will pass that along to my team.

Orlando and Us

Thursday I had the honor of addressing an audience of over 400 people who were there to hear Mayor Dyer give his State of the City address.  I thought I would share my comments with all of you….

So you are probably asking yourself “Why is the Dean of the UCF College of Business the warm up act for Mayor Dyer?”

In the year I have been here, I have learned that more than any other University, UCF appreciates the importance of place.  It understands that to become the destination of choice for people who have choices, it must leverage the unique qualities of Orlando to offer distinctive programs for students that will differentiate them in the marketplace.  This is how UCF builds national prominence.

So as Dean of the Business School, I have a great interest in helping my city cultivate its unique elements and to partner with my fellow citizens to make things happen that will make us prosper.

And one of the things I want to help this city do is Slay the Beast.  Let me explain. Every great metropolitan economy is anchored by a great business school that has thrown open its doors and invited in diverse groups of people from engineering, applied science and technology to collaborate, take risks and invent the future. Boston has MIT and Harvard. San Francisco has Stanford and Berkeley, Austin has the University of Texas.  If you can’t Slay the Beast and integrate Business thinking with engineering, applied science and technology, too many scientific discoveries will fail to find markets and too many business ideas will fail to scale into significant enterprises. So we have to work together as Knights in places like the Creative Village to slay this BEAST and ensure that our community continues to move forward.

To achieve this goal, we first must get to know each other better.  The college and the community must become intertwined. Last month at Dr. Hitt’s focus breakfast, I challenged our community leaders to “take the ball”, email one of our faculty members and start a conversation with them.  More than forty people have already taken up my challenge and more conversations are taking place every day.

Starting tomorrow at the Citrus Club, and once a month thereafter, my colleagues are also taking up the challenge, getting out of their comfort zones and engaging the community with their most provocative ideas.  They will present twenty-minute Ted-like talks that will engage you in dialogue. Our first talk is sold out, but information on our second talk, by Dr. Maureen Ambrose is at your table. Come out and see what our world class faculty have to say.

These faculty also stand ready to meet you and your needs at our executive development center on Pine Street.  I have challenged its Director Dr. Robert Porter to make our downtown campus the cross-roads of town and gown–an engaging place where people can learn and exchange ideas with our thought-leaders while earning advanced degrees and contributing to their organization’s bottom line.

Let me conclude by noting that we have been honored to work with the Downtown Orlando Partnership on this event.  I want to give special recognition to Bridget Downes and Tiffany Hughes from my external relations staff for working tirelessly to make today a success.  They are wonderful ambassadors of our college and can help connect you with us in a variety of ways.

That’s it.  It’s time for the main act. I for one, can’t wait to hear what Mayor Dyer has to say about his plans for downtown and look forward to partnering with him so that we can all become a destination of choice for people who have choices.

Go Knights.

Repost Wednesday: I Have a Crazy Idea

As our students compete in our second failure competition, I thought I’d repost the blog that spawned the event. Thanks again to Dr. Porter for picking up the challenge. The prize is a letter from me to show prospective employers on why the winner was victorious….

Foard tells me that it has become standard in job interviews for positions that report directly to me to ask: “How comfortable are you working for someone who walks into your office and says— I have a crazy idea.” I admit that I do this regularly. Sometimes I talk myself out of it. Sometimes I convince others the idea is worth pursuing. Always I am asking my staff to do more work or to do something in a different way.

One of my obsessions is to think about how to shape the culture of the college in ways that promote the qualities I want to instill in our students: risk-taking, a willingness to get out of your comfort zone, collaborating with people from different backgrounds, and making high-quality decisions based on real-time data.

My latest crazy idea is that I want to celebrate failure in the college. Why? Because nothing great happens without it. Only through failure will our students find great success. So, in many ways, failure is the doorway to greatness, we just aren’t comfortable with that idea. All the iconic business stories have failure right in the middle of them. Yet we push our students hard to be uncomfortable with failure so that when it inevitably happens, it is devastating to them.

I want to turn this dynamic on its head by creating a college-wide competition that requires every student to stand up, explain a failure that they have had and what they have learned from it. The event would be an exercise in story-telling, getting out of your comfort zone to describe a real life journey and share important lessons that can benefit others. It would also emphasize the point that everyone fails, survives it and needs to learn from it. The winner would be the student who told the most compelling story with the best learning lessons for business professionals. I would be willing to put significant prize money behind this (e.g., a one year scholarship) and perhaps a speaker series where we would ask alums to come in and tell their stories of risk-taking, failure, lessons learned and eventual success. I am even considering a similar event with awards for faculty and staff.

Think about the mentors and influencers in your life. What are the stories that they tell you to help frame up your pursuits? How many of these conversations deal with overcoming something…coping with and persevering through failure? World changers embrace risk and that can only happen if they have developed a good comfort level with failure.

So in the spirit of Foard’s interview question: who wants to work with me on this crazy idea?