This first Strathcona Centre for Learning Futures event for witnessed Lisa Leong, host of Radio National’s “This Working Life” and Year 6 Strathcona parent, engage her audience young and slightly less young to be active in shaping their careers to fit them rather than shaping themselves to fit known careers. Those who filled the tables in Featherstone hall were challenged to think not of what they wanted to be, but who they wanted to be.
The Strathcona Centre for Learning Futures aims to bring an expansive frame to education, to think beyond the tests of school to what the students will grow to be beyond school. It asks the question, “What will students need to succeed in the workforce they will enter?” and invites experts to help provide answers. It is about thinking bigger than a school curriculum or a particular work experience.
Lisa Leong speech certainly fitted the bill and brought her answers from her personal journey and insights she has learned from her interviews on her radio show. Lisa established a successful career for herself in law, but felt lost. She was looking for a way to contribute more broadly to the community and a colleague suggested to her that she volunteer in hospital radio. She did not know there was such a thing. This was a real “sliding doors” moment for Lisa that eventually led to her current role as national radio star. Lisa told a story of sacrifice – she eventually gave up her law job for radio work that initially had 10% of her law pay check – iteration and creativity. There were several steps on Lisa’s journey of experimenting with who she was professionally before she landed her current portfolio of roles.
One of the many memorable moments of Lisa’s presentation was when she told of how she drummed up an audience for one of her early radio jobs. It was a new radio station and she had the midnight to dawn slot. How do you build an audience for a program that nobody knows exists? Lisa began with taxi drivers, convincing drivers at a taxi rank to give her their number and she called them in the middle of the night and had them pretend that they had rung her! Through this she built an audience of not only the taxi drivers but their families and friends. She did the same with bakers and service station workers – people who worked and listened to the radio during the hours she was on air. Through this she built a following by being resourceful. Lisa was certainly creative and adaptable in her endeavours.
Lisa’s radio program, this working life, features interviews with various people around the world to help her listeners navigate the world of work. One of her programs late last year was a conversation with Dan Klein from Stanford University who managed to transform organisational culture at Netflix using the techniques of improv – short for improvisational theatre. Anyone who has seen the TV show, Thank God You’re Here will have some understanding of improv. Lisa drew on some of these techniques for some interactive work with her audience here on Thursday. The first was one Dan Klien had mentioned on the show called “Yes but, yes and”. When people introduce ideas whether at work or at home, they are often greeted with “Yes but” followed by reasons that the idea will not work. Lisa described these reactions as idea piranhas. The audience were challenged to pair up and one member of the pair was to make a suggestion for a party. Their partner had to respond with a “yeah but”… The conversation petered out after quite quickly without any resolution. Lisa suggested we change the response to “yes and…” The conversations were much more productive and led to an improvement of the original idea rather than killing it. Lisa encouraged us to use this approach in meetings and conversations to build collaboration and creativity, generate ideas rather than just knocking them back.
Other interactive activities Lisa led us in were called 1,2,3 Fail, Lemons to Lemonade and Norwegian Clapping. Each challenged us all to take a design thinking mindset to our work lives, using curiosity, courage, creativity and connection. We cannot plan for one job for life and in many ways will need to create our own jobs. Lisa was inspirational and had the whole room thinking.
Our next guest speaker is on Tuesday 19 May when Associate Professor Hernan Cuervo will speak on the topic Generations, Young People and the Future of Work. This too promises to be highly engaging and relevant for our young people as they seek out expert guidance to help them navigate their future in work. I look forward to seeing you there. To reserve your spot, please visit www.trybooking.com/BIHHQ