How about ‘majors’ and ‘minors’ at work?

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Always found this interesting: there’s no real connection between “how school is structured” and “how business is structured.”

Think about it:

1. Education / school teaches you that “learning and gaining knowledge is important.” How you get hired at a job has nothing to do with that — it has to do with the amount you already know.

What if we thought about work like this?

2. People in business often read articles from academics (that make sense) and say, “Well, he’s in an ivory tower.” Academics often look at business and say, “Well, that’s just people running around from meeting to meeting.” There seems to be a healthy share of questioning the other side.

Now, this all makes sense in one way — the goal of school is to make you smarter, love learning, pursue learning, and have access to basic facts and ways to solve problems.

The goal of most businesses is to make money.

So, there’s obviously a disconnect there.

But think about this for a second: in the era of “employee engagement” as a focus, what if we designed work around the idea of “majors” (your deliverables) and “minors” (your passions)?

You can work on your “minor” from time-to-time — just as you’d spend a percentage of time studying for those classes at school — while you put most of your time/effort into your “major.”

They do this at the ad agency Translation, where the CEO says:

Stoute stresses that he wants his team’s majors and minors to coexist in the workplace. If your mind wanders during the day and you start looking up videos or articles pertaining to your passion, Stoute says he embraces that. “I don’t want you to have to cover up your screen — I want you to work on that,” he says. “When you allow people to take and not hide what they do when they leave work and incorporate that in the workplace, you’ve got yourself something dynamic.”

All well and good, you say … does it ever lead to actual business? Indeed:

Stoute explains that with his team’s minors, he’s able to tap into a skill set that could, in turn, be beneficial to the company. “If we have a client brief and there’s any peripheral dimension to the solution that touches your minor, then you should be involved in that client solution,” he says. Case in point: Joel Rodriguez, an account executive at Translation, is an MC in off hours. While working with client Sprite, Rodriguez’s minor came to light and Sprite’s representatives decided to use his rapping skills in a national campaign.

This is cool. It’s a little bit what happens with Google and other companies who use “20 percent time” — work on passions, let passions relate back to business intent, in an ideal world things like GMail and AdWords will emerge — but it speaks to the bigger issue that people want to work on things close to them (things with purpose) as opposed to mandated projects.

This is the goal: following your passion.

At a certain level, everyone will work on mandated projects to pay the bills — and because of the attitude of “Well, that’s how work is!” — but the goal, as a manager, should be to set up a world in which people can also chase their passions (within reason). If you do that, that creates a world where people chase Facebook less and less. That’s good, right?

The major/minor idea is just one good look at the problem.

My name’s Ted Bauer; I blog here regularly and I’m a member of the BlogPoets network. My deal: I try to think differently about work, the future of work, leadership, management, marketing, organizational development, customer experience, and more. I’m out here trying to chase real professional connection and collaboration, not just 200K page views. Anyone want to talk? (I also do freelance and ghostwriting work, if anyone’s into that.)

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Blogging, largely about work and how to improve it. How I make (some) money:

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