Every time the summer holidays draw to a close, or at the start of a New Year, most people frequently draw up a list of intentions to put into practice for the immediate future. Thanks to a renewed energy and drive, it's also the time when we arm ourselves with willpower, and we display our capacity for change.
In my case, this past summer I had the good fortune to visit the USA. One always learns something new when visiting a new destination and this trip was no exception for me. In the course of touring some of the country's historic sites I discovered some inspiring quotes which provide meaning to the work we all undertake in our organisations, as well as for the society we live in. The following three I shall mention, have already been incorporated into my personal principles of action for this new 'school year'.
The first quote is found at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston: "One person can make a difference, and everyone should try". I feel this is good advice on how to deal with our work as professionals in order to avoid falling into self-complacency, feelings of apathy and discouragement, or perpetuating a worn out routine. Organisations can create settings and frameworks which support personal development. However, the power to both make that change, and to contribute our skills and knowledge, is in each and every one of us.
We need to be change agents promoting new initiatives, new behaviours, and new ways of performing in the organisation. We also need to be ambitious in order to make a difference. We must flee from mediocrity like the plague, something which unfortunately, and all too often, becomes commonplace in our work world. Therefore, one of our maxims must be to contribute intensity, passion, creativity, risk, responsibility, and collaboration with others, to name just a few.
The second quote I wish to highlight is by Benjamin Franklin and can be seen on the façade of the Boston Latin School, the oldest public school in both Boston and the USA: "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest". It is my personal conviction that every single one of us must take it upon ourselves to take responsibility for both our own learning process and knowledge acquisition, regardless of whether our organisations help us to do so, or not.
On-going learning is a key part of our development as professionals. A significant part of the time we spend as professionals must be occupied by opening our minds to new ideas, searching for new experiences, and planning our reading. It is also vital to engage with others in information exchanges with colleagues, clients, and suppliers, etc. Those who are trained to seek out differentiation, while being supportive of the group, are those who will promote change in their organisations.
The most relevant point to I want to emphasise is that we must put all our energy, creativity and knowledge at the service of organisations and society with the goal of spurring change. The last and most famous quote is one I found in Boston’s Old North Church where American revolutionaries gathered to mount the fight against the British: "One if by land, and two if by sea". I believe that this spirit of 'Keep calm, and rebel' must motivate us as professionals. Let's not accept the status quo, but rather work to change it.