Interview: New York times best-selling author Robert Kriegel, Ph.D. to speak at ACTE Las Vegas Convention.
His book If it ain't broke ... BREAK IT! was a national bestseller, and his book Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers made Business Week's bestseller list in its first month of publication. His latest book is How to Succeed in Business Without Working so Damn Hard.
This all-American athlete and pioneer in the field of sports medicine has coached both Olympic and professional athletes and has provided color commentary for the U.S. Professional Ski Tour on ESPN. Kriegel, who is a commentator on National Public Radio's Marketplace, recently make two specials for PBS.
Kriegel has also worked as an advertising executive in New York and taught in the Executive Management Program at Stanford University.
An advocate of innovative strategies and out-of-the-box thinking, Kriegel believes in rethinking rules, redefining roles and reinventing the game. He has brought his bold and creative ideas to groups such as IBM Corporation, McGraw-Hill, Hewlett-Packard, AT&T and General Motors--and now he will be sharing these ideas with ACTE.
Techniques: At the ACTE Convention in Las Vegas, you will be addressing the topic "Riding the Wave of Change." Could you give Techniques readers a brief preview of what to expect from your presentation?
Kriegel: No matter what people do, where they do it, what role they play, there's one thing we all have in common--change, which is happening at an incredible rate. When you look at technology, which is constantly changing, competition, which is getting fiercer, customers, who are being more demanding, or the marketplace, which is being deluged with mergers and consolidations, everything is in flux.
This type of change creates both tough new challenges and exciting new opportunities. But to take advantage of the new opportunities, you can't keep playing by the old rules. The truth is, if you keep playing today's game by yesterday's rules, you won't be around tomorrow.
There are numerous examples of giant companies that became dinosaurs because they kept playing by the old rules.
Companies and people that win are not the ones that respond quickly to change; they are the ones that create change and new opportunities. They are leaders not followers, proactive not reactive.
I use the metaphor "Riding the Wave of Change," because in surfing the waves keep coming, which is like change. There are a couple of basic rules in surfing that apply to business. One is you keep looking outside. That means you don't look at the wave you're on, you look at the one that's maybe 10 or 15 yards away. So you anticipate the wave that's coming, and then you move before the wave gets to you. So when the wave gets to you, you're already in motion.
Similarly, in business today, you have to keep looking outside, not at what's happening today--it's already too late for that--but at what's going to be happening tomorrow, and start moving toward those changes today.
Techniques: You have a copyrighted term Change-Ready. What do you mean by that and how would you relate it to what is going on in educational institutions today?
Kriegel: Change-Ready means always challenging the status quo to find out what old policies, procedures, strategies and systems have become outdated and have become what I call "sacred cows" that are costing money, taking time and preventing any change and innovation. Change-Ready companies are not only challenging the status quo and cutting out things that no longer work, but they are always looking for bold, innovative, out-of-the-box new ideas, new opportunities and new possibilities.
So, in essence, Change-Ready companies are always rethinking the rules of the game, redefining their role, and they're looking to reinvent the game.
Techniques: In education, but particularly in career and technical education, ever-changing technologies are a challenge. What do you see as the positive and negative aspects of technological changes?
Kriegel: Technological change, if used correctly, is fabulous. It provides great learning tools and helps us to communicate better. But I think we rely on it too much. People get so enamored by the technology that they forget that there's a person they're trying to teach or a person they're trying to communicate with. They get all involved in the bells and whistles and forget the user.
I even have a chapter in my book Sacred Cows Make the Best Burgers called "The Techno Cow." People can get hypnotized by technology and controlled by it rather than being in control of it.
So I think it should be used in service of what we do rather that replacing what we do.
A rule I use when I talk to IT people is: High tech needs high touch to be highly successful.
I have talked to some of the biggest high-tech companies in the world, and they always talk about the problem they have, which is that all business is personal. It's a connection, ultimately, of people to people, not machine to machine.
Techniques: What do you see as the "sacred cows" of education, and how can educators round them up and deal with them?
Kriegel: My son is a teacher, and one of the things I've seen is how teachers are just bogged down with "sacred cows"--with paperwork, with rules that are preventing innovation, but mostly with bureaucracy and things that are holding them back and taking their time and sapping innovation.
I think that's why a lot of really terrific teachers are leaving education, and I think education is the most important area in this country. But teachers are just beleaguered by bureaucracy, so I would talk to them about what are the sacred cows, what are some of the old rules, systems, procedures and policies that are preventing children from getting valuable education and that are de-motivating teachers. Many are policies that were developed in another era that people are still adhering to.
You want teachers who are excited, who are motivated and who understand how kids learn. You want teachers who are creative and have a love of what they're doing, but a lot of the bureaucracy just kills that.
Techniques: Your strategies have been described as "out of the box." What makes them so bold and innovative, and would they work in educational settings?
Kriegel: Being out of the box is just another name for being innovative ... of breaking out of old ways of thinking ... of not being trapped by old rules, old modes and old modules. The first step is to challenge your old basic assumptions about the game, because sometimes the old rules are just limiting your growth, limiting your learning and limiting your innovation.
The most common response to change and new ideas and opportunities is not enthusiasm and passion. It's resistance. That's what I call a fire hose, and it kills innovation, creativity and enthusiasm. I talk about how to overcome fire hosing and resistance, eliminate sacred cows, and find new ways to be innovative and to think out of the box.
Look in other areas. Don't only look in education for new ideas. Look in the theater. Look in the arts. Look in business. Look in sports. You can't tell where new ideas are going to come from.
I'm not an expert in education, or even in business. I'm an expert in change, in innovation and leadership, and in what prevents change and de-motivates people, and in how people can keep ahead of change and create new opportunities and possibilities. And that's what I'll be speaking about at the convention.