Friday, July 25, 2014

Volunteer, Fail, Volunteer Again

This week I spent half of my week in a geometric dimension and tolerance class. It was based on ASTM Y14.5, a 250 page standard. In short, it's not easy to understand GD&T yet it's important that things always fit together the way we intend when they are coming from six different countries and first see each other on the assembly line.

So we were doing a number of examples on the board, and I made the decision a long time ago that I will volunteer, in general for anything. Volunteering gets you farther and into more interesting situations than not volunteering. In the class of about 20 of us, only about three were regularly volunteering. You see, engineers have spent plenty of time in hard classes and we know that it usually takes lots of practice to get things right, and volunteering to demonstrate on the board basically means you are taking a huge chance at getting it wrong in front of everyone. It's embarrasing. I did, at least three times publicly have the wrong answer either on the board or when verbally offering an answer. Near the end of the week the teacher was asking for volunteers and everyone was putting their heads down avoiding eye contact because we didn't want to go up and have the wrong answer in front of everyone. It's painful to sit there in silence. More painful for me than getting it wrong in front of the class. It is ridiculous to be afraid of having the wrong answer because no one cares if I am wrong, each person only cares if he or she can figure it out eventually. Finally I volunteered, again, but the teacher passed me over trying to get another student involved, who did eventually offer an answer, and the correct answer might I add.

This brought to ming a blog post by Seth Godin a few weeks ago titled, "Don't blow it (the secret of b2b)". I work for a very large company. Companies exist so that risks can be taken and the liability taken by the company and not the individuals. I saw in this class of interns and first and second year employees the fear of getting it wrong and blowing it. That, actually worried me. If we aren't brave enough to stand in front of our inexperienced peers in a class, where we are all the student, and take a risk answering a problem, how will we stand in front of our managers, customers, investors, and the world and take a risk presenting an true innovation? 


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