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Few people have helped as many people find the right job as Dick Bolles. The best-selling author of What Color is Your Parachute? and co-founder of eParachute.com has been advising job seekers for over 40 years. I had a chance to speak with Bolles recently as part of the OpenIDEO Youth Employment Challenge. The online challenge, done in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative, hopes to engage a global community in tackling the issue of youth employment. Below are notes from our conversation, which I hope will help stimulate creativity for the challenge’s Ideas Phase.

Know Yourself

“Education, if it’s doing its job, needs to teach young people three things: they need to learn who they are, how to find the right work, and how to find an appropriate life partner. If colleges were ever to think about how they could help students learn about those three problems, education would be turned on its head.”

Bolles makes a compelling case for the value of self-knowledge. During our short conversation, he shared two stories of readers who told him how much easier their job searches became after they invested in self-exploration. Knowing your own gifts and interests well not only enables you to narrow your focus, it also helps you to understand how your skills might transfer to roles you might not have previously imagined.

Job Hunt in Groups

“I was talking to someone looking for a job and asked, ‘WHY are you doing your job hunt alone?’ I never understand why people don’t work together and help each other… Only by youth talking to other youth can we make a dent in this problem.”

For me, this insight was a real eye opener, but it makes perfect sense. At IDEO, we strongly believe that collaboration leads to great things, so why not apply this same logic to looking for a new job? Making job hunts more social makes them more enjoyable and educational. Job seekers are able to share leads, networks, and advice. They’re able to practice for interviews together and keep each other’s spirits up after setbacks. And once they start landing jobs, the value of their combined networks becomes all the more important. Animals hunt in packs, why shouldn’t we?

Stay Optimistic

“Every job hunt in the world depends on one factor above all else: hope. Instead of always hearing about how intractable the problem [of youth unemployment] is, what if there was a project that collected success stories of people that took charge of their own job hunt and their own life?”

By nature, designers are optimistic. We believe there are solutions to tough problems and that, with the right methodology and collaboration, we can find them. It’s easy to lose your optimism, though, when the odds feel stacked against you. That’s why Bolles’ point is so critical: maintaining hope is an essential ingredient to a successful job search. How might we protect young people’s most important asset—their hope?

I invite you to join the conversation by sharing your ideas and solutions on OpenIDEO’s Youth Employment Challenge. I, personally, will be offering a design critique to a selected idea during the challenge’s Refinement Phase and one lucky participant will be selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative’s 10th Annual Meeting in September 2014.

What advice have you given to first-time job seekers?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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“I’m not a creative person.” I hear that all the time from clients when they first start working with IDEO. It’s an offhand comment, meant as an excuse for not being able to come up with innovative ideas on their own, but behind it lies a fear of failure—of being judged by others. While it’s tempting to blame oppressive corporate culture for this crisis of creative confidence, its roots can often be traced to the classroom.

If you’ve ever watched young children play, you know what uninhibited creativity looks like. Toddlers will belt out off-key tunes at the top of their lungs, dance with abandon down the aisles of a supermarket, or color on walls and floors, never questioning their ability. But somewhere along the way—maybe because of a remark by a parent, teacher, or peer, or maybe because of their own insecurities—many kids lose confidence in their creative instincts, especially during their high school and college years.

Inspired by Tom and David Kelley’s new book, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, our friends at the open-innovation hub OpenIDEO have launched a global design challenge to help reverse this troubling childhood trend. In the past, the OpenIDEO community has rallied to address such issues as healthy aging, human rights, and urban revitalization, creating breakthrough services, campaigns, and social enterprises in the process. Their current challenge is about generating inspiring ideas to help teenagers and young adults around the world nurture their creativity. The question they’re asking anyone interested in participating is:

How might we inspire young people to cultivate their creative confidence?

The world is full of complex, thorny challenges that require innovative solutions. It’s critical that young people start flexing their creative muscles today so they can take the lead in addressing those challenges in the future.

If you haven’t yet contributed ideas to the challenge, I encourage you to do so before November 20, when the initial Ideas Phase ends. Afraid your ideas won’t measure up? Take the Kelley brothers’ advice: “The best way to gain confidence in your creative ability is through action, taken one step at a time.”

How do you encourage the young people in your life to fulfill their creative potential?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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According to a UN report on aging, the world’s population is aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, the number of people 60 years or older will exceed the number of young people under age 15 for the first time in history. The effects of population aging are profound and impact everything from economic growth, labor markets, and taxes to healthcare, housing, and family structures.

Simply put, aging is a fact of life. Our parents, grandparents, friends, ourselves: we all will age. Whether we’re able to stay active, healthy, and retain our sense of autonomy as we age, well, that’s another matter. Which is why this question is so pressing: How might we all maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age?

This is the latest OpenIDEO design challenge posed by Mayo Clinic and it’s one I encourage you to contribute your creativity to. After all, staying mentally active is key to healthy aging.

What aspects of aging are you most concerned about?

(Posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

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If courage is an accumulation of small steps, one way to nurture your design courage is to join OpenIDEO—a digital innovation community composed of 42,000+ creative thinkers around the globe engaged in solving real-world challenges for social and environmental impact. Each challenge offers a fun, collaborative, inspiring way to do good and reclaim your creative confidence. Over the coming weeks, I’ll talk more about specific OpenIDEO challenges.

Since 2010, OpenIDEO has hosted 16+ design challenges sponsored by companies, nonprofit organizations, universities, and governments. Community members can contribute in a variety of ways, from inspirational observations to snippets of code. Members themselves take the winning ideas forward. Anything added to OpenIDEO is available for remix and reuse.

One example of what the OpenIDEO community can do is the new Amnesty International “Panic Button” app, which recently launched in Kenya. Inspired by human rights workers, detainee experiences, and social movements around the world, the Panic Button app began as an OpenIDEO community response to the question: How can technology help people working to uphold human rights in the face of unlawful detention?

The concept was then brought to life by coders and makers in less than a year. You can learn more about this design’s journey here and here.

Check it out—and then check out one of OpenIDEO’s current challenges: How might we inspire and enable communities to take more initiative in making their local environments better?

There’s also a new OpenIDEO University Toolkit available for download; learn more here.

(posted also on my LinkedIn Thought Leader blog)

OpenIDEO

August 1, 2010 — 7 Comments

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We have been working on a project for a while now that we are very excited about. It is called OpenIDEO and it is launching today. We are hoping that we can create a platform for you to work with us on some important social innovation projects. Don’t worry if you are not a practicing designer. There is room for you to contribute things that may inspire other designers, post your own ideas or you can evaluate ideas that others have suggested. One of the first challenges is for Jamie Oliver, this years’  TED prize winner. The goal is to find ways to inspire and educate people (especially kids) to cook and eat healthier food. The other current challenge is for Gray Matters Capital and is to do with low cost educational tools for the developing world. Check them both out and contribute if you can.

The idea of crowdsourcing innovation is, in my view, still a big experiment. Conventionally the question has been whether the crowd can outperform the internal team. Our view is that small teams are good for some things and the broader community is good for others. The goal of OpenIDEO is to find out whether it is possible to orchestrate a collaboration between the two to achieve better results. We are starting the experiment now and we hope you will join us.

Let us know what you think!