Friday, January 17, 2014

Pragmatic Visionary

In a discussion at my office yesterday, someone referred to me as a pragmatic visionary.  That is an interesting compliment, and I spent some time thinking about what I had said that prompted that comment and whether I would think of myself that way.  It is not the first time I have been called a visionary about the business of education and health, so maybe there is something that other people are seeing.  I certainly have never thought of myself as a visionary.  But perhaps that is just being polite and not giving myself too much credit.

In any case, the previous comment about being a visionary (to set the context was with respect to bringing cost-effectiveness analysis to eye care and to nursing.  Was I single handed responsible for it?  No, absolutely not.  But, did my efforts make a difference in bringing this new way of thinking about resource allocation, new techniques, and new language to structure resource allocation efforts in these two areas--yes.  Does that make me a visionary?  I certainly had an idea of why the new methods would be important, whom to reach, and how to communicate them. The last of those may have been the most important--storytelling.   But I'm not at all sure it makes me a visionary.

Yesterday, the conversation was one in which I simply reflected what I thought I heard a colleague saying, acknowledged that it was important, and built on it.  If there is one business skill that I have (and I really never thought of it as a business skill until I found myself in a business school), it is listening, reflecting, and improvising in the reflection.  It is the improvising that I think appealed to my colleague and led him to the visionary comment.  What did it have to do with?  It had to do with thinking about online education and the role of individual courses versus the role of the program as a whole and the role of thinking about the university-wide reputation and context in which it fit.  Most importantly, acknowledging the importance of thinking not just about the quality of each course but the bigger picture and being able to articulate that bigger picture.  Again, I'm not sure that makes me a visionary.

The pragmatic side--I kept referring back to the timeline my boss has set.  Acknowledging that while the "big picture" thinking is great, I also have to be careful to meet deadlines.

The two concepts (being a visionary whether I am one or not) and pragmatism are often at odds.  However, I think it is possible to pull them both together and make them work in harmony to lead to new and interesting ideas being implemented in a timely way.  That is the business of business in general, is it not?  To bring in new ideas, new methods, and new approaches to getting things that need to be done completed.    

1 comment:

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