Think Big and Be Curious

The things I learned from leading TU20

What does it mean to Think Big?

Sometimes company talk about abstract concepts of vision/mission statements and they don’t really a lot of sense. But for all of your ideas you should be able to see a world in 1, 3, 5, 10 years down the line on whatever you are working on. They can be optimistic, they can be pessimistic, but you should be able to see what’s happening.

Thinking Big and Not Naively

Many people talk about their dreams and they are not pragmatic. People have a sense they can accomplish anything, and this has often been emphasized in the western world. The origins of this probably has something to do with prosperity, a reaction to industrial work and a sense of optimism, but at the end of the day they are not useful.

Only after being involved can you realize what’s realistic

Without understanding a problem area or experimenting on solutions, it’s very difficult to assess.
  1. First principles. Have an approach to asking the right questions and to figure out the root of the problem. Being simple and thoughtful goes a long way.
  2. Novel approaches from other fields. For example design thinking has been around for decades but it’s only starting to make it’s way into mainstream business approaches now.
  3. Novel approaches from your field. Keep a look out for new articles, publications or just try to observe interesting people/companies. You don’t need to adopt their approaches 1 to 1, but they might inspire something tangential.

What happens when you are 1st, 10th, 100th…10n in your field or area?

This is one of the best ways I’ve heard people think about problems, companies, professions. You have to consider how good you can potentially be and estimate your outcomes in different scenarios.

How do you mitigate risk?

Say there is an apocalypse and we no longer need programmers, what do you do?

Why has no one solved this problem yet?

Why is no one doing what you are doing. In one case, people might not see the intersection (studying employment relations & CS) , or might not find value in that work (underwater basket weaving). Sometimes you are wrong in your assessment, sometimes things change so quickly it doesn’t matter. But you have to ask yourself this question, not as a reason to do something or not (as the various motivational speakers have told you) but rather to ask more questions.

What is stopping you from trying to solve a problem?

For example starting the TU20 coop program:

Be Curious

Asking questions

Asking good questions is fundamental to so many things. It’s very easy to just accept what’s happening or keep your thoughts bottled within. But that doesnt help you learn new things or understand alternate approaches. Just like with anything in life, don’t just say anything that comes to mind, but make a list of questions you’d like answered.

  1. Q: Why do we need another student competition (TU20 cup)?
    A: Because most competitions don’t build skills well and don’t combine tech and business skills.
  2. Q: Why is that important?
    A: Because you don’t learn good project management, teamworking or hands on skills in 24/48 hours. You need something longer where you can properly sit down and analyze a problem and have the support to solve it.
  3. Q: Why are long term project skills important?
    A: Because most jobs require you to work on longer term projects. Your career will benefit enormously from being able to join and lead such projects. You can also solve more interesting problems with a long term strategy.
  4. Q: Isn’t it a school’s responsibility to prepare you for work, not a competition’s?
    A: Most school’s do not focus on work skills currently. Catering to a general education audience is hard, so having a more specialized event will provide students with access to mentors, resources and ideas that are not available in the school system.
  5. Q: But why a competition, can’t you just run workshops and a conference to inspire people.
    A: Most people need structure, support and incentives to do things. People are busy and without a strong guiding path it is difficult to just get up and do things. Having a competition lowers those boundaries and helps people get involved.

Taking opportunities to explore and learn new things.

We’ve all probably been down the internet rabbit hole about reading about one subject (say new phone that came out) then end up somewhere else (manufacturing working conditions) and an hour later we are reading about something completely different (west vs east beauty standards?).

Curiosity killed the cat

Sometimes people will try to stop your curiosity because it exposes them. If someone is selling snake oil and you come around and ask too many questions. As a young person, you don’t have to worry about this too much because you aren’t seen as threatning usually. You will probably be brushed off. But as you get older (and more influential) it becomes important so tread carefully.

Next Post: Ethics and Compromise



ML Architect @ Voiceflow

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