People call it the “It” factor. You know it when you see it. There is something that glows about these people. You hang on their every word. You act on their every suggestion. You’re not sure why, but they’re able to reach you. Somehow, they achieve what they set out to do — always with a glint and a smile —and they make it look easy in the process. What they possess is so elusive, yet they remind you of what’s possible. In the end, they personify what you aspire to be if you were more confident…or weren’t so filled with fear.
We have lots of names for these people. A “natural” is one. The “right stuff” is another. We use words like flair, savvy, instinct, and knack to sum up those special gifts. What if their prodigious talents could be explained by scientific research? Even more, what if their differentiating abilities could be mastered just like accounting fundamentals or marketing principles?
THERE IS A SCIENCE BEHIND SUCCESS
That’s the crux behind a new MOOC this June: “The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know.” Developed by Paula Caproni, a lecturer of management and organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the course is a guided tour through decades of scientific research on what makes some people more successful than others at work. Even more, it applies the same research to how students can live more healthy and fulfilling lives away from the office.
What’s a common theme behind the research? In her book by the same name, Caproni points to “mindful, deliberate practice” as a common denominator that links successes as disparate as Serena Williams, Winston Churchill and The Beatles. While Caproni concedes that your “natural born geniuses” do exist, they are rare — and their abilities are amplified by mindful repetition too. “Most successful people develop their talents and earn their successes day-by-day, play-by-play,” she writes, “while enduring roadblocks, mistakes, and failures along the way.”
Alas, success is a loaded word, with the meaning tethered to each person’s dreams and values. In this course, Caproni defines success “as getting results that matter at work while at the same time being able to do work that is meaningful to you and that makes a contribution to others. While Caproni dishes some of the usual strategies to younger professionals, such as taking risks and shouldering high profile projects, she also emphasizes taking the “long view.” By that, she means not being flustered by slow progress, obstacles, and adversity — defining experiences that can help steel an awareness and grit that makes expertise and panache all the more powerful. Caproni would know; she herself turned being fired as a waitress into a motivator that eventually led her to earn a Yale Ph.D.
SUCCESS IS OFTEN ROOTED IN HARD TIMES
“Although some career challenges are freely chosen,” she notes,” other challenges, such as finding oneself working for a difficult boss or being laid off, are not. Taking the long view makes it easier to see unwelcome career events as temporary and as inevitable, if not desirable, learning opportunities that can contribute to our growth.”
Growth is the foundation of education — and it is the main emphasis of “The Science of Success: What Researchers Know that You Should Know.” As part of this course, students will also examine their belief systems — and how they choke our ability to spot opportunities and pursue transformational growth. They will also look at how they can build and convey their expertise, and build social capital by developing the right relationships with the right people. To put the research into practice, students will also complete a personal action plan, where they set start and completion dates, identify someone who will hold them accountable for achieving it, and clearly defining how they will measure their success.
When it comes to achieving goals, Caproni offers a piece of advice: Don’t be too hard on yourself. “Being compassionate — for example, kind and forgiving — with ourselves when we fail or don’t live up to our own or others’ expectations is important because it gives us the strength and courage we need to be resilient, the motivation to keep trying, and the willingness to adjust our goals as we learn, change, and grow.”
MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION TOP JUNE OFFERINGS
Caproni’s course reminds us that you need to convince yourself before you can persuade others. In June, communication is seemingly the focus of this latest batch of business MOOCs. Arizona State, for example, is launching “Global Marketing Strategy,” to expose students to the resources, processes, and messaging need to appeal to a broad and culturally diverse consumers. For marketers with a more qualitative bent, there is MIT’s “The Analytics Edge,” which helps students find patterns and develop strategies off data, and “An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing,” a deep dive into the physiology and psychology behind buying decisions. For professionals dipping their toe into the marketing arena, there are few better starting points than “An Introduction To Marketing,” Wharton’s tour de force through foundational concepts like targeting, planning, and branding.
There’s plenty more where that came from. Looking to brush up on the basics of supply chains? MIT, the top school in the field, is running new sections of “Supply Chain Fundamentals” and “Supply Chain Dynamics.” On top of that, Wharton is back with “Introduction to Operations Management.” In fact, it is a busy month for Wharton, perhaps the premier big school player in the MOOC space. On June 12, the school will be opening up “Social Impact Strategy: Tools for Entrepreneurs and Innovators.” A week before, Wharton will come out with “Managing Social and Human Capital,” which features the best practices in motivating and evaluating employee performance.
To learn more about these courses — and many more — click on the links below.
OPERATIONS AND FINANCE
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SOCIAL IMPACT