“What are you studying in school?” people often ask me.
“Public administration with a speciality in nonprofit organization management …….” I usually respond. And somewhere around the word “administration” I inevitably see their eyes glaze over. Boredom sets in.
If they make it past my first response, they might ask “Oh, and what kinds of classes do you take?”
“Oh, they’re really fascinating,” I”ll enthuse. “I took the BEST class called Theories of Bureaucracy. Or, more recently, Partnerships. That was a game-changer.”
In the ten years I’ve been slogging away at this degree, no one has ever made it further than that in the conversation.
The thing is, the boring stuff, the stuff that no one ever wants to talk about, that’s the stuff that actually makes the world go round. How do you organize groups of people to get work done? That’s the theory of bureaucracy. Figure it out, and you can build a global institution. Fail, and you’re enterprise goes bust.
How do you work with other organizations to achieve your goals? That’s the way the economy and government works in the 21st Century. Better learn how to structure a partnership, cuz if you’re planning to build a monolith, you’re going to fail.
It seems weird and boring to people that I might take a degree in how to get stuff done.
I think it’s weird that we don’t spend more time talking about this. You may only ever need a handful of ideas to get you through life - but you spend all day every day executing those ideas. Why not spend a little time thinking about how to do that effectively?
* Attributed to Thomas Edison.