Why? and the pyramid of purpose

Why?At the end of November my good friend and colleague Janet Wilkinson from Three Times Three helped me to deliver a session for the UWE Researchers’ Forum. The theme for the forum was “toward a research active lecturing post”, a topic that concerns lots of researchers and academics. On the one hand there are staff employed on contracts to undertake research only but would like to acquire more teaching experience for their professional and career development. On the other are some early career academics who are battling with hectic teaching schedules and would like to redress the balance by devoting more time to research, again to enhance their career development.

So I asked Janet to facilitate discussions between staff from these two groups to help illuminate what they would need to think about and act upon to achieve their goals. I then asked Janet to write about it, so with permission here are her thoughts on how to frame that discussion.

I’m the kind of person who regularly craves change – I chase new experiences, new learning in new destinations and the opportunity to meet interesting people in new surroundings.  I’m really lucky that my working and home life accommodate this craving.

In 2012 I’ve noticed the emergence of a different craving – that of more stability and consolidation.  How to blend both?  Searching for a model to frame my future planning I’ve turned to books and blogs, friends and colleagues and a day spent at the Guardian TEDx in Bristol.  My work in progress is an adaptation of the ‘pyramid of purpose’ that I’ve been working with, adapting for my own needs and sharing with others – most recently at the Researchers Forum at UWE.

pyramid of purpose

Influenced by Paul Spencer’s recommendation of Simon Sinek’s TED talk and book I’ve been ‘Starting with Why?’.  Why do I want this change?  Why do I need this new experience? Why do I think I will find what I want in the direction I am proposing?  It has been helpful to start here as sometimes the lack of an answer has stopped me chasing a change that was ultimately a superficial whim; similarly it has helped me to clarify why I really wanted the change in the first place.  Drive and passion help you to get to where you want to go but are more gainfully employed when you understand why you want to go there in the first place.

Identifying why you want to do something or change something then facilitates the more practical questions of what constitutes that change and how you are going to bring it about.   If ‘why?’ is the bigger picture the ‘what?’ and ‘how?’ start to dig into the detail to start to make the change.  A big picture person by nature I’ve found that David Allen’s Getting Things Done book has helped me take larger tasks and goals and to consider them in more detail right from the start make them all into a project with the concept of next action fitting neatly with the questions –

  • What do I want to do?
  • What needs to happen next?
  • How am I going to bring that about?
  • How long will it take?

The ever more practical questions of Who? Where? And When? Start to put definite actions around my goals and plans and with a clear purpose help me to structure how I am going to bring this change or plan about and where I need to be flexible and include others in the plan.

I’m keen to think about the questions Who can help me? or who would I need to know better?  I find it difficult to ask for help and yet know that I am always happy to help those who ask me.  I don’t think I’m alone here.

I’ve added discipline to the pyramid of purpose as I’m fascinated by the success I see around me when discipline is added to drive and passion to bring about the change that people identify and focus on.  My observation is that drive alone can be a powerful force but when combined with the discipline to return to the purpose, and the plan it generates, and to follow through on the actions you identify can bring about achievement for you (and those you lead) that sticks to an understanding of why you were doing it in the first place.

More to work on in 2013!

General Researcher Development Folks Researcher Skills

Paul Spencer View All →

I'm a former researcher into the microbiology of the mouth who now runs a skills development programme for other researchers.

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