Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Ronald Shapiro. I am a speaker and consultant in career development, education, human factors/ergonomics, leadership development, learning, management development and psychology. I earned my doctoral degree in psychology with a specialization in designing products, solutions, and services so that they will be easy for people to use. I am also an experienced educator, manager, leader, and consultant having worked in large companies and small companies.
I offer Education by Entertainment programs designed to show people more about how they think so that they can be safer, more productive and better communicators. The programs are applicable, educational, entertaining as well as a ton of fun. They offer experience participants won’t forget. Indeed, participants will remember more from my Education By Entertainment programs than from most lectures. My programs are also more entertaining than most parties.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
In academics, quality is more important than timeliness. In industry, this is not necessarily true. In industry, a missed deadline may be a lost opportunity to have an impact.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress?
A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress. Early in my career a colleague and I were presenting to product developers. The presentation was very much academic style. My colleague did his part of the presentation. In the transition to my part of the presentation, I accidentally skipped a substantial part of the presentation and picked up many pages from where I was supposed to. I was feeling apologetic and badly about this error. Feedback from the developers was that our presentation was excellent because we figured out how to do a more appropriate length presentation. All of our recommendations were accepted. Bottom line: your clients should (and will probably) trust your work. You don’t need to show every detail. Just show the problem and the solution. Save the details for questions.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
I really am not sure. Years ago, I saw numerous projections that the work week for most employees would be much shorter than 40 hours. The opposite seems to be true, though! With that in mind, we tend to see “the pendulum swing” quite a bit as trends come and go. My guess is that we will see a lot more interest in getting people together to meetings and educational events at some point in the future, reversing the current trend of doing to more and more online learning. I just don’t know whether that will be in 5 years, 10 years, 15 years or 20.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
We will fix the poor design of a product in the directions to the users. People will learn to use it. People are flexible, so they can do it. Unrealistic deadlines.
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
When I was in the corporate environment, as pressure to do more with less increased I developed the following scale intended to be somewhat humorous but to convey a message.
1) What I could do.
2) What I should do.
3) What I “must” do.
4) What must do and I’ll get caught if I don’t do.
5) What I care about getting caught not doing.
I told my director, colleagues and department members where I was on the scale regularly. In a corporate environment be sure that as you balance workload you do not sacrifice doing what you want to do and developing yourself at least some of the time.
More recently I only accept work that I want to do because I feel that it will have a significant impact on others and that I will enjoy doing it.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
“The Psychology of Everyday Things” also titled “The Design of Everyday Things”. This book is very easy to read and shows how applying what we know from the field of psychology can help us to be safer and more productive.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Prepare a development plan for yourself with three sections:
1) Your long-range goals for as far out on the horizon as you can. This could be your lifetime, 10 years, 5 years, whatever works for you.
2) Major steps you need to take to achieve your long-range goals.
3) Detailed plan with weekly deadlines on a Tuesday (assuming your “normal working hours” are Monday to Friday) for the next year to achieve the first major step.
Transfer the content from Step 3 to your calendar. Don’t ever miss a Tuesday deadline unless you are in the hospital as a patient (or similar emergency), though you may do less if you have to.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
“Develop your employees and all else will follow”. While this quote is primarily oriented towards managers and team leaders, a potential employee may wish to assess potential employers and managers based in part upon how much effort (and money) they will invest in their employee’s development.