University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 175: The 21st Century Skills You Need To Succeed with Dr. Laura Jana

May 18, 2022  |  By Matt Waller

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In this episode of Be EPIC, Matt is joined by Dr. Laura Jana, pediatrician, educator, award-winning author, and health communicator. She has had an extensive career writing 30 books and working with a variety of organizations from LinkedIn and Google to Mattel/Fisher Price.  In the episode, Dr. Jana discusses the 21st century skills that everyone needs to have and how to build those starting from a young age. She also highlights her experiences with technology and startups, writing parenting and children books, and working with large corporations to effectively communicate about car seat safety and engaging but also fun children’s toys that help develop those 21st century skills from an early age.  

Watch Dr. Jana’s TEDxChandigarh Talk here:

Episode  Transcript

Laura Jana 0:00
Peter Drucker said that the 20th century was the era of business-management. The 21st century is going to be the era of self-management.

Matt Waller 0:11
Excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality. These are the values the Sam M. Walton College of Business explores in education, business and the lives of people we meet every day. I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Walton College and welcome to the be EPIC podcast. I have with me today. Dr. Laura Jana, who is an Omaha based pediatrician. She's an international speaker, health communicator, social entrepreneur, award winning parenting and children's books author. She wrote a book calling Heading Home With Your Newborn, From Birth to Reality, if you go to Amazon it has 297 reviews and 4.7 out of five stars. That's hard to do. She's been a professor at Penn State where I did my graduate work. She's had all kinds of experience in everything from early stage companies to consulting for large foundations and philanthropic organizations. Thank you so much, Dr. Jana, for taking time to visit with me today. Appreciate it.

Laura Jana 1:24
Oh, it's a pleasure to join you. It's always interesting to see in my eclectic mix of experiences, what gets brought up, but great to join you.

Matt Waller 1:31
Would you mind telling the story about how you got into early stage companies, internet companies, you you eventually moved to Silicon Valley? Would you mind talking to that a little bit?

Laura Jana 1:44
Well, you know, it actually it's interesting, I was a little ahead of the curve that we're sort of on now where you don't have to move to where you're working. Actually co founded one of the really early internet health kind of sites, right? It was at the same time that WebMD and Dr. Cooper launching in the late 90s, right around 2000. And right before the internet bubble burst, but I was working with world renowned at the time pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who had just been declared in one of the 10 most influential people of the last century. And when he died, his wife and I co founded the Dr. Spock company, because she said what should we do with all the rights to all his work? You know, he was in his 90s when he passed away, and and up until not that long before then his book, Baby and Child Care, had been the best selling book in the history of the world. So if you look at this idea of how do you get good information to people, and at time was very specifically focused on sort of pediatric and parenting information to parents, I thought, the internet is a really good opportunity, which now is stating the obvious. But in 1998, '99, 2000, people thought I was a little crazy because I was coming from academic medicine. So what I did is I co founded the company. But I was going back and forth. I was doing travel to get there. You know, once a month, I had two really young kids at the time I and then I had my third and I would take him with me from at the time was in Denver. And so what happened was I kind of got introduced to that Silicon Valley, Technology, Innovation side of things very early on. And then went on to make use of that sort of insight and knowledge and the connections I made. But I also have to say I was fortunate I, I have an identical twin sister. And I jokingly tell people, she went into computer code while I went into genetic code, because I majored in cellular molecular biology. And, and it's kind of interesting now to see some of the overlapping aspects in the innovative side of things. She got her PhD at Stanford in the 90s in human computer interactions. And so it kept me really closely tied in and one of the things she was not as tied into the healthcare and medical, you know, like health tech side. So she would toss things my way all the time, if somebody was starting a company. And I got tied in with some really early startups that way. I also sort of gratuitously just to be nice, I was doing a lot of media. I would do media training for some of the really early executives at LinkedIn, at Google, who then rose to the very high level very prominent Silicon Valley people. And of course, what you know, once you have the the network in the business world, and they found somebody who, again, I could do media and outward facing explanations of things and communications. At the same time, I'm a granular, I like to go for the details and deep understanding, especially healthcare at the time, but then I expanded. So the rest is people found me pretty much I you know, I've just ended up following whatever I'm interested in and, and consulting, advising, investing, those sorts of things.

Matt Waller 4:40
Well, you clearly enjoy writing.

Laura Jana 4:43
Why do you say that's clear? I have to tell you, I am driven to get a message out if I think I can help people and there's an important message that I can share, especially if I see people not quite understanding it, or really needing it and I can sort of translate it and make it get much more sort of applicable and tangible to people. And then I force myself to sit down and write. And once I get in the mode I do, but I am I hardly have ever considered myself an author or writer. And then I look and I actually have over 30 books, I mean, but several of them children's books, but over 30 books, and I still don't define myself as an author.

Matt Waller 5:21
I know you also write blogs too, don't you?

Laura Jana 5:24
Oh, along the way, I've done lots I've done all of it. Basically, to me, it's the pick the medium, are we gonna do a podcast? Am I gonna do a tweet? Am I gonna do a grand rounds at a hospital. And then I just structured the information, which I think, you know, in today's world is a really good skill to have, I just noticed on it, I just as a pediatrician who started out in clinical practice in a pediatric office, my philosophy was I needed to understand where my patients, my families that I was interacting with were coming from. So I'd say let me understand what your issues are, where you're coming from, and then how can I help you? Now I just apply, that doesn't matter. I can be talking to a group of fortune 100 CEOs, I just need to know my audience. What are their interests? And what do I have to share with them that might help them? That's really how I fell into it. It wasn't that I had a strong desire to write. So I sort of laugh when you say that, because it's a little bit of a torturous thing for me to do. I just deal with that part.

Matt Waller 6:18
Writing takes a lot of effort. But it's rewarding, you know, especially to your point, you have a message you want to get out. If you accomplish it, it feels very good.

Laura Jana 6:32
Absolutely. And you know, if you think about it, even in the business context, because I don't have the most likely, you know, LinkedIn profile to say, oh, she's heading straight into the world of business and US Chamber of Commerce and what not, but if you look in the world of business, how much more interest and value is being ascribed to storytelling, that's not storytelling, like make stuff up and tell a good story. It's only useful if you can get people to understand what you're doing or what you want to accomplish. I did write a book on food and nutrition. So I like this, this analogy. It's called Food Fights. So it was like a practical application of food and nutrition. But I've always said it's like food. It's only nutritious if you eat it. Right? If it ends up in the garbage can doesn't matter what it is. And so this idea of making information palatable, interesting, engaging and applicable to people's lives. I see now the rise in the business world of the understanding that you can't just have the numbers and the graphs and the you know, financial, you need to be able to tell your story. And that's more true now than ever before. I'm a glorified translator and storyteller is what I am.

Matt Waller 7:38
Dr. Jana, one of the books you wrote, The Toddler Brain, Nurture the Skills Today That Will Shape Your Child's Tomorrow. What is that book about? Sounds interesting.

Laura Jana 7:50
Yeah. So you know, if you were to look at the cover, and you listen to the title, if you're a business person, it doesn't really scream, pick me up and read me. That book was published by one of the big New York publishers by Hachette. And at the time I wrote it, I was very prominently recognized in parenting and PDF, media and book authorship. So they said, it's a parenting book. It's called The Toddler Brain. There you go. But actually what that book is about, I like to tell people, it's actually a big think book. And what I did was I centered the whole theme of the book around 21st century skills. Because then and now it's what everyone wants to talk about, and think about and wrestle with. And again, my goal, my background has been, how do I take what people are interested in, and then if I have something to contribute, or share or enlighten people on, or get them to at least think about it, that's it. So The Toddler Brain is essentially, I took 21st century skills. And if you'd like I've given over 100 talks on the subject, I can rattle off these skills really quickly. Communication, collaboration, teamwork, adaptability, resilience, grit, perseverance, emotional intelligence, the ability to fail and adapt. Right. And you, as Dean of a business school, stop me if any one of those skills is not of importance in the business role.

Matt Waller 9:10
No, you're right. Let me see if I can remember. Communication, collaboration, teamwork, ability, adaptability, resilience, grit, perseverance, emotional intelligence, the ability to fail, yeah, those are all very important for numbers and numbers of reasons.

Laura Jana 9:27
So I thought, if I start with that, it doesn't matter if you're the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, it doesn't matter if you're the dean of a business school. Or if you're a preschool teacher, or a parent, or a pediatrician. I have your attention. You're like, well, what do you do? Okay, I'm interested in those skills. First of all, some context. So I actually do a part in the book called Why Now? Why are those skills more important now than they were before? And you know, I'm always aware of what people might interpret what you say not just what I say, but what people how people interpret it. And you always get the it's a pendulum, this pendulum swings towards these skills, the pendulum swings towards those skills. And my point was, these skills have gained importance for very specific and important reasons. And if I distill them down in the World Economic Forum did the same thing distills it down into like, kind of two big areas. It's in response to rapid change and globally connected and complex world, Nobody argues with that we see it, it's more difficult to deal with the global complexities you can't solve, or you're much less likely to solve a problem as an individual or without the ability to cross cultures, continents, you know, languages, different sectors. And so I said, Okay, that's partly why those skills are important. The other thing is, and the short version would be, the robots are coming, right. And again, I've been reading up on the fact that we're not just looking at automation, but there's opportunity with technology for augmentation of jobs and skills. But regardless, technology is shifting what is more valuable coming from a human versus what's more valuable coming from a machine? And I don't think anyone would argue with me that if you take a job where it has to do with binary, numerical fill in the blank answers, right, computers beat us hands down every time. So if you say that, then you say, Okay, well, then there's all these skills that computers do not do well, typically called soft, non cognitive, other skills, social, emotional, emotional intelligence, all those sorts of skills, right, and including creativity and things. Computers don't do that well, and nobody, even at the highest levels of AI billion dollar funds, the leaders of unsafe, and AI is not getting there anytime soon. Those are the skills we're talking about. And all I did with the toddler brain to wrap that part up is I said, By the way, if the goal on the business world, and I'd been working, you know, doing some discussions with the founder of LinkedIn with Reid Hoffman, and he said, well, you know, what, what I'm trying to convey is what is the toolkit of skills needed to succeed in today's world? My response to Reid was, we absolutely agree on the toolkit, I just happen to live in the world of everyone who's supposed to be assembling your toolkit. And what I'm telling you is, first of all, I'm not sure that's the toolkit we're assembling. And second of all, we are not looking early enough, because it's not just in college in, you know, high school, even in K 12, the first five years, really lays the foundation for a lot of those skills that everybody's after, and the neuroscience caught up starting in the late 90s, early 2000s. So we actually have neuro imaging to show areas that can be developed and skills that can be taught in that realm. So that kind of, it's a big nutshell. But it's the explanation of how I go all the way from early brain and child development, to 21st century jobs, workforce future of work and how I ended up sitting on like, the, you know, Global Skills day convenings, presenting a keynote on 21st century skills.

Matt Waller 13:01
So you've been writing about parenting for over 20 years. But you have a lot of other interesting responsibilities. I know that you're the chair of the medical and scientific Safety Council, for Mattel Inc, tell us a little bit about that. It's another,

Laura Jana  13:20  
It's an exciting role. Because, you know, I've, I've had the luxury of being fairly selective about what companies I work with. And some of them are really early on, and I can help shape it. And then there's been some really big global companies. And in part, I think the appeal is I I've done lots of work on communication side. So the communication teams are always interested in having me and all I do is I look to say, I don't have words put in my mouth. But if we have a shared message that we want to get out, I very much value and respect the ability of big companies to do that in a way that's very difficult if you're not working with a big company. So in the case of Mattel, and you know, I do a lot of my work with Fisher Price, which is a division of Mattel. But with Mattel, I was approached about it. And it was good because it was a direct connection with the senior vice president who oversees quality, safety and regulatory. Now, I've done a lot of work. And I was really involved in car seat safety. I helped open some of the big juvenile product, you know, Manufacturers Association conferences and things. But I have to say my first thought was, that's not really the division of a company that I tend to be attracted to. Right. It's not the most riveting part of the things that I do. Except that I thought quality safety, regulatory is really important. And that's actually more of a challenge to translate, communicate, make sure people get the message, but it can be as simple and every day as recalls or instructions on the safety or, you know, injury prevention. So I thought okay, I'll give this a try. But I have to like the company and I have to believe that the people are authentic and have really good intentions with what they do. So I started over a year ago, and I'm really actively involved with the company in hearing about all issues related to quality, safety, regulatory. And what struck me and this isn't always true of all companies, I thought I might be a fly on the wall, I get to hear the stuff, they can ask me questions, but I get to hear what's going on. So that if I want to give advice or chime in, I am actively involved in those conversations. And then I got to help build this medical and scientific Safety Council, which sounds sort of a generic concept. But a lot of companies do not have those, you know, especially big toy companies, where it's much more aligned with what I'm used to in the medical world where you have really high powered people with really big picture insights from all different angles. On this medical and scientific Safety Council, we now have, we've got somebody who runs a really highly ranked emergency department at a Children's Hospital, we've got a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, we've got somebody who's done hospital administration, been the head of a Children's Hospital, and does disaster preparedness for the US government level Health and Human Services, and then practicing pediatricians, somebody who blogs, so you put all that together, and I go, okay, now I get to hear the internal goals, challenges of a really big company, who has to communicate their message not only to the public, to parents, but work with with, you know, the Walmarts of the world and with the online entities, and do injury prevention. So to me, those are the things that keep my interest, because I'm really particularly interested in how does business pivot to play a really leading role? I think powerful businesses can play a very significant role in some of the shift we're seeing in the world today for the better.

Matt Waller 16:43
Absolutely. In some cases, it could appear that there's a trade off between, you know, toys that are really helpful for students and safe, and toys that are really appealing. I don't think that's always true, for sure. But it's clear, there's,

Laura Jana 17:00
You're you're hitting the nail on the head with that, I'll just tell you before you think, because here's, again, I told you when we've talked before, I've told you I did write a book called Food Fights, Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood. So I have lots of good food analogies, for the concepts. But I will say there's the challenge of everyone liking chocolate chip cookies for dinner. Right? So you can give people what they want, give parents and give children what they want may not mean it's good for them. Right? Even then it's okay in moderation, like it's okay every now and then I say as the parent of three, owned a childcare center, consulted for you know, gazillions of parents, right? I'm not saying feed your child chocolate chip cookies for dinner every night. But if it were to happen, when you're on vacation, do something fun or crazy, that's fine. But within, you know, limits. The same holds true, but I think it's one of the big challenges facing businesses, businesses almost by definition, your goal is to give consumers what they want, because that's what they're gonna buy. At the same time, what if that's not the best thing for them? And you know, you can see the extreme examples pretty easily, because, you know, getting people to buy cigarettes, there are no redeeming qualities to cigarettes. But what if there's a massive market and people want them you have to find this balance. I do think this is where I see I see shifts in capitalism, where we go from like, the just pure shareholder to the stakeholders side of things. That's where you're answerable to your community, to your consumer to your employees, not just your shareholder. And that's where you say, how do you create products, you know, sort of the good and good for you concepts with Mattel and say, because now I got deep insights. If parents and consumers only knew the amount of work effort research that goes into a toy that may seem like a simple cute toy sitting on the table, Fisher Price, which does the Early Childhood division of Mattel, I have written parenting content, parenting tips, parenting books, children books, I was so impressed with their art like their playlab their research and development side because it there's so much intentionality and part of the skill there is have so much intentionality, so much granular insight in the design of something. But when you put it out there, it's a cute little toy that it really loves to play with. And that's the brilliance. It's not like you have to eat your spinach now. It's the it's the chocolate chip cookie except by the way, we figured out how to make it really good for you in engaging, develop these skills, interactive play all those things that we're looking for in early childhood.

Matt Waller 19:38
Now my youngest of four is 19. So it's been a while but thinking about Fisher Price toys we had. I'm not sure what they're called. We call them baby bouncers.

Laura Jana 19:49
Oh, yeah.

Matt Waller 19:50
You put them in there and like there's little toys that are in front of their face and they hit them sometimes or they pull on them. And of course Fisher Price had all kinds of other toys, like certain kinds of things that may be reflected, or had a rattle. I really don't remember all but I remember, certain toys seem to intrigue kids more than others.

Laura Jana 20:17
You know, they do. Certain toys intrigue kids more. And if you think let's go back to the list of skills we talked about, right, you know, the creativity and the collaboration, teamwork. There's huge value put on the ability not just to like, you know, your own abilities to do things and critical thinking and curiosity and all, but to engage with others. And what we know in early childhood, by the way, it's really kind of thought to be the single most important factor in early childhood development is engagement with a caring, responsive adult. So if you're, you know, if you're making toys, one of the challenges is, yes, there's toys where kids can just play independently and be engaged and they can be creative and things and that's great. But there's also this interest in how do you have toys where you can have some interactional aspects, because the younger the child, the more value there is, for interactions with humans, it's almost one of the really renowned baby brain scientists says it's almost like there's a social switch that turns on in a baby's brain in that first year, that they don't absorb everything around them. That's not just like they're a sponge, until you flip that social switch. So then you want to say, how do you have toys that intentionally helped foster some engagement, a parent does something the baby reacts, they do some back and forth. And so again, this is where I was so enthused to see how much thought goes into some of those toys. Where when you get them home, and again, my kids are in the same age range as yours, I've got 21, 23 and 24. But yes, you can remember those toys. But if you think about you can also remember some of the engagement that you had around them. That was by design. And people in business and in design know that, right? There's a lot of things, whether it's nudges or whatever it is that you can design into a product that gets to those. And in this case, it's not manipulative design, which is a concern. It is the how do we help people make the most of really helping early childhood development, including developing these skills that all of us care about for the 21st Century.

Matt Waller 22:22
Two thoughts. One is, there are these little toys like animals and farmers and stuff like that.

Laura Jana 22:29
Oh, yeah. Little People.

Matt Waller 22:30
You know, so that's something when the kids are little that really is good for it seemed, at least for us, our kids, it was really easy to engage with them on. And they would think it was funny, when we made a animal noise when we were holding a little toy. One of my kids really liked these things where you stack things up, like in a sequence, I can't remember there are different kinds of blocks that they used and so forth. But but some of those really lend themselves well to, you know, interacting with kids it seems like.

Laura Jana 23:08
Well, and I'm just going to have you stop for a minute and think, put your dean of a business school head on. And correct me if I'm wrong. Have you not been seeing more manipulatives on tables, interactive, sort of almost games, at high level? This, I mean, obviously, pandemic is limited, you know, in person sorts of things. But when we see those things, what my case is, and you know, this is where sort of the I guess the elephant in the room around my career has always been how does a pediatrician end up sitting at a global, you know, conference or keynoting, the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center conference, right? Here's the way I've learned to recognize this. We're all interested in these skills, which has to do with human development. And I came in on the early end, foundational early childhood, I thought I might be a neurosurgeon always involved and interested in neuroscience and cellular molecular biology. But I would argue, or I make the case, that we're talking about human development at play in the business context. So when you think of it that way, you of course, all of a sudden, you go, Okay, we have lots of things in business where we said, don't take it personally. It's just business. And my response is, who are we kidding? It's all personal, right? Because we as humans, the way our brains work, by the way, there's a book called Learning emotions in the brain or something like that, hardcore neuroscience images. But basically, we don't even process memories and embed them in our brains without emotional context. What we're seeing now is how do we engage it from whether it's workplace well being to functioning as a member of a team empathy, perspective, taking you hear CEOs everywhere talking about what's most important is active listening. Those are all terms we use in a preschool classroom. Right? Like those are the skills so that's when I always I use the words intentionally right is is putting it into play in the work place makes perfect sense. And in fact, lots of conferences and meetings start to focus on the creative generating aspects of play. No different in early childhood than it is in the business context. Just different age different stage of development.

Matt Waller 25:15
I think you're so right, you know.

Laura Jana 25:17
Oh thank goodness, because I'm hearing saying this to you. I'm like, I was serious. It wasn't a rhetorical comment. Don't agree. But that's what I'm seeing in the business world.

Matt Waller 25:26
Just to give you some couple of examples, Doug McMillon, is a alum of ours, and he's the CEO of Walmart. Several years ago, I visited with him right after I became dean. And the one question I always ask, really successful alumni is, what could the Walton College do that would make you more proud to be an alum? You know, gets at the psychographics of a person. He said, I think students are going to need more innovative skills, skills around innovation. I don't remember exactly what he said it was around that. But long story short, we've developed something called the McMillon Innovation Studio, it started out just for business. But now, I think it's only about 40% business students. There's students from engineering, arts and sciences, agriculture, etc, etc. But they, they work on problems. So, you know, companies, we have a lot of consumer products, companies, in fact, Mattel has a lot of people here in Northwest Arkansas, because they sell to Walmart. But there's a lot of CPG companies in town about 1500+, of course, Walmart, but these companies will bring problems to the students. And the students will use a design thinking methodology, you know, in an agile kind of a framework where they look at the customer journey, they do customer empathy mapping, and all kinds of things.

Laura Jana 26:54
Oh, yeah, the whole design process is essentially, a formalizing of what we're talking about. It's the time focused on empathy is number one, whether it's, you know, consumer, whatever you're doing it's know your audience understand what they want, right?

Matt Waller 27:10
Yeah. So in fact, we describe the McMillion studio as a human centered design studio for students, run by students, so students actually run it. And so it gets back to what you're talking about there. And we do have a leader of the studio and the companies have people who interact with the students in this process. But all the students I talked to say, it's just incredible.

Laura Jana 27:36
Doesn't it make you want to go participate? I mean, when someone

Matt Waller 27:39
Oh, yeah!

Laura Jana 27:39
Yeah, I'm like, I would do that now. Right? Like, that sounds great to me, real world problems and challenges with a team that comes together with a shared goal, mission vision. So it's not just check the boxes, you know, to do list for the day. So you've got impact. And you're mixing of ideas, which I always say is like Medici effect, if you ever heard of that book, or read the book, but basically, here's the punchline from the book, The Medici Effect, innovation happens at the intersect. So you've now just described, you've got business, yes. But you've got engineers, and you've got art students, you've got, you know, all you mix. And all of a sudden, you get all these creative ideas coming from different directions, in a context where they can get pulled together effectively to solve real world problems. That is exactly what I was trying to capture with The Toddler Brain, in the sense of what's going on in the world today. Because I think businesses are all going to have to shift towards that, right? I mean, they're not gonna be able to stay within just the four walls of their business and do just what they, they need to be able to start to adapt into that structure that you've got at the McMillon Innovation Studio, from what I'm what I'm seeing.

Matt Waller 28:42
You talk about nurturing the skills today that will shape your child's tomorrow in the toddler brain. You also have a TED talk on this topic of the skills. And I know I first heard about it when you and I were in a meeting. I know these skills are valuable not only for toddlers, but also for people at all ages. Your point is just you need to start working on them early. And certainly we continue working on them. So it'd be important for students to be aware of these and faculty and staff as well. I know you rattle them off really fast early, would you mind talking about them and why they're so important?

Laura Jana 29:22
Well, sure. And the skills I rattle off are this category. It's sort of like a garbage bag, terminology of, you know, soft noncognitive and other skills, communication, collaboration, teamwork, adaptability, resilience, grit, perseverance, emotional intelligence, and they will say, Listen, they're so important, we have to come up with something to call them that's better than soft noncognitive another and let me just say, soft you know, you and I come from the world of more hard skills, right hate soft doesn't do them justice in our world, because most people think hard skills are better than soft skills, arguable based on what we're learning, but that's people's perception. So soft doesn't do them justice. Non cognitive is absolutely a misnomer, I will just leave it at there's so much brain science behind these skills and what how they're developed in the brain. It's a misnomer. And then from my 20-25 years worth of doing media work, I can tell you, if you ever want to convince somebody, something's important, calling it other is a really bad idea. So, to your point, there's these skills. And what I did was I actually set out to try to come up with an actual name to call these skills, if they're so important, we should have one. And we should all be speaking the same language around these skills, right? So what I called them is key skills, but Qi, not K E Y. And they always say the fact that it sounds like key like, you know, K E Y, is good, because they're really important, valuable skills. QI also can be pronounced Chee, which is sort of the same meaning so a lot of people recognize Qi and think of it as sort of, you know, Asian culture positive energy. But actually, the concept of Qi or Qi extends over cultures and centuries, all meaning some form of positive lifeforce. And there's a little side note, when I first heard the word, it was somebody in India telling me he was about to launch a company with that in its name. And it was blended together with another part of the word and I said, I don't I don't know what that means. And he said, you know, like, may the force be with you from Star Wars. And I kid you not, my first thought was anytime you can integrate Star Wars into whatever you're talking about, the more people are going to pay attention. But positive light force is what we're talking about. This is positive life enhancing. And then I said, Okay, so we've got these key skills. And then it occurred to me that that would be a good name, because they're the complement to what I call loosely not formal definition, IQ skills, the kind of content knowledge that we've all been really used to so reading, writing, arithmetic, like literacy, numeracy, financial literacy, coding, civic literacy are all really important. But that IQ category makes up 1/3 of the skills deemed most valuable today by the World Economic Forum. Two thirds are what I call these key skills. And here's what I'm going to leave you with is a really sort of simple explanation of them. And it's meant to be so simple that you wouldn't have to go look it up again, if I sent the skill to you later. But it encompasses all this these terms that we talk about. I'm going to see them quickly. And then I'll go through each one with just a sentence description. Me, we, why, will, wiggle, wobble, what if. And if you're thinking to yourself, that sounds a little Dr. Seuss, like that was intentional. Because remember, my goal was to have unifying language around skills that a parent or a preschool teacher or somebody in the early childhood space could relate to. So yep, I get it. And I also wanted people like you, and CEO of Walmart and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center people to also say these skills resonate really strongly with what we're doing in the business world. Me skills, self awareness, self control, impulse control, focus, attention. Yes, you can all nod your head we all care about that. I, in fact, like to use, and I did this in my TED talk, my TEDxChandigarh talk where I talk about these skills. I use the line you know, Peter Drucker said, which tends to go over better in a business audience than it does in a preschool teacher audience. I say, Peter Drucker said that the 20th century was the era of business management, the 21st century is going to be the era of self management. Now, if I'm trying to make the connection to early childhood, which often I am sometimes in talks I am sometimes I'm not, but in the case that I am right, and in my world of early childhood, a good self management day, is when no one bites their friends, right? Everyone can relate to biting who's had young children, whether they were the biter or the bitee. But you know what biting is, it's the lack of impulse control. And impulse control is one of the three defining features of what neuroscience calls very conveniently, executive function skills. Okay? So we all want the skills, they have their development really early. The next skill we skills, those are the people's skills to learn to play well with others, share, whatever be nice. And again, they just have their foundational development very early. But in today's globally complex and connected world, it's not enough to get along with your neighbor. I mean, I'd like to think we most of us can get along with our immediate neighbors or the people we sit next to in the office. But what happens when you have to work with people in teams, and again, to your point about project based, what we're gonna see in the world of work is coming together of teams and then dispersing of the teams, and then coming together of a different team around a different project. You better be able to play well with others. So we've got me we which together form fit the formal definition of emotional intelligence, often dubbed the two most important words in corporate America, right? Why skills questioning curiosity? I'll just leave it at that unless you can tell me anybody who's ever said we don't care about that. So me we why will his motivation and drive wiggle, I say is the recognition that physical and intellectual engagement go hand in hand so I'm willing to bet at that, for example, at your McMillon Innovation Studio, it's not everyone sits in this in the room and looks at a screen or a professor standing in front. It's hands on, engage, take things apart, wrestle with them, whiteboard them sticky note them have manipulatives on the table, because actually the way our brains are wired, we learn things are creative and innovate much better when we're hands on. Those are wiggle skills. So me we why will wiggle wobble? Again, I could not say how many times I heard that we care about people's ability to fail and adapt, intelligent risk taking, I will say Silicon Valley's unofficial motto is fail early fail often fail forward. The most commonly asked question for companies for job interviews is when did you fail? And what did you do about it? And I always point out, the reason why being very obvious in a very rapidly changing world, you're going to come across things you've never come across. So it's not enough to just know the answer, because you're not going to know it. We want to make sure we've got people who are, quote, fit to fail. I called those wobble skills after the weebles wobble, but they don't fall down. We're not talking massive failure, we don't want people to massively fail. We want people to have a safe environment in which they can fail, adapt, fail, adapt, again, fitting with human centered design principles. And those I call wobble skills, because we did not have a word to call that skill that we all value, and the combination, or what are skills, that's the shiny object of creativity, right? 1500 global CEOs interviewed single most important skill, creativity, innovation, all of those things fit in there, right? Why skills are questioning how the world works, get a better understand how the world works. What if is a question, but what if is the ability to imagine how the world could be. So that's where you see it fitting in with innovation. And there's actually parts of specific identifiable parts of the brain that are involved in that process that are different than the rest. But I also say it's hope. And I like to end every talk that I give anybody I talked about this saying, the ability to imagine a world or a circumstance better than the one you're born into, or that you're facing is really, really important, not just for the person facing those circumstances, but for all of us. Because if we get a segment of the population, who does not have that ability to see something that's not immediately in front of them anymore, that there's nothing better ahead for them, then we're all in trouble. So those are the what if skills, and again, the whole framework are the key skills. And like I said, I've had everyone from, you know, the people at the World Bank, when they launched their hashtag invest in people campaign, to, you know, the US Chamber of Commerce, adopt the terminology of those skills, as soon as I present them. And so have I had the same happen with a child who's playing with a box, you know, two year old, and all of a sudden you can see those skills in action. It gives you a good framework and perspective to look at the world around you a bit differently, whether you're looking at it as a parent with children, or you're looking at it as the CEO of a company figuring out where we're headed into this big unknown of the 21st century workforce.

Matt Waller 37:57
Well, Dr. Jana, this has been so interesting. And again, congratulations on your amazing achievements in your career. Very impressive, and I do appreciate you taking time to visit with me.

Laura Jana 38:11
Oh, listen, it's been a pleasure.

Matt Waller 38:13
On behalf of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. I want to thank everyone for spending time with us for another engaging conversation. You can subscribe by going to your favorite podcast service and searching. BeEPIC. B-E-E-P-I-C

Matt WallerMatthew A. Waller is the dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business, Sam M. Walton Leadership Chair and professor of supply chain management. He is also the host for the Be EPIC Podcast for Walton College.


Walton College's EPIC values -- Excellence, Professionalism, Innovation and Collegiality -- are the heart of Dean Waller’s podcast. Since the beginning of the series, Waller has interviewed business professionals, industry experts, CEOs and Walton College students to bring listeners first-hand accounts directly from the entrepreneurial world.


Waller is an SEC Academic Leadership Fellow and coauthor of “The Definitive Guide to Inventory Management: Principles and Strategies for the Efficient Flow of Inventory across the Supply Chain,” published by Pearson Education. He is the former co-editor-in-chief of Journal of Business Logistics. His opinion pieces have appeared in Wall Street Journal Asia and Financial Times.


Waller received an M.S. and Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and a B.S.B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Missouri.

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Walton College of Business

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Be Epic Podcast

We're sitting down with innovators and business mavericks to discuss strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship. The Be EPIC Podcast is hosted by Matthew Waller, dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. Learn more...

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