“All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections.”
The remarkable gentleman who said this quote, Arthur Aufderheide M.D. (1922-2013), certainly lived by these wise words.
Dr. Aufderheide was a medical school professor at the University of Minnesota who founded an entirely new area of scientific research: paleopathology – the study of the spread of disease through the forensic analysis of mummies (think of it as CSI: Ancient Civilizations!).
Aufderheide actively pursued his research with true passion for 30 years, traveling the globe locating mummies and establishing best practices for their proper examination. His research also rewrote history; for example, Christopher Columbus did not infect the native peoples of the New World with fatal diseases as historians had long assumed; Aufderheide’s research found tuberculosis was already in the Americas five centuries earlier.
Aufderheide’s innovative research was the perfect combination of his medical expertise with his personal passions for archaeology, outdoorsmanship and native world cultures. His excitement and passion for his research inspired his students and earned recognition from the global scientific community. Because he absolutely loved his work, he did it for as long as he could – finally retiring at the age of 86.
Dr. Aufderheide and his successful life work help drive home two key points about success, meaningful work… and life:
First: Organizations with genuine passion for its mission will develop and utilize technology far more effectively than other companies.
Dr. Aufderheide’s career as a medical school professor was not his first. He had worked for decades as a hospital pathologist, a job he no longer found fulfilling. Had he opted to just count the days to early retirement, his remaining life work would have been mediocre at best. Instead, at the age of 55, he made a career change into academia, resulting in one heck of a “second act”: a highly fulfilling career and life.
Aufderheide’s tremendous passion for his work was key to successfully discover new insights from many far-flung sources of information that had been waiting for centuries to be discovered. Anyone else doing similar work just to blithely earn a paycheck surely would not have made any meaningful discoveries, much less establish a brand new field of scientific research.
Similarly, organizations with true passion for its mission will uncover more, better and faster business discoveries by combining insights from big data analytics, enterprise search, enterprise knowledge management, and other complementary technologies. Workers are actively empowered by leadership to ask new questions about the business, while also being provided the advanced technology resources that enable them to find new answers.
Second: Organizations with a culture of genuine passion for its mission will outperform competitors that don’t.
Leaders with a true passion for their organization’s mission will insist on an open, positive company culture that enables everyone to pursue that mission to the fullest – free from company politics, turf wars or internal arguments.
Passionate leaders will also only hire people who will share their passion. At a recent roundtable event, startup exec John McEleney emphasized the need for start-ups to “have the right people on the bus” and keep mediocre players out of the organization by requiring any new potential hire to be referred by an existing employee.
Without a supportive company culture and proper hiring practices, an organization will end up with people who are just working for the money.
This all reminds me of Simon Sinek’s fantastic viral TEDx presentation – a must-watch (and well worth watching again!):
Well, that definitely describes the kind of organization I’d love to work for. How about you? 😉
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