“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!). He actively pursued his research with true passion for over 30 years, traveling the globe locating mummies, establishing best practices for their proper examination and extracting key specimens.
Dr. Aufderheide’s ground-breaking research was the perfect combination of his medical expertise with his personal passions for archaeology, outdoorsmanship and native world cultures. Simply put, he absolutely loved his work. His excitement and passion for his innovative research inspired his students and earned him widespread recognition from the global scientific community.
Dr. Aufderheide’s life work helps drive home two key points about successful, meaningful work and life:
First: Organizations with genuine passion for their mission will utilize technology and share information 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 likely 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 have made very few – if 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 collaboratively gaining new insight from big data analytics, enterprise search, enterprise knowledge management, and other silo-busting technologies. While dysfunctional organizations might actively resist sharing information, workers in enlightened companies 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.
Far from hoarding information, Aufderheide intentionally built a huge referenceable knowledge base of his work, including over 5,000 mummy specimens – the largest database of its kind in the world. And so Dr. Aufderheide’s work lives on today, enabling scientists to reconstruct the ways diseases behaved in antiquity, which can be helpful in controlling those diseases today.
Second: Organizations with a culture of genuine passion for their 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 reap what they sow, and 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? 😉