How to Put Your Strengths to Work

When was the last time you were doing something at work that was so engaging and thought provoking that you totally lost track of time? If the answer is never, there’s a good chance you’re one of the 70 per cent of people that Gallup claim are working in jobs that don’t utilise their talents. And there’s also a good chance that most of the time, work is something that feels unintuitive and frustrating. So why do we do it? Mostly, it’s because we don’t pay enough attention to our strengths at work.

By the time we’re adults there is usually a long list of things in our personal lives that we know we’re just not that great at. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I can’t catch, I draw like a second grader and my cooking is generally on the wrong side of passable.

Instead of spending countless hours practicing and working at correcting these weaknesses, I’ve adapted my life to make them matter less. My friends and family know that throwing me the car keys is a bad idea, I write rather than draw and I have a long history of deals with housemates and partners that involve swapping cooking for cleaning. Because you know what? I’m awesome at cleaning.

/*daves*/ photostream / Flickr Creative Commons

We all do this at home, but for some reason when it comes to our professional lives we’re reluctant to put the emphasis on building our natural talents, and we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to compensate for our weaknesses.

One of the unfortunate side effects of performance-based professional culture is that we’re usually told what we need to work on, rather than what we’re good at. And then we’re shipped off to a course or a seminar or a conference to address our shortcomings and bring our new-found skill-set back to work.

But in reality, this rarely works. The fact is that working outside your natural preferences is draining, and nothing saps your enthusiasm for work more than doing something you’re not good at, or something you hate. As Peter Drucker argued in his excellent essay Managing Oneself, “It takes far more energy and work to improve from incompetence to mediocrity than it takes to improve from first-rate performance to excellence”.

MarkKoeber’s Photostream / Flickr Creative Commons

So, instead of trying to compensate for our weaknesses, how can we invest more in our natural talents?

1.     Take a deeper look

There are a number of self-assessment tests you can take to get a better idea of where your strengths are, like StrengthsFinder, Strengthscope and Action for Happiness. But an equally effective method for finding your strengths is simply to pay close attention to how you work. What do you look forward to doing most every day? Which tasks or situations keep you fully engaged and are enjoyable enough that you lose track of time? Chances are that’s where your strengths are.

2.     Accept yourself

When I did the StrengthsFinder assessment (twice, just to make sure), my number one strength was competition. After spending most of my life seeing my competitiveness as a weakness that needed to be toned down at work, it was hard to start accepting it as a strength. But the fact is that I work better when I’m competing, and I’ve learnt to compete with the clock, my to do list and my own personal goals, rather than competing with other people. Accepting your talents puts you in a position where you can leverage them.

 3.     Put your strengths to work

Once you know what your strengths are, you can start thinking about how to apply them at work. Make your manager aware of what you enjoy working on – deliberately taking on jobs and projects that are a good fit for your talents will mean better results for you and your workplace. For me, putting my strengths to work meant asking my manager to judge me on my outcomes rather than my process. My process isn’t always pretty, but it gets results.

4.     Notice strengths in others

Help others see where their strengths are, and better still, partner with people who have talents that complement yours. If fostering empathy, fairness and harmony are some of your strengths, partner with an activator or an achiever who enjoys keeping things moving.  Accept that other people are just as individual as you are, and collaborate your way into greatness.

It’s a pretty simple idea when you break it down – work out what you do best and do more of it.  If you do something that you’re good at, not only will you enjoy it, but there’s a good chance you’ll also do it exceptionally well.

Three Tips for Overcoming Mediocre Presenting

John public speaking

Everybody fails. Sometimes we do so spectacularly and sometimes we simply don’t reach our potential; I experienced the latter sort of failure on Saturday when I gave what can only be described as a mediocre presentation – the audience probably thought “it was fine”.

For me, though, giving a presentation that is “fine” just isn’t good enough.

Talking in front of people is totally my thing. I am absolutely in my element when building and delivering awesome presentations, workshops, keynote speeches, and wedding toasts. So, when my five minute talk about career options for UBC engineers fell short, I deconstructed the experience and reminded myself of three simple steps that I will absolutely take to make sure it never happens again.

1. Be prepared and keep it simple. For this particular presentation, I strived to do too much. My preparation was more of a copy-and-paste from an existing workshop than a truly unique creation– this being said, I did add some relevant data. This backfired and things got complicated -what should have been a clear and concise message got lost in too many ideas in too little time.

2. Know your teammates, your audience, and your surroundings. It is not uncommon for me to present as part of a group, which was the case on Saturday. When you’re part of a team, it’s important to know who is saying what and how much time each person has to speak. By packing so much information into my presentation I had to speed through my slides to finish on time. I also didn’t focus enough on what the audience (parents of future UBC students) wanted from the presentation: career outcomes for engineering graduates. My presentation had some great stuff, but in the context of what was a really, really jam-packed day for parents and kids, it was just too much; and the great data got lost in my attempt to be inspiring. Finally, the room was a big, hollow place, and I chose to speak without a microphone and was later told that my voice sounded “tinny” in the space. Had I better known my surroundings and tested the facilities beforehand (which every great presenter knows is essential) this would not have been a problem.

3. Perfect practice makes perfect. A wise and very talented speaker once told me that it’s not enough to prepare by reading your slides; you need to practice the same way that you want to present, which should be awesomely and within the allotted time.

So there it is. When preparing to give a presentation remember that fewer slides will help you stay organized (plan to spend two minutes on each slide), that you need to know the look, feel and sound of the room, and that practicing your presentation exactly how you want to see it delivered will do much for realizing your potential in front of audiences that you want to influence, engage and inspire. This is common sense, but wasn’t common practice for me last Saturday.

And sure, these tips apply specifically to presentations. And they can absolutely be applied to anything in which you want to realize your version of success.

Masthead photo courtesy of timtom.ch’s photostream on Flickr

Awesome photo of me emceeing a wedding courtesy of my main man Jamie Reid

Three Reasons Why Panda Bears Are Horrible Role Models

Aka Hige – Flickr Creative Commons

Panda bears are the poster-animals for numerous conservation causes and luck-based Chinese philosophies. Yet these malnourished creatures are not adaptable to their changing surroundings. So, here is an argument to stop celebrating these overrated beasts.

Every day we hear stories and see images that our global economy/marketplace/village is changing at hyper speed. University students will wind up working in a job that didn’t exist when they started school. Fast Company is writing interesting articles about GenFlux leading teams within the chaos of our modern world. Popular media and memes change faster than Survivor “stars” and Lady Gaga’s hair colour. Organizations merge, expand and downsize. Units are eliminated or integrate with others. Change is the only certainty. Shift happens.

Adaptability is crucial for success (career, community, family). People who are flexible with how the world is changing will lead its future as opposed to forever playing catch-up because they live in the past (are you listening, Republicans?). When it comes to building community, embracing change and nimbly adapting to life’s shifts are incredibly important – even necessary.

Which is why panda bears are horrible role models for everyone everywhere. Including you.

Here’s why:

1. They hate sex. “Male pandas suffer from a chronic lack of sex drive – more than 60 per cent show no sexual desire at all in captivity, and only a tenth of them will mate naturally,” says The Independent’s Clifford Coonan. “Zookeepers have even resorted to using videos of mating pairs in the hope that “panda porn” will help the bears get frisky, although scientists say the films don’t have much effect.” Unreal. This becomes even more infuriating when you examine the animals’ eating habits and state of their youngsters.

2. They are totally useless for the first six months of their lives. Polar bear cubs leave their ice caves when they are three months old, walk for dozens/hundreds of kilometres to find food, don’t find any because of climate change and adapt by fighting walruses or armed folk from Churchill, Manitoba. Panda bear cubs are blind for the first10-20 days of their lives. They can’t walk, hunt or function before they’re three months old. Sure, they’re cute, but so are kittens, which, as it turns out, are more ferocious and adaptable than panda bears.

3. They refuse to adapt. While the Internet insists on proving me wrong (thanks for nothing, The BBC, National Geographic and ilovepandas.org), I’m pretty confident that Planet Earth’s David Attenborough told me that panda bears mostly eat bamboo (it is allegedly 99 per cent of their diet), even though their bellies are designed to digest meat, just like the stomach of any good carnivore. Their refusal to consume non-bamboo-based-foods is mostly to blame for their low sex drive and weakling children and, with the erosion of this food supply in China and beyond, it seems startling that pandas don’t incorporate other food (meat, berries, garbage, etc.) into their diet, like tigers, penguins and grizzly bears. Penguins, on the other hand, are outstanding adapters – they can live on the beaches of South Africa or the freezing ice fields of Antarctica. It’s penguins that should bee on the World Wildlife Fund’s posters and calendars, not panda bears.

So, if you’re taking professional cues from panda bears, stop. It’s both weird (seriously, they’re bears) and counterproductive (you need to be adaptable and should also enjoy the physical act of love) for building positive and thriving communities at home and at work.

Get adaptable. Get flexible. And get comfortable with change. Because so much more is coming.

Solve Problems by Crossing the Streams

Solving Problems by Fostering Community and Surfacing Innovation

We work in silos. The boundaries might be fuzzy like a Turner landscape, but community, collaboration, and innovation can suffer as a result. We can improve our ability to work together to surface and solve problems by learning from how we socialize with the help of technology.

Let’s take a step back and examine the way we connect and communicate socially has transformed how we work.

We start by identifying the commonalities across our work and social lives.

Streams and the Multitude of Answers

I’m willing to bet that most of you agree that your job environment is pretty complex. Really, if you work with other humans, and you have an inkling, desire or flat-out goal to advance over the course of your life, you are operating in a complex system. Things are changing all the time. As colleagues move up or down, come in and out of collaboration, as priorities and budgets shift, you will find yourself constantly adapting to new ways of doing business in order to survive and thrive.

Complexity gurus David Snowden and Mary Boone have called this “The Domain of Emergence.” Their seminal article, A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making, ( Harvard Business Review*)  gives a great introduction to the Key characteristics of an increasingly complex workplace, including:

  • Flux and unpredictability
  • No right answers;
  • Unknown unknowns
  • Many competing ideas
  • A need for creative and innovative approaches
  • Pattern-based leadership

Think about your work and colleagues and nearly all of those should feel immediately familiar.

Now think about your social circles and how you interact through the tools of social networking.

When planning something as simple as a dinner out with friends the boundaries of decisions have become extremely soft. Plans can – and often do – change right up until the last minute as DM’s, texts, tweets, and pin-drops influence our ability to stick to a hard plan.

This can feel frustrating for those of us accustomed to locking-in our decisions early, but it opens the door for experiences and last minute discoveries that can only be found by embracing emerging opportunities.

Those experiences are the unknowns that only come to light when one of your group texts or tweets that en route to the restaurant they heard a great band playing a few blocks away, or when the first person to the theatre sees a line a mile long and can reach the rest of the group to organize a last-minute backup plan.

Social networking has improved our ability to adjust to the unpredictable and quickly explore competing ideas (where to eat, what to wear, who brings what for the potluck). We can probe (suggest something), sense (see how others react), and then respond, and our ability to identify patters is heightened because enough information is shared openly that they emerge.

So how can we take those abilities and apply them to our workplace?

Start by tackling a project through any one of your socially enabled platforms. Google docs with google + and circles, or a Linkedin group limited to your partners in collaboration, or just by agreeing as a team to have the conversations around the project through any one of your social-streams, tracked by a hash-tag or equivalent so you can move through probe, sense, and respond much more quickly.

Use your streams as a group to probe, sense, and respond. It’s a lot like being able to challenge the ideas of an “outsider” because of the veil of security afforded by the stream. Laying out some ground-rules in advance can strengthen this advantage, allowing you to challenge assumptions as a team very rapidly and use ideas from across the group to form solutions.

Social media is moving away from being every leader’s biggest fear to being one of our best opportunities to foster community and innovation at work. Get cracking.

*Just google the titles if you don’t have access to a library. Lots of organizations have pdf’s on their website.

 

Learning to Love the Library

When I was a kid, I used to love going to the library. There was something amazing about going down to the local library with an empty book bag, and coming home with a bag full of borrowed magic that I could pore over for hours. Then I started earning money, and my visits to the library became less frequent as my bookshelves at home filled up with purchased books. This continued until I bought a kindle about four years ago, at which point I stopped reading physical books altogether and promptly forgot about libraries entirely.

But two things have happened recently that have rekindled my love for libraries. The first one is that my wonderful Grandpa (who, incidentally, is 93 years old and a regular reader of this blog) bought me a membership for the Athenaeum Library in Melbourne. The Ath is Melbourne’s oldest library, starting its life in 1839 just four years after Melbourne became a colony, and is filled with all the magic and history that you’d expect from a library of that vintage.

Over the past two months since I started my membership I’ve borrowed and read a new book every week, and I approach my visits to the library with all the excitement and anticipation that I did when I was a kid. I still feel like there’s something vaguely mischievous about the whole thing – walking to down to the library in my lunch break and coming back with a bag full of books that I didn’t pay for, and that they trust me to return when I’m finished. Amazing.

The second thing that has renewed my love of libraries is that I came across the Little Free Library movement. Basically, Little Free Libraries are tiny book boxes in front yards, bus stops, gardens and bike paths across the world where you can ‘leave a book, take a book’. The movement started about three years ago, when Todd Bol from Wisconsin came up with an idea to remember his mother – a teacher who had a passion for reading and literacy. Todd crafted a box that looked like an old school house, waterproofed it, filled it with books and put it in his yard with a sign that said ‘free book exchange’.

The idea took off, and all of a sudden, neighbours who Todd had never spoken to were dropping in to chat and look through the books. Three years later, there are Little Free Libraries everywhere from Africa to Australia, and Todd has a website (www.littlefreelibrary.org) where you can buy kits to create your own library. Little Free Library’s mission is simple – “to promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide, and to build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations”. Double amazing.

Why not check out the Little Free Library World Map to find out if there’s one near you, or even better, how about starting one in your neighbourhood and sharing some library love!

The beginning of the end for the drug war?

There is no need to argue about the complete failure of the drug war. Repression has clearly been disastrous, filling jails, criminalizing the poor, destroying communities in most countries of the Americas. Once Colombia, now Mexico illustrates the drug war absurdity and irrationality. Voices are increasingly being heard everywhere in Latin America, both right and left, asking for an end to this nonsense; an expensive nonsense.

In the last 20 years, many Latin American governments, such as those of Argentina and Brazil, have relaxed their drug laws, mainly to control the growing jail population. Uruguay is now discussing a new global approach to the issue. President Mujica proposes to legalize marijuana (the state would produce and sale it to avoid smuggling to neighboring countries) and invest heavily to help individual addicted to pasta base (a drug similar to crack), being an important social problem. The idea is simple; move resources away from repressing ordinary citizens remove revenues out of organized crimes hands, and with these new resources help drug addicts and fight serious criminal activities. In diplomatic terms, many elected officials have called for legalization or de-criminalization of drug use, from Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, etc. For example, the Ecuador president Rafael Correa said: “these laws are tough, north-americans imposed them on Latin America at the beginnings of the 90s: repressive, they sanction production, but they are not doing anything in their own countries to control drug use.” Even former president of Mexico and of Coca-cola, Vincente Fox has taken a similar position. For years, they have been asking for a “joint responsibility”, with the United-States, to a lesser extent Canada. Now, they are just rejecting the strategy as a whole. Nobody can put his head in the sand anymore; the drug war has become a joke.

These calls for new policies are mostly directed at the United-States. For two simple reasons: US governments have impulsed and forced on many Latin American countries this strategy –remember the Plan Colombia- and it constitutes the main market for drug trafficking, which creates most of the violence along its route (mostly Central America and Mexico). What is changing is the balance of power between the USA and Latin America. Fast growing economies, democracies in a consolidation process, Latin American countries are moving away from being the US backyard where Uncle Sam could dictate how things work. The debt and economic crisis, combined with a democratic president –especially in a second term, if Obama is re-elected-, make it less likely the United-States would want to invest more in fighting drug production south of its border or even resist changes.

The Uruguayan initiative is being discussed and seems to face some internal resistance. If it does go through and shows some positive results in the next few years, it could represent the best argument many Latin American leaders needed to elaborate a continental strategy to face drug use, production and trafficking with decriminalization of use, and maybe straightforward legalization. A growing desire for continental collaboration, as exemplify diverse institutions (UNASUR, MERCOSUR, ALBA, or even the OEA less and less dominated by the USA), might facilitate this alternative way. In my humble opinion, it seems clear that the actual paradigm will keep failing over and over again until some changes are made, at least to limit revenues thrown at organized crime; and if repression is used, at least target with more precision who should go to jail. Debates remain open en relation with decriminalization versus legalization, and which drugs we are talking about.

Australia’s Strange Sporting Obsession

Last Saturday night, with a level of hype and expectation akin to the lunar landing, a seriously large number of Australians stayed up late to watch the country’s most successful racehorse, Black Caviar, race at Royal Ascot in England. You read right – people lost sleep in order to watch a racehorse compete in a race thousands of kilometres away, in a country that everyone in Australia loves to hate. The reason why of course is that as a community, we are absolutely obsessed with sport. Any sport.

Babies born in Melbourne routinely have an Australian Rules football team before they have a name, and once that minor detail has been finalised, the next step is getting them straight on to the waiting list for membership of the Melbourne Cricket Club. The current waiting list for MCC membership, which entitles the holder to entry to all football and cricket games held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, is somewhere in the vicinity of seventeen years.

So what is it that makes Australians such sporting tragics? One school of thought is that as a young nation with comparatively few competing narratives, most of our national heroes have ended up coming from sport, and sporting success has come to be a key indicator of our success as a nation. We’ve got a small number of war heroes and a couple of cultural icons, but the vast majority of our identity comes from sport, and we measure our place in the world through it.

At the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Australia slipped to number six on the medal tally, after finishing fourth in 2000 and 2004. We still won half the amount of medals that the USA won (not bad for a country with one fourteenth the population) but the media response in Australia was uncompromisingly hostile. If you were visiting Australia at this time and happened to pick up a newspaper, you could have been forgiven for thinking that we’d come out at the bottom of the medal table, or that our entire Olympic team had been outed as drug cheats.

But while we’re totally obsessed with sport, I like to think we’ve also got pretty decent manners too. Every Friday night for most of the year, up to 90,000 people cram into a stadium to watch an Aussie Rules game. Fans from both teams travel to the game together, they sit together at the ground, and at the end of the night they pile sardine-like into a packed train together to go home. There’s no team-based segregation, no fights and no need for masses of police. Why? Because it’s community at its finest – Australians don’t care what sport you love, as long as you love sport. And they don’t care which team you support, as long as you support someone. It’s obsessive, but it’s kind of nice too.

Masthead photo from this photostream, body photo from this photostream. Both used with the permission of a Creative Commons license.

A short history of cacerolazos

Quebec’s student protest turned into something much bigger y diversified when Charest’s government adopted bill 78 on May 18, in various ways limiting rights to assemble and protest. A few days later, people of all ages and backgrounds starting hitting kitchen pans to make noise and express their discontent to this tired, corrupted and incompetent government. First on their balcony, later in the streets. Les casseroles also gained regions outside Montreal, traditionally less inclined to protest and take the streets. How this original form of protest came about? Where does it come from?

A cegep political science profesor first proposed the idea on facebook. François-Olivier Chené thought it could represent a good way to protest without disobeying bill 78, since people would stay on their balcony to protest. Protesters quickly got taken away and les casseroles took the streets. He had heard that Chileans had protested against Pinochet’s dictatorship doing cacerolazos. The first protesters to use this technique were indeed Chileans, but were upper class right-wingers protesting the socialist government of Salvador Allende – killed during a military coup led by Pinochet in 1973. Later, the other camp performed cacerolazos to protest Pinochet’s repressing regime. It also spread to other Latin American countries living under dictatorships. Members of my family in law were proud to show me that some of their pans were in bad shaped, due to the bagging received during the last months of the Uruguayan dictatorship (1985), when they would get on their roof during cacerolazos.

Cacerolazos came to be known worldwide following Argentina’s economic and political crisis starting in December 2001. Following the collapse of its financial system and the uncontrollable capital flight, the government imposed a corralito, strict restrictions on banking activity, forbidding people to take their economies. When the pesos devaluated, many lost their life savings. To draw a parallel, imagine Greece had to leave the Euro and went back to the drachma, individual savings would lose most of its value, just as it happened in Argentina. Hopeless and angered by their collective and personal bankruptcies, middle and upper class Argentineans took the streets, armed only with kitchen pans. First in Buenos Aires, los cacerolazos then spread all over the country. It allowed people to show loudly their discontent and probably letting off some steam in a tense moment.

Casually, while Quebec protesters where making noise with casseroles, some Argentineans took part in new cacerolazos in Buenos Aires. While a small movement, they did get some attention. The 2012 cacerolazos are denouncing the government (centre-left) power abuses and corruption. Because they take place only in very wealthy neighbourhoods, many think these new cacerolazos are mainly due to new restrictions imposed on changing American dollars, in an effort to strengthen the Argentinean peso (Argentina has a double currency system, in which houses or cars are bought with dollars and day-to-day spending with pesos).

It is not clear why hitting on a saucepan has become a popular protest technique. It could be because it symbolizes private citizens making direct pleas to government officials – noise coming out of the kitchen to be heard by authorities. That people love being part of something bigger, feeling as they are not alone to feel anger. Or, it could be that people just enjoy bagging shinny objects… In any case, it seems very interesting to me that protesters can appropriate for themselves another culture protesting tradition and that it could spread so quickly. We will see with time if les casseroles become a traditional form of protest, resurfacing occasionally, when people are upsets, as it was the case in Argentina.

Masthead photo courtesy of jazzjava’s photostream on Flickr

Tips for Landing an Awesome New Job!

This photo is ironic, as Mary is not about climbing corporate ladders / gt8073a's photostream on Flickr

I accepted an awesome new job a month ago.  It was a long process and here’s what I learned along the way:

  1. Ask questions – I realized about a year ago that I needed a change.  I wasn’t sure how to move forward so I started thinking about the big questions, like what truly makes me happy?  Once I started figuring out what I wanted my next job to look like, I started asking for advice.
  2. Be honest – I noticed that once I started sharing that I was looking for my next challenge, people really wanted to help.  I was made offers of connections to opportunities that I wasn’t interested in and learned that I had to be clear and honest in order to make it easier for nice people to help.
  3. Be brave – it wasn’t exactly comfortable to approach people in my network for informal chats about their work.  But it got easier and became a lot of fun.
  4. Show-up at work – mentally checking out at work is brutal.  It makes for long and tedious days.  I found that the harder, better and smarter I performed at my day job, the more confidence I had to pursue other leads, contacts and roles.
  5. Follow up – I had regular reminders from my nearest and dearest that no-one was thinking about my job search as much as I was.  And that thoughtful follow up is a good practice.
  6. Don’t take it personally – it took patience to remain positive through rejection emails and un-returned phone calls.  Eventually I think I did a pretty good job of not taking things to heart.
  7. Take your time with offer – on the happy day that my offer letter arrived in my inbox, I was so excited that I would have signed it on the spot.  I got some great advice to take my time with the offer and really think about what I was signing.
  8. Get advice – again, people are happy to help and offer great info provided you are clear in what you’re asking.  I used my network to collect as much info as I could before moving forward.
  9. Negotiate – be gracious and consider the offer letter as the starting point in a conversation.  It’s not easy but it’s not that hard either.  Ask a friend to help you practice so you’re comfortable and position yourself to start your new job on the right foot.
  10. Time off between jobs – it takes time to refresh and it’s important.  How much time will depend on you.
  11. Keep network alive – spend time with your colleagues at job you’re leaving.  If you’re like me, you probably didn’t do enough of it when you worked together every day.  It’s been so nice getting to know my cubicle-mates in this past little while.
  12. Get advice from current boss to take to new role – I scheduled a mini performance review that actually turned into a coaching session.  It was awesome to be able to reflect upon my work-style with my manager.  Very useful for starting a new job.
  13. Visualize yourself kicking-ass in your new job and get excited!

Laneway Learning: crowdsourcing education

Ever wondered who invented the roller coaster, or more importantly, why on earth they thought it would be a good idea? Or maybe you’re living with a secret longing to learn the ukulele, but you’ve never had the time to learn how to play anything but a slightly Hawaiian version of Smoke on the Water. Or perhaps, like me, you really love to learn stuff, but the thought of attending (and paying for) a 10 week course in meditation is a little too high on the commitment scale.

If any of the above resonate, you’ll love the new Laneway Learning program that’s cropped up out of one of Melbourne’s mega-awesome laneways. The concept is simple – cheap, informal, relaxed classes that are aimed at letting working people learn new things in a totally non-committal way. The aim isn’t to make experts of learners, but rather, give them a taste of a cool new skill that they can go home and practice.

The classes for June range from the foody (Homebrewing on May 30), to the academic (Law, huh. What is it good for? on June 20), to the delightfully bizarre (Every stupid trick I know on June 12). What they have in common is that they’re all one night only, they all go for a maximum of 75 minutes, and most awesomely, they’re all only $12.

What I love most about these classes though is that both the topics and the teaching is 100% community crowdsourced. Anyone can suggest a class they think would be cool, and anyone can sign-up to teach a class based on their area of expertise, however niche. You don’t need to be a professional educator to teach, all you need is a bit of passion and the ability to get other people excited about the things that you’re excited about.

These classes would have to be pretty close to my idea of the perfect night out. A couple of friends, a couple of beers and learning about something great in a totally non-committal way. If you don’t live in Melbourne, start packing. This is worth moving for.