Learning from the greats to understand the biggest gifts

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never got around to learning because you didn’t have the time?

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO.

Today we’re going to talk about your biggest asset. It’s not your car. It’s not your house. It’s the time you give to other folks. What things did you want to do that you never got around to? Maybe it was playing tennis after you witnessed some of the greats like Andre Agassi. Or maybe it was learning how to play the guitar because you idolize Jimi Hendrix and some of the other magnificent guitar players. Both of those individuals and other icons have one thing in common—they started off with zero knowledge.

Zero-based knowledge is a concept that describes starting with no understanding of an idea or theory. At some point in his life, Jimi Hendrix didn’t know what a chord was and couldn’t play the guitar. Once upon a time, Andre Agassi didn’t even understand the term “tennis,” let alone know how to play the game. Today, we often see opportunities defined as problems or hidden as masked problems. We go into the office, and we see somebody who doesn’t understand a concept or needs a little assistance. We may think to ourselves, “I can’t believe they don’t know that concept.”

This recently happened to me. I had a senior leader who didn’t understand the financial model we were developing. In my head, I thought, “Wow, this is so simplistic.” But I’ve been working with these models for 10 or 15 years. Then it dawned on me: I have a zero-based-knowledge opportunity to be the first person to help introduce this leader to the world of financial modeling.

When you think of the greats like Andre Agassi, you realize he didn’t achieve what he did by himself. He had Nick Bollettieri to help him and coach him along the way. Jimi Hendrix had Billy Davis as a mentor and guide. Today, we don’t have the Statute of Apprentices that existed in 1562 in England. But we have other things. We don’t get coached for seven years while we learn from a master all the ways to do something—or how not to do something. When you’re thinking about that individual who needs a little extra help, think about the “first times” we’ve all experienced.

Many of the greatest minds in the world didn’t initially understand their field of expertise and started with zero-based knowledge. Maybe it was Rosa Franklin in the ‘20s and ‘30s, learning about DNA, RNA, and viruses and then going on to become one of the pioneers in her field. Maybe it was Chuck Yeager, an amazing pilot and the first aviator to break the speed of sound. There was a time in his life when Chuck didn’t understand what a lift coefficient was let alone how to fly an airplane. Rosa didn’t understand DNA or even what the acronym DNA stood for until she received education about it. They had help. They had leaders that supported them and lifted them up.

So, today when you go into the office, look for those opportunities to offer your time and raise somebody else up.

Hi, I’m Peter Nichol, Data Science CIO. Have a great day.

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Peter is a technology executive with 19 years of experience, dedicated to driving innovation, digital transformation, leadership, and data in business. He helps organizations connect strategy to execution to maximize company performance. He has been recognized for Digital Innovation by CIO 100, MIT Sloan, Computerworld, and the Project Management Institute. As Managing Director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CXO advisory services practice, driving digital strategies. Peter was honored as an MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award Finalist in 2015 and is a regular contributor to CIO.com on innovation. Peter has led businesses through complex changes, including the adoption of data-first approaches for portfolio management, lean six sigma for operational excellence, departmental transformations, process improvements, maximizing team performance, designing new IT operating models, digitizing platforms, leading large-scale mission-critical technology deployments, product management, agile methodologies, and building high-performance teams. As Chief Information Officer, Peter was responsible for Connecticut’s Health Insurance Exchange’s (HIX) industry-leading digital platform transforming consumerism and retail oriented services for the health insurance industry. Peter championed the Connecticut marketplace digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile application recognized as a 2014 PMI Project of the Year Award finalist, CIO 100, and awards for best digital services, API, and platform. He also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation, honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader. Peter is the author of Learning Intelligence: Expand Thinking. Absorb Alternative. Unlock Possibilities (2017), which Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times No. 1 bestseller Triggers, calls "a must-read for any leader wanting to compete in the innovation-powered landscape of today." Peter also authored The Power of Blockchain for Healthcare: How Blockchain Will Ignite The Future of Healthcare (2017), the first book to explore the vast opportunities for blockchain to transform the patient experience. Peter has a B.S. in C.I.S from Bentley University and an MBA from Quinnipiac University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. He earned his PMP® in 2001 and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Masters in Business Relationship Management (MBRM) and Certified Scrum Master. As a Commercial Rated Aviation Pilot and Master Scuba Diver, Peter understands first hand, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.