The most important career skill for this century: fixing what’s broken

Companies are a complicated beasts. Reporting lines, structures, process, heirarchy, politics… finding your way through the corporate maze and working out how to get things done and ship meaningful work can be tough.

If you look around in any company, I’m sure you’ll see things that don’t make sense. You’ll see ineffective managers and inefficient processes. You’ll see failures and you’ll see waste.

When you look attentively and deliberately at the world around you, you will see so many things that are broken or could be improved. The more you look, the better you will become at seeing. You’ll undoubtedly see more things than you’ll ever have the time to work on.

Your first responsibility is to look. Your second responsibility is to act. If you see something broken, try to fix it – even if it’s not your job. Avoid ignoring the problem or building a complex workaround – try to fix the problem at it’s root.

If you really can’t fix the problem, then accept it as a constraint and move on. Leverage the constraint; use it to help you ship meaningful work.

In a world where software continues to automate generic factory-like work the most valuable skill becomes the ability to solve new and evolving problems… So if you have a choice between staring at your email inbox and fixing something that’s broken, what do you do?