Recently I had the great pleasure of facilitating a Design Sprint for Google themselves. It was not just exciting, fun and hard work. It was also an amazing opportunity to yet again utilize the skills I learned at the Danish School of Journalism sometime late last millennium.
I was reminded of the value of these skills when I got into a Twitter discussion about how poorly journalists are equipped to do anything but low value journalism. So I thought I wanted to take a minute or two to share my experiences in using the journalists toolbox for other things than just pursuing a career as a journalist.
For my own part I have used my education and skillset to create a career within digital concept and product development, business development and strategy using a Design Thinking approach. Design Thinking is characterized by a desire to try and help companies and organizations build products and services that address the real needs of the customers and not just the whim of the creator.
Among the things I learned in journalism school that I use everyday are:
- The ability to ask the right questions. It makes all the difference in the world, when you’re trying to uncover the real needs, real people have.
- The ability to listen and sense where the answers are coming from. More often than not people won’t tell you, what’s really bothering them about a challenge. But if you know how to listen and use your ears more than your mouth, you can gain insights and at the appropriate time ask all the right questions. It’s quite like being an investigative reporter.
- The ability to be intrigued and change trajectory during the research process, if something more interesting and relevant shows itself. This includes the ability to kill a story that just isn’t there. Lots of badly conceived ideas could profit from that.
- The ability to structure and analyse large data sets. When I work with clients, we often produce significant volumes of qualitative and quantitative data. It takes some work go make sense of all of that and get to the right conclusion.
- The ability to spot the good story. It’s always a valuable skill to be able to cut to the chase and be able to present the core of a value proposition as well as the target audience for it. Nobody can do that like a journalist can.
- The ability to pitch the story, an idea or the solution to a crowd, I don’t know and be able to word it according to the context, the participants etc.
And then of course the basic ingredient: Curiosity. As well as all the other things I have probably forgotten.
The point of all this is that the structured approach in finding the story, finding the supporting evidence and everything else needed to create quality journalism are all the types of skills you could easily put to good use in other contexts. They are sorely needed, and the opportunity to create a real career out of it are legio.
That is why my message to the dear students freshly out there with a new degree is this: Think different, break loose and apply your skills to areas, where they are really needed, where you will be able to shine – and where you will have all the fun in the world.