Scott Culbertson

The Ambitious Among Us

Meet the amazing business and technology minds of the Vancouver-metropolitan area and beyond.

PERSONALITY, CHARACTER, MOTIVATION AND ASPIRATIONS


nConnect logo used with permission.

Providing resources is a strategic function and one that Scott Culbertson of nConnect does very well.  He has been a project and program manager, a teacher and a professor, and a business liaison manager for over 30 years.  So how does one who has expertly provided others with resources feel as if his own opportunities came about serendipitously?


To describe Scott’s ambition, I researched the connection between serendipity and success, and the fields of education, human resources, procurement, project management and supply chain management.  What I learned was profound.

I will start with how resources are obtained by an approach to ‘push’ them.  For contrast, I will then explain the value of serendipity as a strategy and its relation to ‘pulling’ resources.  That will build the concept of how Scott’s talents encourage resourcing so others can find their own path in life.


Consider How Resources Are Obtained

Quite simply, resources are obtained by

  • Deciding what’s needed.
  • Figuring how to get those resources.
  • Getting them.

Two examples are…

Human resource planning is important and ongoing because of both internal and external environmental changes.

Richards, 2018

In other words, there are dynamics involved in hiring talent.  Much of those dynamics pertain to the business – the economic and talent acquisition markets, external forces, internal strategy-making, execution of the plan in place, and so on.


The procurement process looks somewhat similar.  Think of shopping at the grocery store.

  • A need arises.  
  • A search for ‘stuff’ results in finding it.
  • An interaction at the checkout ensues until ‘stuff’ is acquired.

A ‘Pushed’ Resource

Young adults are supposedly ushered into becoming a part of society, get jobs and lead lives of their own.  This makes high school graduates (and far too often college graduates) ‘pushed’ resources for the workforce.

Over the past century, we have been perfecting highly efficient approaches to mobilizing resources….In education, we design standard curricula to expose students to codified information in a predetermined sequence of experiences.  

Brown & Hagel, 2008

But is that codified information worthwhile for post-high school lives?

The renowned author, researcher and speaker on the topic of education, Sir Ken Robinson, offered an insight in his 2013 TED Talk.  There is a “…difference between the task and the achievement senses of verbs.”  Robinson contrasted the task of educating against the achievement of education.  

School may conduct the task of preparing young people’s minds for the future; however, schools did not in Scott’s time–and still do not–achieve the successful preparation of young people to become adults trained for what comes after school.

Society does not have locked rules.  Standardized minds do not meet need to become part of companies’ human resource planning.  If only hiring talent were as simple as going shopping amid rows and shelves of high school and college graduates.

Strategic Serendipity

Frans Johansson, author of The Click Moment, holds that serendipity–not planning–is the secret to success.  In a 2012 interview he said, “whenever I lay out a plan, whenever I analyze how to become successful, when I sort of draw up a strategy, I am very likely to be wrong.”  Suffice to say, then, that Scott’s opportunities were not themselves chance, but the very likely exposure to chance opportunities.

Johansson went on to say

When it comes to finding the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with, we even cherish serendipity in those situations, one of our most important decisions. But when it comes to our professional lives, when it comes to our career or developing a strategy for a business, we think we can circumvent this notion of randomness by analyzing or strategizing, and that’s a mistake.

Baer, 2012

Ambitious Pragmatism  

Coming out of high school, Scott figured the resource he needed most was financial stability.  From that he would benefit to support himself and later a family. Without question pragmatism can be ambition, and ensuring one’s future is a legitimate goal.  Anyway, that’s what he was supposed to do, right? Adults make money, maybe get married, have a family and work until retirement.

Scott, though, did not have a strategy to pursue his ambition.  

After high school, he went to college.  After college, he saw his siblings went to grad school and so he did, too.  After grad school, he got hired locally into a job with Hewlett-Packard (HP), then a fast-growing technology juggernaut.  Scott seemingly did not have any calibrated activities to position himself for his future. Progress and his practical ambition just seemed to happen toward his goal.  Were Scott’s career achievements the making of just ‘happy or beneficial’ luck?

NO, say the experts.  

Serendipity Is A Long-Term Strategy

In an article Johansson wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2012, he offered: “Our mind abhors…serendipitous explanations, and searches for convenient patterns instead” (Johansson, 2012).  This can be misleading, though.  Serendipity can and does result from seeking out newness, diversity, and ideas – words definitely associated with strategy.

Indeed, there are two key aspects to serendipity, only the first of which is its accidental nature and the delight and surprise of something unexpected….The second is the breakthrough or discovery made by drawing an unexpected connection – the sagacity….

Andre, Teevan & Dumais, 2009

When Scott reached HP, he developed into an outstanding manager.  In that environment and HP culture, he learned how he enjoyed teaching, and managing people so they could do what they did best.  What’s more, he cared about his people. There was an integrity about his job. In effect, his teams wanted to work for him. Strategy, while not conspicuous in his road to a career, was assuredly part of his day-to-day.  

Serendipity

The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

– Apple Dictionary

There is no mention of a time limit on serendipity.

‘Pulling’ Resources

At the time, Scott’s high school, college and post-graduate studies did not lead him to his life’s great ambitions – as Scott went further in his career, his ambitions furthered too.  He told me, “there’s more to life than one thing,” meaning making a living. Eventually, that education and the positioning it afforded him compounded to offer something different than the norm.

After taking early retirement from HP, Scott became a teacher.  He used his career as a manager to give students broader understanding of lessons both at the high school and university levels.


Today, as the Business Liaison Manager for nConnect, Scott is coaxing serendipity for the benefit of students’ futures. nConnect’s mission is largely based on area professionals volunteering their time to explain their job descriptions and careers.  

This is the type of preparation of which students can take advantage to enter into today’s rigorous talent acquisition markets.

Rather than seeking to constrain the resources available to people, pull models strive to continually expand the choices available while at the same time helping people to find the resources that are most relevant to them. Rather than seeking to dictate the actions that people must take, pull models seek to provide people on the periphery with the tools and resources (including connections to other people) required to take initiative and creatively address opportunities as they arise.

Brown & Hagel, 2008

About nConnect

To date, nConnect has enlisted more than 200 volunteers to become part of a Washington-wide effort that has collectively aided 29,000 students with early exposure to career possibilities.

To get involved, visit nConnect’s website, find them on Facebook and on LinkedIn.


Richards, Leigh. “Human Resource Planning Process.” Small Business – Chron.com, 2018. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/human-resource-planning-process-4932.html. Accessed 30 December 2018.

Supply Chain Resource Cooperative. “The Procurement Process – Creating A Sourcing Plan: Procurement : A Tutorial”. Supply Chain Resource Cooperative | NC State University, 2011, https://scm.ncsu.edu/scm-articles/article/the-procurement-process-creating-a-sourcing-plan-procurement-a-tutorial. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.

Hagel, III, John, and John Seely Brown. “From Push To Pull: Emerging Models For Mobilizing Resources”. Journal Of Service Science – Third Quarter 2008, vol 1, no. 1, 2008, pp. 93-110., http://johnseelybrown.com/Push2Pull.pdf. Accessed 28 Dec 2018.

Robinson, Ken. “How To Escape Education’s Death Valley”. Ted.Com, 2013, https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley?language=en#t-468337. Video. Accessed 30 Dec 2018.

Baer, D. (2012). Success Is Random, So Court Serendipity. [online] Fast Company. Available at: https://www.fastcompany.com/3000910/success-random-so-court-serendipity [Accessed 29 Dec. 2018].

Johansson, F. (2012). When Success is Born Out of Serendipity. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2012/10/when-success-is-born-out-of-serendipity [Accessed 29 Dec. 2018].

André, Paul, Jaime Teevan, and Susan T. Dumais. “Discovery is never by chance: designing for (un) serendipity.” Proceedings of the seventh ACM conference on Creativity and cognition. ACM, 2009. https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/267710/1/fp392-andre.pdf [Retrieved 29 Dec. 2018].

“Serendipity.” Apple Dictionary App. Version 2.3.0 (203.16.12). Accessed 30 Dec 2018.

This article is sponsored by…

Published by Rehr Consulting

Danny Rehr is a graduate of University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business where he earned an MBA with a concentration in strategy. He now operates Rehr Consulting, a strategy and continuous improvement consultancy focused on small businesses in the service industry of Southwest Washington State. He loves coffee and fountain pens.

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