Personal Impact Factor 2: Grand Ideals

Yesterday I posted the story of how I developed my Personal Impact Factor. If this wasn’t clear from the post, I highly encourage my academic colleagues to go through this sort of  personal analysis—your model will certainly differ from mine, at least at the Grand Ideals and Ends levels. The Means and Measures, I suspect, will be mostly the same. So today, a few details on how Grand Ideals work for me.

Grand Ideals should rise to the level of a calling, and therefore will be highly personal. For me, my career is inseparable from my faith in Christ. If Jesus is Lord, he is Lord of every aspect of my life, including my work. Therefore, I must understand the purpose of my work in that context. As an industrial engineer, my primary professional focus is work itself, and the Bible has much to say on this subject. In particular, work was part of the “dominion command” for man to rule and subdue the earth (Genesis 1). In other words, work was a gift to man before there was sin. After the fall of man (Genesis 3), God cursed the ground and work became a burden.

My Grand Ideals currently are:

  1. Create beautiful and useful techniques and technologies. Not everything I do will rise to this level (for sure!), but beauty and utility are the goals. I want my work—my research in particular—to evoke this response: “Wow, that’s really (cool, elegant, insightful, etc.). And I can use it!” Implicit in the word useful is that dreaded word “impact.” I strive to affect the world for the better.
  2. Discover and teach knowledge in my discipline. Discovery and dissemination is what it’s all about!
  3. Serve others by redeeming work from the curse. This is the IE-specific part of my calling. My goal is to contribute in some small way to man’s effort to restore work to its pre-Fall condition. Every person should enjoy his or her work! (For a terrific essay on this point, see Dorothy Sayers’ “Why Work?”) Part of that enjoyment must be efficiency and the elimination of waste—core IE/OR concepts. Frankly, I am still thinking about the implications of this one.

I wish you the best as you define your own Grand Ideals. The exercise has been very challenging and helpful for me.

Questions to ponder

  • (You were expecting this one!) When you are on your deathbed, what do you want to be able to say about your professional life and contributions? Remember, you will have spent much time working!
  • How should your professional contributions reflect your identity? What higher calling are you answering?
  • Write down two or three Grand Ideals for yourself.

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