In the past few weeks, I’ve found a new TV show to get consumed by, but it’s not anything you might be able to guess. I’ve finished The West Wing, blew through Mad Men, and haven’t started The Walking Dead or finished Breaking Bad.
One of my new favorite shows is…Odd Squad. A Canadian show made for kids and shown on PBS Kids, Odd Squad is about a kids’ detective agency that solves odd crimes. Most of the crimes they investigate can be solved by a basic understanding of a mathematical concept, hence its placement on PBS Kids. And while the website indicates it was developed for children ages 5-8 (I’m much older than that), I’m finding that there are lessons to be learned from this program. You know, besides the math lessons.
No Leader is an Island. Each Odd Squad agent is paired up with a partner, who goes with them on all calls or talks them through cases. They develop strong relationships built on trust and respect for one another’s intelligence, and they build friendships in the process.
While it may seem as though the right way to lead is as a talking head at the front of a room, it can be beneficial to share the load of leadership with a partner or group. You can prevent one another from being overworked, troubleshoot problems that an individual may not be able to see a solution for, or fill in any skills gaps that you may have. A leadership structure that can encourage the sharing of responsibility- either formally through the use of co-chairs, or informally with the formation of mentor/big-little relationships- will yield stronger, more cooperative leaders.
Every Problem Has a Solution. On Odd Squad, this is literal- some of their odd cases are solved with a device aptly named to solve a problem. For example, a bike that wouldn’t fit where it needed to go, was made smaller with a Shrinkinator. While our problems in real life aren’t always that easily solved, the thinking is smart- seek to attack each challenge that you and your team encounter, as though it can’t be solved. Many of us will give up early, or work in difficult conditions, because we give up on finding a solution, or delay doing what needs to be done to prevent conflict or discomfort.
Miss O (the juicebox-loving head of Odd Squad headquarters) and I want to challenge you to do one better; treat each issue that arises as though it has a solution. You can come to this solution in a number of ways- consulting with those affected by possible solutions, friends and mentors, or even your advisors or bosses if you’re truly stumped. Don’t let a problem lie just because it’s hard- make the triumph all the more sweet by continuing to work at it until the case is solved!
Find Your Ideal Workspace. For the Odd Squad agents, it’s the Mathroom- a Fortress of Solitude-like virtual space where they can render their clues and tie them together to map out their solutions. In this space, they have all the tools they need to get their work done, no distractions, and time to solve the problem at hand.
Where would you say your “Mathroom” is? Do you have one? It’s easy to try and make this space in your student organization’s office, public spaces on campus, or even your bedroom…but these may not be the best places for you to really dive into your work. Rooms can be made loud by roommates or neighbors, offices can be distracting when other tasks or coworkers compete for your attention, and your bed, while comfy, isn’t the best place to work- it’ll make it harder to sleep later on. Take some time to experiment, find your sweet spot where you could be more thoughtful, productive, and able to best serve your organization.
While the lessons shared each week on Odd Squad aren’t designed to teach college students or professionals, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t good lessons in there for us too. I encourage you to give it a watch, have a laugh, and see what it can teach you about being the kind of leader kids can look up to.
IMAGE CREDIT: PBS Kids