The Outward Reach Challenge

The idea is very simple


Jeffrey Schwab

3 years ago | 4 min read

I know that I’m an extrovert. I get energy from being around and collaborating with others. Each and every day when I’m working, I need some time to connect with my colleagues, my team, not only to touch base, but also to generate energy, motivation, and give direction and meaning to the work that we’re doing.

The office environment at PTSC where I work as Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is mostly a quiet one. Other than the rather lively administrative department (ASD) colleagues, I’m often surrounded by software engineers and coders who are honed in on their individual work projects, focusing on calculations and algorithms that may remain foreign and out of reach to my brain for quite some time, if not forever.

Even though I work in a company devoted to providing IT solutions and services to companies and banks, my area of expertise is more internal and related to helping provide PTSC with a culture of learning across the organisation.

Knowing myself and the way I think, the best way for me to come up with processes for organisational learning is through creating a space where brainstorming and discussion is open and filled with lots of fast-paced ideas flying through the air, and where those in the space don’t need to fear for their ideas being judged.

Needless to say, creating a safe space for open discussion and brainstorming is something that will take time here and is a step-by-step process, due to the nature of the work of my colleagues around me. There’s a delicate balance between maintaining the individual employee focus which already exists here, and the inter-departmental open-source brainstorming that I am attempting to create. Step-by-step we’ll get there and find that balance.

In the meantime, I know I need more open-source brainstorming time than is currently available in PTSC. It occurred to me to try a different approach to this need, and that’s when I came up with the Outward Reach Challenge (ORC).

The idea is very simple, actually, and yet I’ve found it to be quite electrifying in its process, potential action points, and results. Each week I give myself the challenge of meeting with or calling someone who does not work with me in my company. We aim for the call to be approximately 40 minutes in length. 20 minutes of the call is devoted to brainstorming solutions to a challenge that I am currently facing, or helping to refine an exciting initiative or idea that I want to push at PTSC.

The other 20 minutes are focused on whomever it is that I happen to arrange the ORC with. I have found that the balance of this approach has proven to be quite effective — this is not a call where either side is doing all the taking; rather both sides are learning, and both sides are contributing.

Up until this point I have made calls with various ex-colleagues from my time in Beijing, as well as with complete strangers that I have connected with through personal and professional networking and are facing challenges of their own in their professional lives.

Although I have only done a handful of ORC calls up until this point, I’ve found that getting an outside perspective on issues that I’m facing to be quite invigorating, and I plan to continue this personal initiative for as long as I can find willing individuals to connect with.

Time is always slipping away. Reach out and connect while we still can.

When entering these calls or conversations, I find that there’s something comforting about knowing that both of us are somewhat in the same boat. Both of us are facing challenges in our own lives, and we can find connections through these challenges.

Additionally, there’s always a kind of spark when I enter these calls because I know that we want to make the best use of our time, and time is of the essence. Who knows when we will call again? Who knows if we will ever actually meet? And some of these challenges are indeed time sensitive.

We all lead separate lives and go about our day-to-day business. Before we know it, time has slipped through our hands, and it’s the end of another year. Our challenges have passed, we’ve overcome them, we’ve succumbed to them, or we’ve moved on to new ones.

Helping someone work through a challenge helps ourselves with our own challenges, whether we know it or not at the time. Sometimes the hardest step is knowing it’s ok to reach out and connect with someone else to ask for, and offer a little help. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of a push within ourselves to reach out. Sometimes all it takes is a little listening. We’ll never know until we make that connection.


Created by

Jeffrey Schwab

American living in Taipei since 2018. Working as a Chief Learning Officer in an IT company. Enjoy writing and improvising in my spare time.







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