Showing posts with label Critical Thinking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Critical Thinking. Show all posts

November 8, 2018

Think Back, Think Forward

So yesterday I attended a colleagues's leadership program graduation. 

There were about 20 people in the graduating class. 

One thing that I liked was that when they called up each person to shake hands and get their diplomas, each graduate was given the opportunity to say a few words. 

It was amazing to me how 20 people could give a thank you, what I learned, and what I will do with it speech in 20 completely different ways. 

20 people, 20 personalities, 20 ways of thinking and saying something. 

We really are all the similar to and different from one anther at the same time!

I remember one graduate in particular.

He talked about how the leadership program challenged him, and he said:
It made me think back, and it made me think forward. 

I loved that!

This is really what learning is all about. 

Reflecting back and using that to think forward--how to apply it, how to shape it, and how to innovate from it.

Thinking forward starts with thinking back to where we came from and all the lessons learned in our lives. 

It all starts at the beginning and it goes forward from there. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

September 14, 2018

Actual From Abstract

A colleague's daughter drew this. 

At first glance, I wasn't sure what I was looking at. 

Do you see what it is?

At first, I was thinking something a little alien perhaps. 

But there it is right in front of you.

It's the head, ears, nose, and tusks of an elephant. 

I really like the abstractness of this art. 

All from simple circles, and voila you have an elephant. 

Look carefully at what you think you see, and let your mind put the whole picture together. 

That's how you come to the actual from the abstract! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

August 16, 2018

Breaking The Paradigm

So a colleague has this sticker (with a do not image) on their computer that says:

"But we've always done it that way."

They told me a funny story about the lady that made the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off.

One day, her daughter asked, "Why mom do you make the ham with the head and tail ends always cut off?"

The mother answers and says because "My mother always made it that way!"

So they went to her mother and ask the question and they get the same answer again.

Finally, they went to her great grandmother and ask, "Why do you always make the ham with the head and tail ends cut off?"

And the old lady takes a breath, pauses, and says, "Because, we didn't have a pan big enough to fit the whole ham!"

Just thought this was a great lesson on critical thinking and also on "asking why."

Change can be brought about by questioning underlying assumptions and historical ways of doing things and bringing an open mind and fresh light to it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 9, 2018

Persuasion x 3

I liked this categorization of three types of tools of persuasion developed by Aristotle: 

- Ethos: Appeals to a sense of ethics, morals, and character. 

- Logos: Appeals to a sense of logic, reason, and rationality.

- Pathos: Appeals to a sense of emotion, empathy, and passion. 

I don't know about most people, but I don't get convinced easily. 

You need to show me, prove it to me, or convince me it's right. 

Some others, and I don't know why--it's like you can sell them the Brooklyn Bridge, as they say.  

I think that's dangerous!

Without critical thinking and evaluation, people can get led astray to do the wrong things...a perfect example is Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler (may his memory be forever cursed).  

Hitler appealed to the Germans people at the time:
- Emotionally to bring them back from the loss, destruction, and destitution that World War I inflicted and of course, to scapegoat the Jews, Gypsies, and political opponents and send them to the death camps. 
- Logically, that they were a strong and powerful people, the "Aryan nation," and they therefore, deserved to conquer and rule Europe and the World.
- Ethically--let's just say, this one didn't really apply to Hitler, probably the most evil and destructive man this world has ever known, except that even Hitler tried to fool his people falsely proclaiming, "G-d is with us!"

It's a war of good over evil out there, and we need to make our arguments to influence and persuade for the good, but we also have to be careful not to let others, who are not so good, manipulate us for their own selfish and depraved ends. 

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos--potent tools or weapons in the direction of mankind and civilization. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

April 19, 2018

Make The Right Move To Agile Education

So, unfortunately, our education system in this country is highly troubled

Generally, we teach by strict curriculum forcing children to learn what we consider "the fundamentals".

But they are anything but that and kids come out not knowing how to do the very basics or survive in life. 

Test scores have not been improving--that's not the student's fault, but the education system, which cannot force feed what students minds are rejecting as "old school" and out of touch.

Not only don't we fish for them, but we don't even teach them to fish. 

We throw at them esoteric subjects to memorize, spit back, and forget. 

Wash, rinse, repeat. 

We waste years of their life and the productivity and creativity of society. 

Ever really wonder why GDP growth is only around 2% despite all the rapid technology that we are rolling out. 

It is just not drones that we are rolling off the assembly line, but human automatons as well. 

This is where agile education comes into aspect. 

Like with software development, we can gather requirements and build, and then show the customer, and then refine again and again. 

We let the development grow and mature naturally as the code takes shape. 

No more years of development and voila here's something for you, and with the customer exclaiming loudly, "What the F*** is that!"

So too with education, we need to follow the spirit and train of thought naturally. 

Where we let the students guide the teacher to what their questions are, what they are interested in learning about, where their creative juices take them, and what is relevant. 

Rigidity in the education system leaves our students as dead ends, and not as critical thinkers and innovators.

We have a dearth of leaders we can look up to and a plethora of people that couldn't survive the Spring without their Visa/Mastercard.  

Ever wonder why so many of our great innovators are college dropouts who built their companies in their garages instead of occupying a seat in a classroom and filling their heads with teacher rhetoric. 

Most people learn by seeing, internalizing, and doing useful things for themselves, not by listening and violently rejecting the irrelevant in their lives. 

Let us release the choking reigns of our education system. 

Teachers should be able to follow the questions and interests and natural evolution of thought and creativity and wonderment with their students. 

The mark of learning is not the answers on a standardized test, but the light bulb of critical thinking and innovation from our progeny. 

Exploration and discovery and skills to be self-sufficient and survive are far more beneficial than what we are giving our children today.

We owe them a better education, but we are not delivering because we are the automatons of yesteryear. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

February 18, 2017

Sleepy Education USA

Education is fundamental to learning, development and preparation for career and life. 

We've always believed that if you invest in anything, invest in education!

However, despite initiatives like No Child Left Behind and Every Child Succeeds Act, scores in the fundamentals like reading, math, and science all lag behind other advanced industrialized nations.



However, the comparison is flawed because university rankings are based not on student academic performance, but rather on research performance, including things like journal articles published and Noble Prize winners. 

When academic proficiency is tested for American adults, the rankings again lag and are at best mediocre. 

While there are many dedicated and good teachers, still too many teachers and unions continue to fight testing and reform so that progress of our education system continues to fail our children and our nation.

We need to end education by memorization, and focus instead on hands-on learning (by doing), critical thinking and problem-solving.

Sleeping through a lecture may not mean a student is missing squat in the current failed education system. 

(Source Photo: The Blumenthals)

Share/Save/Bookmark

June 9, 2016

The Kool-Aid Overfloweth

So I am a little concerned with this election.

As the promises are made...

As glass ceilings are broken for gender and outsiders...

As the endorsements are coming in...

As legacies are made and lost...

Everybody seems to be drinking a lot of Kool-Aid.

Somehow, the (social) media doesn't seem as discerning as it should or could be. 

Maybe it's more about brands, what outrageous, who's insulted, ratings and advertising dollars.

Many (or almost all unless they have personal skin in the game) seem resigned to just vote for the candidate they deem least worst.

Accountability for actions and words--scripted and blurted out--don't seem to be taken with the seriousness they deserve. 

Just say or do whatever it takes...shake hands, kiss babies, promise more of everything for everybody.

Wash it all away with the insincerity of the moment for the prize of the ultimate power grab awaits. 

The new leader of the free world will be sitting in the Oval Office in just a little more than half a year.

Kool-Aid is filling our screens, our newspapers, our conversations, and our minds.

What's real and what's bullsh*t about what we're being fed?

Transparency, ha...feeding time is almost over. 

But where's the real vetting, critical thinking, and values informing the process?

It's not about what to think, but how to think!

Bellies are almost full...the herd is almost ready to vote.

The new King of the Jungle is almost ready to take their place at the head of it all.

Four years, maybe eight years...

How will the wild world be then? ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

December 19, 2015

Politics Has Us Lost

So we've become a nation that only seems to be moving, but yet is heading nowhere fast.  

Shock and awe and "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Think about it!

Where are we going?

- Are we growing, innovating, leading. 

- Are we spreading our ideals of freedom, human rights, and democracy.

- Are we a nation the defends those in need and is a refuge for those under duress.

- Are we a country that is safe and secure from threats external and internal. 

- Are we united and heading in a clear direction with a strategy and making incremental steps towards our goals.

- Where are we on critical programs for the future from genuinely protecting our environment with binding agreements to investments in our space program to discover, travel, and build our destiny beyond just here. 

- Do we have the love and respect of our friends and the fear of those that are against our way of life.

- Are the decisions that are being made bringing together those from across the political aisle and are they particularly fruitful in terms of making a real difference in people's lives or in our future.

- Why is the system so broken and we don't even hear any real ideas anymore about how to fix it.

- Why do we hear about Obamacare, trade deals, deals with Iran, deals over global warming, deals over Syria, budget deals, yet don't see or feel any tangible differences in our lives--or feel any passion from those making the decisions.

- Where is the grand vision to really put a man on Mars, solve poverty, or cure cancer.

- Why is Russia grabbing what they want with Crimea, planning a permanent station on the moon, and creating air and naval bases in Syria and we can't even train some rebels to fight.

- Why are we afraid to call radical Islamic terrorism what it is and to fight them over there before they come over here.

- Why do we bounce back and forth unable to overcome basic problems like with our flailing education system first centralizing federally with "No Child Left Behind" and then decentralizing to the States with "Every Student Succeeds."

- Why do we reign in the budget one year with Sequestration only to expand the budget with unpaid tax cuts the next.

- Why do we call for a strong military and then cut their budget and undercut their mandate to get their job done. 

- Why do we stress the importance of cybersecurity, but then lose the security clearances and personnel information of the entire federal, intelligence, and military workforce.

- Why do we let in terrorists and criminals to our country and are then surprised when they commit violent acts against our people. 

- Why do we hurt allies and embrace enemies.

- Why do we stymie debate and opposition disrespecting others, calling them horrible names, threatening them, and working to destroy them instead of embracing healthy debate and compromise. 

- Why do we claim transparency, but then hide behind obscurity. 

This could be the list that never ends, which goes on and on my friends, some rationale people started asking common sense questions, not knowing how broken this system was, and they'll just keep questioning it forever just because...it makes no sense. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 23, 2015

Taking The Spin Off Things

Ok, so here is what I learned over the years about communication...

Question everything, believe nothing (except in G-d).

It's not just that a lot of people out there are full of sh*t--yes, that is true too. 

But also that many powerful people are experts at manipulation and spin. 

Take just some recent some examples:

- We didn't just give America and Israel-hating "suicidal, apocalypse-seeking" Iran a clear path to the bomb and in just half a generations' time (along with hundreds of billions to continue funding global terror and a lifting of the weapons and ballistic missile embargo), instead we have a "comprehensive long term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon."

- With the hackers who not only showed how to take wireless control of a moving Jeep Cherokee, but also released information on how to do it, they didn't put another tool in the toolkit of the cyber attackers and terrorists out there, instead "they are bringing atttention to an issue auto makers have for too long ignored."

Could go on and on to issue after issue...

The point is that from a young age we are primed to respect, listen, and automatically believe figures of authority and experts--when our parents, teachers, spiritual leaders or a policeman or fireman says something, we naturally believe them, who they are, and in them. 

This is what politicians and executives and other people in power prey on--that we will believe them over everyone else or any other facts to the contrary. They have the title, the uniform, the badge, or whatever, and so they must be good, honest, and trustworthy.

However, good parents and teachers make sure to tell children not just to take people or what they say at face value. For example, if someone comes to the door and says they are delivering a package, don't just open the door.  Look through the peephole, ask for identification, or have them come with a neighbor, etc. 

I remember in the very first movie of "Death Wish" with Charles Bronson, where his wife and daughter answer the door expecting a simple delivery from the supermarket that they were just at and instead they get a brutal gang that murders the wife and rapes the daughter. 

Similarly, in cases where women get pulled over, attacked, and raped by someone with flashing lights, siren, and even a fake uniform/badge--even as you believe you are obeying the law, others are taking advantage and fooling you.

As comforting as our beliefs are and perhaps even that we just want to believe--things often are not as they appear or what we want or expect them to be--what goes on behind the scenes and the spin that comes out in front are designed to intoxicate the masses. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Kristian Niemi)
Share/Save/Bookmark

April 13, 2015

| Go With A Winning Strategy |

So there was an office discussion the other day about something having a "checkered past."

And one of my colleagues said wisely about it, "I rather play chess!"

I though it was a smart retort, since chess is a game of strategy versus checkers, which is more a game of luck. 

Checkers is by far the more one-dimensional game with each piece moving or jumping in a similar fashion, while in chess, you deploy specific types of pieces (king, queen, rook, bishop, night, or pawn) for different manuevers. 

In life, when we deal with things that are especially challenging, double-edged, tricky, or plain dangerous, we need to handle it with a well-thought-out game plan and a solid strategy.

Having a plan and maintaining agility in dealing with the "facts on the ground" as they unfold is by far the better problem-solving approach than just trying to jump over the other guys pieces or block his next move. 

Chess in the only way to get to checkmate ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Florls Looijesteijn)
Share/Save/Bookmark

September 22, 2014

For Everyone That Loves Reading

I thought this was a great picture for everyone that loves reading.

Whether you read from traditional paper books, newspapers, magazines, and journals, or you prefer reading from a tablet, smartphone, eReader, or browser. 

Reading expands our mind, challenges our thinking, and builds on our knowledge. 

Here's to reading...just about everything you can get your hands on. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
Share/Save/Bookmark

May 10, 2014

The *S*p*y* Named Snowden

So was Edward Snowden a whistleblower (some even call him a patriot) or one of the most ruthless spies this country has ever known?

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Edward Jay Epstein makes a strong case that Snowden was a spy galore, and the whistleblowing was his cover.
  1. What he stole? - 1.7 million documents from the NSA with "only a minute fraction of them have anything to do with civil liberties or whistleblowing." Instead, the vast majority "were related to our military capabilities, operations, tactics, techniques, and procedures"--otherwise known as the "keys to the kingdom." Moreover, it seems clear that a "top priority was lists of the computers of U.S. adversaries abroad that the NSA has succeeded in penetrating."
  2. When he stole them? - Snowden took the Booz Allen Hamilton job as a contractor for NSA in March 2013--this was at the "tail end of his operation." Moreover, the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA) court order for Verizon to provide metadata on U.S. phone calls for 90 days had only been issued in April 2013. And Snowden told reporter James Rosen in October 2013, that his last job at NSA gave him access to every active operation against the Chinese and "that is why I accepted the position."
  3. Where did Snowden end up? - First in Hong Kong and then under the protection of the FSB (aka the old KGB) in Russia, which "effectively compromises all the sources and methods" and ties all too nicely with what he stole. A former cabinet official has indicated that the Snowden heist was either Russian espionage, Chinese espionage, or a joint operation. 
If Snowden really was a spy as indicated, then the Whistleblowing of domestic surveillance in the U.S. was a most brilliant ploy by his operators to distract our nation from the true nature of the exfiltration and the harm done to our national security. In a way, it falls right in line with Russia's creative storyline/coverup in taking Crimea in saying that they were only protecting ethnic Russians. Score 2 for Russia!

Are we so easily lied to and manipulated...is public opinion really just jello in the hands of the global spymasters.  

We've got to be smart enough (i.e. critical thinkers) to interpret the noise in the intelligence signals, political speeches, and news stories to unveil the truth of what is really going on. In advertising, when exposing the truth of products and companies, this is sometimes referred to as culture jamming. Can we apply this to the complicated intrigue of global politics and get past the storyline that is fed to us to expose truth?  

It's high time to outmaneuver those that may seek to manipulate the public (whether from outside or even sometimes from within) with some brilliance of our own--in not believing every snippet that is fed to us and instead looking at the bigger picture of political theater, special interests, and national security to see who is now zinging whom and why. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

January 23, 2014

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally. 

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math--and I really like that. 

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place. 

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization--multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more. 

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures. 

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills. 

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out. 

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think. 

You can't memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning. 

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success. 

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts--from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc. 

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine. 

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age--memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance--in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way. 

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

Share/Save/Bookmark

November 1, 2013

Why Memorize?

G-d, I remember as a kid in school having to memorize everything for every class--that was the humdrum life for a schoolchild.

Vocabulary words, grammar rules, multiplication tables, algebraic and geometric equations, scientific formulas, historical events, famous quotes, states and capitals, presidents, QWERTY keys, and more. 

It was stuff it in, spit it out, and basically forget it.

This seemed the only way to make room for ever more things to memorize and test out. 

In a way, you really had to memorize everything, because going to a reference library and having  to look up on the stacks of endless shelves or microfiche machines was a pain in the you know what. 

Alternatively, the home dictionary, theasarus, and encyclopeda were indispensible, but limited, slow, dated, and annoying. 

But as the universe of knowledge exploded, became ever more specialized, and the Internet was born, looking something up was a cinch and often necessary. 

All of a sudden, memorization was out and critical thinking was in. 

That's a good thing, especially if you don't want people who are simple repositories of stale information, but rather those who can question, analyze, and solve problems. 

Albert Einstein said, "Never memorize something that you can look up."

But an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by an old school teacher questions that logic. 

David Bonagura Jr. proposes that critical thinking and analysis "is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests."

He says, "Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation."

As a kid, I hated memorization and thought it was a waste of time, but looking back I find that more things stayed in that little head of mine than I had thought. 

I find myself relying on those foundations everyday...in writing, speaking, calculating, and even remembering a important story, principle, saying or even song lyrics.

These come out in my work--things that I thought were long lost and forgotten, but are part of my thinking, skills, and truly create a foundation for me to analyze situations and solve problems. 

In fact, I wish I knew more and retained it all, but short-term memory be damned. 

We can't depend on the Internet for all the answers--in fact, someday, it may not be there working for us all, when we need it. 

We must have core knowledge that is vital for life and survival and these are slowly being lost and eroded as we depend on the Internet to be our alternate brains. 

No, memorizing for memorization's sake is a waste of time, but building a foundation of critical skills has merits. 

Who decides what is critical and worthwhile is a whole other matter to address.

And are we building human automatons full of worthless information that is no longer relevant to today's lifestyles and problems or are we teaching what's really important and useful to the human psche, soul, and evolution. 

Creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression are vital skills to our ability to solve problems, but these can't exist in a vacuum of valuable brain matter and content.

It's great  to have a readily available reference of world information at the tips of our fingertips online, but unless you want to sound (and act) like an idiot, you better actually know something too. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chapendra)
Share/Save/Bookmark

July 13, 2013

News You Can't Count On


This is one of those unbelievable stories that you have to pinch yourself to see if you are dreaming or is it real.

An intern over at the National Transportation Safety Board provided KTVU a list of pilot names for the Asiana plane that crashed in San Francisco last week. 

Only...the pilot names weren't real but a spoof making fun of the airline pilots, their race, and the crash. 

With three people dead (including two 16-year old girls) and 200 wounded (with 2 still in critical condition) this really isn't a laughing matter. 

But the gall of this intern to pass these names off to the news, and then the TV stations blind acceptance of these as fact, plus the newscaster reading them aloud and still apparently not realizing what she was saying...is completely crazy!

Don't believe everything...look closely, listen carefully--is it a joke, an agenda, brainwashing, or maybe at times, some genuine facts you can actually count on. ;-)
Share/Save/Bookmark

Head Spinning From All The Spin

The Nazi Minister of Propaganda, the evil Joseph Goebbels said, "He who controls the message, controls the masses."

All dictatorships function very much from this premise as we see even now a days in totalitarian governments that limit Internet access, block websites, and filter news and messages from the people, so as to keep them docile and servile. 

However, even in a democracy as fine as ours, the ability to control the message is a very powerful tool in directing how events are understood by the public and what action is taken, or not. 

Some recent examples:

1) Syria's Use of Chemical Weapons:
Numerous allies including England, France, and Israel say they have intelligence about Syria's use of sarin gas against their own people...So did Syria cross the red line and use chemical weapons requiring us to take action or is this a matter for investigation and evidence? 

2) Iran's Violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty:
Iran is one of the world's richest in energy resources and reserves...So is Iran violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty necessitating that we stop them or are they just building nuclear facilities for peaceful civilian energy needs? 

3) Egyptian Military Coup and Roadmap For Reconciliation:
Egypt's military overthrew the Egyptian Prime Minister from the Muslim Brotherhood who oversaw the rewriting of the constitution in 2011 to be based on Islamic law and not inclusive of other more secular elements of society...So is the restoration of true democracy and civil rights for the Egyptian people or a brutal coup? 

4) Sudan Committing Genocide in Darfur:
With over 400,000 killed, 2,500,000 displaced, and 400 villages completely destroyed in Darfur...So did Sudan commit genocide requiring prevention, intervention, and punishment or was this just Sudanese internal conflict? 

5) People Employed in U.S. at 30-Year Lows:
The proportion of the U.S. population that is working is at low rates not seen since the recession of the 1980's...So is the unemployment rate still a critical national issue or is the unemployment rate really better and the economy strong again? 

6) Edward Snowden Leaking Classified Information:
Snowden sought out the job with Booz Allen Hamilton to gather evidence on classified NSA surveillance and when he did he leaked this information to the news and harmed national security...So is Snowden a traitor or a whistleblower? 

7) An $82 Billion Federal IT Budget:
The Federal IT budget is anticipated to rise to $82 billion in 2014...So are we still spending on large troubled IT projects or realizing billions in IT savings from new technology trends in cloud, mobile, social computing and more?

As Bill Clinton in 1998 said when questioned about the Monica Lewinsky affair..."It depends what the meaning of the word is, is?"

We see clearly that definitions are important, interpretations are important, and spin can make right seem wrong and wrong seem like right. 

How we communicate and present something is very important and has critical ramifications on what is done about it whether in terms of action, attribution, and retribution. 

Moreover, we should keep in mind that "He who knows doesn't tell, and he who tells doesn't know," so there are limits to what even gets communicated from the get-go. 

What is communicated, when, and in how much clarity or distortion is a function one on hand of people's agendas, biases, career building (including the desire to get and keep power), as well as the genuine need for secrecy and security.

On the other hand, the desire for openness, transparency, truth, and healthy debate (facilitated by the media, checks and balances in government, and the judicial system) provides a counterbalance. 

We the people must press to determine--is the person telling it like it is or are some things being contrived, manipulated, edited, and Photoshopped.

In the end, critical thinking and looking beyond the surface can make the difference between what we know we know and what we think we know. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Jah~)


Share/Save/Bookmark

March 3, 2013

If I Could Do School All Over Again


This program at Draper University of Heroes was written up in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (25 Feb. 2013) as The Silicon Valley Survival School. 

But really this is the remaking of education by venture capitalist, Tim Draper. 

There is an awesome focus on building thinkers, dreamers, inventors, and entrepreneurs--not just some more liberal arts majors without an real idea of how to apply what they learned or "what they want to be when they grow up."

The skills taught get you out of your comfort zone, break your fears, teach you life survival skills, and give you a core business foundation to hopefully, create the next great thing. 

Draper uses the terms superheroes, creativity, and imagination--skills so often overlooked in the traditional classroom where dated topics are not applied to real life, stale modes of teaching keep people in their seats and snoozing, and memorization is valued more than real critical analysis and innovative thinking. 


I am excited here by a curriculum that focuses on the big picture areas of vision, truth & justice, and creativity, and has lectures with CEOs of successful companies along side practical training in martial arts, survival, SWAT, first aid, lie detection, yoga, art and design, speed reading, cooking and more. 

This 8-week crash course teaches you how to come up with great ideas, start and finance a business, network, brand and sell, and classes are limited to 180 students, and the cost is $7,500 or 2% of your income for the next 10 years. 

The capstone is a 2-minute pitch to a panel of real investors, and the chance for Draper Fisher Jurvetson to make an actual investment in it. 

Investing in good ideas is one thing...investing in great people with the skills to succeed is even better.

I'd like to see this program expand to true University and even high-school level proportions--so we can really teach kids rather than just imprison them in mind and body. ;-)

Share/Save/Bookmark

December 1, 2012

The Future In Good Hands


Ethics_bowl

I had the distinct honor to attend the first Washington D.C. High School Ethics Bowl at American University.

There were eight teams competing from local schools in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas.

My daughter's team won 2nd place!

(Note: the trophys were identical except for the engraving of first, second, and third places.)

I was so proud to see that the schools are educating our students in ethics--both the theory and the practice.

The student teams prepared and competed using 10 case study scenarios that covered everything from oil drilling in Alaska to the death penalty. 

In lieu of the education of yesteryear that relied all too heavily on rote memorization, it was awesome instead to see the students analyzing real life scenarios, using critical thinking, debating ethical and philosophical considerations, and making policy recommendations. 

The students were sensitive to and discussed the impact of things like income inequality on college admission testing, the environmental effects of offshore drilling versus the importance of energy independence, the influence of race of criminal sentencing, and the moral implications of the Red Cross teaching first aid to named terrorist groups like the Taliban. 

I was truly impressed at how these high school students worked together as a team, developed their positions, and presented them to the moderator, judges and audience--and they did it in a way that could inspire how we all discuss, vet, and decide on issues in our organizations today.

- They didn't yell (except a few that were truly passionate about their positions and raised their voices in the moment), instead they maturely and professionally discussed the issues.

- They didn't get personal with each other--no insults, put-downs, digs, or other swipes (with the exception of when one team member called his opponents in a good natured gest, "the rivals"), instead they leveraged the diversity of their members to strengthen their evaluation of the issues.

- They didn't push an agenda in a winner takes all approach--instead they evaluated the positions of the competing teams, acknowledged good points, and refined their own positions accordingly to come up with even better proposals. 

- They didn't walk away from the debate bitter--but instead not only shook hands with their opponents, but I actually heard them exchange appreciation of how good each other did and what they respected about each other.

I'll tell you, these kids--young adults--taught me something about ethics, teamwork, critical thinking, presentation, and debate, and I truly valued it and actually am enthusiastic about this next generation coming up behind us to take the reins. 

With the many challenges facing us, we need these smart and committed kids to carry the flag forward--from what I saw today, there is indeed hope with our children. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Share/Save/Bookmark

July 29, 2011

Capturing It All

Lifelogging

Often it seems as if so much of our life is spent memorizing things and then trying to remember what we thought we memorized.

It starts in grade school and continues throughout our education--memorize, spit back, repeat.

Advances in education may actually recognize the need and try to get kids to think now-a-days, but there are still all the "fundamentals" that need to be put to memory, so you can pass the standardized tests like the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, and more.

But we don't just memorize to pass tests, we pride ourselves on what "we know" and we test ourselves and show off our expansive knowledge-base through things like board games such as Trivial Pursuit to game shows such as Jeopardy.

At work too, we hire, retain, and reward people based on their "knowledge, skills, and abilities" and recognize those who are true "subject matter experts."

I remember friends who used to read the encyclopedia to increase their knowledge, and the Almanac with all the facts and figures--is still a best-seller. In Yeshiva, we also spent a good part of our high school years, memorizing from the Talmud.

The challenge for us in the 21st century is that knowledge is growing so fast that we as individuals can barely keep up with the volume and pace of change, so we specialize professionally and seek expert advice from others on areas outside our area of specialization.

Still we memorize and try to remember as much as we can. We read, watch TV, browse the Internet, travel, try new things, and fill our heads with incessant facts, memories, and chatter. And we become frustrated when we can't remember names of people we recently meet, the punch line to a joke, the facts for a presentation at work, the spelling of a simple word, or even what we had for breakfast.

So rather than memorize and forget, people are turning to capturing events from their lives and playing it back when they need to recall information or are feeling nostalgic.

We do this when we take photos, videos, audiocasts, blog, tweet, etc. and then access these from our hard drives or the Internet though services like Flikr, YouTube, Podbeam, Blogger, Twitter, and so on.

Now we starting to move beyond recording just moments in times (i.e. snapshots) and instead capturing it all!

The Futurist (July-August 2011) reports that people are discovering things like Lifelogging--where through cameras, recording devices, and storage media, they record virtually "every instant of their lives." We are nearing at a time, when this is becoming "not only feasible, but possibly even appealing" to the masses.

By recording the events of our life--whether in blogs, photos, audio or video recordings--and combining this with advanced search tools, lifelogging "could provide us with the equivalent of near total recall."

Perhaps the ability to capture more and more of our lives digitally will make it unnecessary in the future to sit and memorize so many useful and useless facts and information.

We don't have to remember everything in our heads, we just need to know how to access the information when we need it.

Learning does not have to be about memorizing but rather can be about critical thinking, and being an expert does not have to be about what you have memorized, as much as your experience and ability to think through problems and find solutions.

(Photo Source: here)

Share/Save/Bookmark

December 4, 2009

Playing It Safe or Provoking to Action

Which does your leadership do? Do they play it safe--staying the same familiar course, avoiding potential change and upset or do they provoke to action, encourage continuous improvement, are they genuinely open to new ideas, and do they embrace the possibilities (along with the risks) of doing things better, faster, and cheaper?

Surely, some leaders are masters of envisioning a brighter future and provoking the change to make it happen. Leaders from Apple, Google, Amazon, and other special leaders come to mind. But many others remain complacent to deliver short-term results, not "rock the boat," and keep on fighting the day-to-day fires rather than curing the firefighting illness and moving the organization to innovation, ideation, and transformation through strategic formulation and execution.

Provoking to action is risky for leaders as the old saying goes, "the nail that sticks up gets hammered down," and often leaders that make even the best-intentioned mistakes in trying to do the "right thing" get sorely punished. Only enlightened organizations encourage innovation and experimentation and recognize that failure is part of the process to get to success.

While responsible leaders, almost by definition, provide a stable, reliable, secure, and robust operating environment, we must balance this with the need to grow and change productively over time. We need more organizations and leaders to stand up and provoke action--to drive new ways of thinking and doing things--to break the complacency mindset and remove the training wheels to allow a freer, faster, and more agile movement of organizational progress. To provoke action, we need to make our people feel safe to look out for long-term organizational success strategies rather than just short-term bottom line numbers.

Harvard Business Review (December 2009) provides some useful tips for provoking action called "Five Discovery Skills Separate True Innovators from the Rest of Us."

  • Associating--Develop a broad knowledgebase and regularly give yourself the time and space to freely associate--allow your brain to connect the dots in new ways and see past old stovepipes. Fresh inputs trigger new associations; for some these lead to new ideas.
  • Questioning--”Innovators constantly ask questions that challenge common wisdom. We need to question the unquestionable as Ratan Tata put it. We must challenge long-held assumptions and Ask why? Why not? And What if? Dont be afraid to play devils advocate. Let your imagination flow and imagine a completely different alternative. Remove barriers to creative thinking and banish fear of people laughing at you, talking behind your back, dismissing you, or even conducting acts of reprisal.
  • Observing--Careful observation of people and how they behave provides critical insights into what is working and what isnt. There is a cool field of study in the social sciences called ethnomethodology that studies just such everyday human behavior and provides a looking glass through which we can become aware of and understand the ways things are and open us up to the way things could be better.
  • ExperimentingWeve got to try new things and approaches to learn from them and see if they work and how to refine them. Productive changes dont just happen all of a sudden like magic; they are cultivated, tested, refined, and over time evolve into new best practices for us and our organizations. Experimentation involves intellectual exploration, physical tinkering[and] engaging in new surroundings.
  • NetworkingIts all about people: they inspire us, provoke us, complement us, and are a sounding board for us. We get the best advances and decisions when we vet ideas with a diverse group of people. Having a diverse group of people provides different perspectives and insights that cannot be gleaned any other way. There is power in numbers”--and I am not referring to the power to defeat our enemies, but the power to think critically and synergistically. The group can build something greater than any individual alone ever could.

Of course, we cannot drive change like a speeding, runaway train until it crashes and burns. Rather, change and innovation must be nurtured. We must provoke to action our organizations and our people to modernize and transform through critical thinking, questioning the status quo, regular observation and insight, the freedom to experiment and constructively fail, and by building a diverse and synergistic network of people that can be greater than the sum of their parts.


Share/Save/Bookmark