In The Entrepreneurial Engineer I talk about Julian Rotter’s work on the distinction between those with internal versus external motivation. In Stephen Covey’s famous book, he talks about the distinction between matters that are urgent versus those that are important. The connection between these two authors is this. Matters that are urgent are important to someone other than you (externally motivated) and matters that are important get their importance because they are consistent with your internal motivation and goals. Saying this out loud helps highlight the point Covey was making and helps us name the quadrants of his famous urgency-importance square. Here in deference to Rotter’s earlier work, we call the diagram the Rotter-Covey Square and name the four quadrants something other than I, II, II, and IV.
There’s a new piece up on Huffington Post here called Below the Waterline: A Deep Dive to Rethink Engineering Education. This pieces discusses the ways that education concentrates on particular facts and figures and processes (above the waterline), but neglects deeper issues of reflection and learning (below the waterline):
Focusing above the waterline and filling young minds with known facts and knowledge used to be sufficient for engineering education. In the past, engineers were category enhancers, making existing products and technologies faster, better, and more efficient, so mastery of the known used to be enough. Today, however, engineers do so much more. They are no longer category enhancers; they are category creators, bringing to fruition things that don’t yet exist. As such, because we don’t know what future solutions will be needed, we can’t merely pour existing knowledge into students’ heads, hoping that this will be enough; rather, we need to educate deep, lifelong learners so they can adapt, create, innovate, and lead the world to a better future.
There are many things to like about Marilee Adams book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (here). Written as a business parable, this book explores the role of asking questions and curiosity in effectiveness at work and in life. Routinely in my coaching and training practice, I use many of her particular questions as well as her idea of Q-storming (brainstorming with questions) to help clients become more creative and less stuck.
One of the most useful distinctions in the book is the distinction Adams makes between judging and learning. Oftentimes, someone behaves in a manner we are unaccustomed to or tells us something unfamiliar, and we immediately judge it, oftentimes as something bad. This is entirely natural, as human beings we are “living-breathing assessment machines,” and the making of assessments and judgments is part of our evolutionary apparatus that once protected us from harm on the savanna.
Of course, what is good for survival in a hostile and dangerous environment may not be as appropriate in modern civilization, and nowadays we find ourselves in a stream of unconscious judgment during much of our waking hours, a stream of judgment that is misaligned with the relative peace and tranquility of our everyday lives, a stream of judgement that serves us poorly, especially when we need to be innovative, creative, or collaborative.
Adams suggests that being in judgment this way prevents us from learning very much. By rejecting something as bad, we don’t reflect on it sufficiently long to learn whatever lessons might be embedded in the thing that we are judging. This is such an important lesson she depicts it graphically in the choice map shown below. When we judge, our judgment locks us into a particular point of view leading to the judger pit, a self-induced morass from which reflection and learning are nearlyimpossible. When we switch from the judger path to the learner path (through the asking of “switching questions”) our ability to be curious and reflect and learn returns.
A useful exercise is to self-observe your own thoughts and feelings during the course of 2-3 days, and notice what portion of the time you are in judgment of what is happening or being said (or not). Are you in judgment, 10% 50%, 90%, or exactly what percentage of the day? In the exercise, you should simply be aware or notice your degree of judgmentalism, but try to not judge yourself (about the degree of judgment) regardless of the outcome. Awareness is the first step to change, and once we are aware, we can do something different, but especially in this exercise, moving to harsh critical self-judgment misses the opportunity to learn from the observation.
What we do with the results of self-observation is up to us, but a good follow-on question is this. In what ways does the degree of judgment observed serve me and what ways does it not? Knowing the percentage of time you are in judger versus learner and then reflecting on whether that serves the life you want to live is a good starting point for effective personal growth and change.
In developing a course at the University of Illinois on Modeling for Tech Visionaries, I did two lectures on creativity. The Powerpoint slides from the first lecture are presented in the viewer below or may be viewed on the slideshare page here.
Slides numbers 5 and 6 have dictionary definitions of the term “creativity,” and for this post, I’ll call this the creativity is perspective. In other words, when we give a definition we are trying to nail down a concept or term and describe exactly what we mean by it. Unfortunately for such attempts at precision, terms such as “creativity” are overloaded with meaning, and attempts to say what creativity “is” almost always fall short.
As a result, I chose to take a different approach in my two lectures on creativity. I intentionally chose to view the term from different perspectives. In other words, I adopted a creativity as approach. In the ppt in the viewer, for example, I considered creativity (1) as individual thought process. (2) as group brainstorming. (3) as socially enabled/mediated process. (3) as history. (4) as generative vision. (5) as heuristic inventive process, and (6) as eliminating resistance/blocks. By choosing to view creativity as not a single thing, but rather as a multifaceted concept, I was able to explore it more fully, hopefully getting closer to a fuller understanding of what the complex term “creativity” is really all about.
Of course, taking this approach is not limited to the term “creativity.” The next time you are having difficulty getting your hands around a complex concept or term, try the trick of substituting “as” for “is.” You can then explore different facets of the term–X as Y, X as Z, and so on–asking “What else?” after each exploration, and in this way you get a fuller understanding of the larger concept. This can be especially helpful in multidisciplinary settings where terms are oftentimes used quite differently in different disciplines. Breaking the logjam of disciplinary expertise requires exactly this relaxation of the expert’s certainty that his or her discipline or profession has the received truth, thereby allowing him or her to listen to how others with different expertise use the same word.
Try it, substitute “as” for “is” and explore the richness of different perspectives, today.
I came across a nice post by John Spencer with the title above (here), and I thought I’d reprint his list of 15 ways to engage reluctant learners below:
- Be intentional.
- Know where we are going.
- Connect it to a real context.
- Or better yet . . . connect it to a really imaginary, creative context.
- Let them talk. Often.
- Allow for mistakes.
- Embed intervention and enrichment.
- Give more choices.
- Give more freedom.
- Let them move.
- Get rid of Try and avoid punishments and rewards.
- Make it meaningful.
- Push critical thinking.
- Create quiet spaces.
- Build trust.
This list was designed for sixth graders and it is remarkable how well it connects to and overlaps with the 31 points in the 51 posters of Big Beacon manifesto (in the viewer below).
Epictetus was a Greco-Roman moralist who shared practical advice and wisdom with his countrymen. Once a slave, Epictetus was freed and then went on to influence his followers, who captured his teachings and passed them down to us. One piece of wisdom that comes to us in the Enchiridion (here), is the following:
Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.
We can visualize this advice and take it a step further on what I’ve called the Epictetus Square in the poster. On the y-axis, we have activities and whether we control them or not, and on the x-axis we have our internal state of mind and whether we are concerned with the particular activity or not.
In the West, a particular quadrant of concern is the quadrant of accomplishment. In this quadrant, we can control an outcome, we do, and we achieve something we desire. A lot of self help is focused here.
In the East, a particular quadrant of concern is the quadrant of peace of mind. With activities we cannot control, we are not concerned with them, and we achieve a peaceful inner state. Buddhist notions of attachment as the root of all suffering are relevant to this quadrant.
The other two quadrants arise when there is a mismatch between the degree of control we can exercise effectively in a particular situation and whether or not we exercise concern for that activity. In the upper left quadrant, we could have controlled events and don’t . In other words, we forego an opportunity, which may lead to regret. In the lower right quadrant we do not have control over events but exercise concern for them nonetheless. In other words, we suffer needless worry, which may lead to wasting energy that might have been better spent in the upper right quadrant.
Good coaching helps clients focus toward the upper right and lower left and away from the other two quadrants. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more on how this is accomplished.
Karen Salmansohn has a nice blog post (here) in Psychology Today on her use of posters (such as the Big Beacon poster displayed) and flash cards as pattern interrupts.
I began calling my daily posters I was writing and designing my “Daily Inspirational Flashcards” — because their goal was to quickly remind people of the positive psychological beliefs and productive habits which lead to the happiest life. Soon, my “Inspirational Flashcards” began to go viral — with thousands — then hundreds of thousands — then even millions of shares for a single poster. I began receiving hundreds of emails from people — thanking me — explaining that my daily “Inspirational Flashcards” were truly helping them battle depressed emotional states — even when it came to dealing with majorly challenging issues like a bipolar disorder or a loved one’s death.
In terms of getting your message out and communicating with others, the use of graphical posters seems to be much more effective than a simple text posting alone. In a month of using graphic posters Rajesh Setty reports an nearly 30-fold improvement in Facebook reach in going from text to images. Read the full post here.
When I work with coaching clients, I recommend a variety of resources. Some clients are voracious readers and love book recommendations. Others are more visually oriented, and movies are often a good source of reflection and forward movement for them.
It’s almost a coaching cliche, but The Legend of Bagger Vance (here) is a terrific movie to share with a client who is trying to find better alignment between what they do and who they are. Watch \some of the key scenes in the clip above, and then watch the whole movie with the following questions in mind: What is my authentic swing? What lessons do I take from the movie into my life?
‘Tis the season of high profile “steps down” as well as interim and late appointments. A google search of “dean steps down” (search results here) reveals a number of smooth and not so smooth cases, but the news in these postings for new appointees is that academic leadership can be rewarding or fraught with career danger, depending upon how the new position is approached.
One of the difficulties in assuming academic leadership (or assuming higher academic leadership) is that so little effort is expended by academic institutions in the development of their leaders. It is widely known that the private sector invests enormous amounts in leadership development–General Electric is a good example–but the seriousness of, for example, the US Federal government in developing leaders is less well known.
This was driven home to me in emotionally salient style, when I took training as a leadership coach at Georgetown University (here), When I enrolled in class, I was struck by three things. First, I was surprised to see coach trainees from so many representatives of the Federal alphabet soup of agencies (FBI, CIA, NIST, State Department, and on and on), Second, I was surprised to learn how many of these agencies regularly engaged OD consultants and executive coaches to help develop their organizations and their leaders. Third, I was one of only two members of the 35-person cohort who worked for a major university, and both of us had already made the decision to leave the university.
If you look around major universities and colleges, they all have human resource departments, but those departments are more tactical and bureaucratic than strategic and developmental, and you have to look really hard to find anything even remotely constituting organizational development (OD) or leadership development in the academic world. One happy exception to this rule is Michigan State University’s FOD or Faculty and Organizational Development unit (here), but the rising academic leader at most organization has poor or no choices when it comes to furthering his or her own growth as a leader within the extant organizational structure.
This lack of intentionality on the part of universities in developing their leaders is a double whammy for the leaders themselves. The new or rising academic leader is usually chosen for his or her disciplinary expertise, an expertise that is often developed by singleminded concentration on research and scholarship, something that doesn’t usually leave much time for studying up on the latest in administration, management, and administration. This lack of intention by the organization and lack of preparation by the candidate, is especially difficult, because universities are notoriously difficult organizations to lead, and much of what is written in the private sector about leadership does not apply directly.
Read The First 90 Days. Read Michael Watkins book on job transitions, The First 90 Days (here). This book has both nice strategic models and tactical advice about how to navigate the change. One of the most important pieces of advice is to promote yourself, that is to not think of yourself as having the same role as before, and to reflect carefully about what that means.
Read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Read master executive coach, Marshall Goldsmith’s take (link here) on the key ways in which you need to think differently about the skill set you require moving forward.
Hire an executive coach. You’ve taken the job, you don’t have time to go for an MBA or other leadership training, and you’ve got a department or college to run, so now what do you do? One of the fastest and most effective ways to develop your leadership skill is get a coach. Coaching is hot, but it is not mentoring, or consulting, or advice giving (see a related 3joy post here). Instead coaching provides you with a skilled practitioner to notice, listen, and question (NLQ) and help you find your own leadership style in your own context with a minimum of disruption and maximum of help. Coaches can work with you & your situation, they can believe in your resourcefulness, creativity, and integrity, provide just-in-time & relevant resources for reflection and action, ask you the tough questions that the situation demands, and listen to your reflections to help forward your progress.
To get more helpful resources for the new or rising academic leader, to find out more about leadership coaching in an academic context, or to schedule a complimentary introductory coaching session, write to Dave Goldberg at email@example.com.
Check out the new Karen Salmansohn designed Big Beacon poster. In working with the themes of the BB manifesto (here), a number of the posters played with whole brains as a theme. Help us design the next generation of posters by answering a few questions:
- What is your single most favorite web poster? (send a link)
- Do you like the ? (mind-heart-hands) poster (here) better than the on-switch poster.
- What themes should we be using for the Big Beacon posters?
- Describe in words a poster your would like to see.
- What else should we be thinking about in poster design that I haven’t asked about?
We will use and credit the best ideas in coming poster designs. Send your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.