The Great Questions We Carry

A defective four leaf clover.

Each year at Christmas my grandfather gives everyone in the family a small hand held puzzle. Often these puzzles are clear cubes containing metal balls and rings that must be aligned to complete a design. Most of the time I can see what I think the outcome should be, yet the challenge is finding the solution before I lose interest.

The wisdom in these little puzzles is clear. They parallel the individual and collective questions we all carry. Some are trivial and amusing, easily put down and picked up again. Others are larger and require more time and effort to solve. After a little fiddling these larger puzzles are often shelved in hopes that “some day” we’ll have time to spread out all the pieces and restore order to the chaos.

We seem to reserve a special place for the truly great questions and we keep them within constant reach. These are the questions of life that won’t let go. They demand our attention.

At times I’ve attempted to force pieces together that don’t belong. Particularly the beautiful pieces that seem so good together. Fabricating solutions in ignorance or accepting answers that are comfortable, but not accurate.

While there are clearly right and wrong choices, there is a wide spectrum of individual solutions within those bounds. Yet the constants, the rules that apply across that spectrum, can be difficult to identify independently. Many of life’s variables are in constant flux. We rarely get a bird’s eye view of the labyrinth, and few of life’s puzzles are cut as evenly as factory made cardboard and plastic.

Fortunately, when we find solutions we share them. Small and simple things can be the greatest gifts. Answers to long sought questions can be the key to gaining mountain top perspective on the dark valley of our lives. Sometimes answers come like a flood and other times in painfully slow drips.

The key is having a desire to search for solutions. To believe the answer exists and to keep working to discover answers that are equal to the questions.

What does this have to do with education and training? Everything.

“Star Wars”- an A Cappella tribute to John Williams

If you’re not one of the 2 million plus people who have viewed this video by ApprenticeA (Cory Vidal) now is the time.

We need more attention getting, memorable content, like this at all levels of education.

Myanmar, China, and Charity.

Burmese

The stories of Myanmar and China will soon leave the media. Unfortunately we cannot rely on popular news outlets to keep us informed. Our media culture is suffering from cronic, industry wide, ADHD. Like hungry fish they are easy lured away, biting at anything shiny or new in a senseless game of catch and release.


Myanmar officials have raised the death toll to 78,000. The number will be higher tomorrow. If we are enabled to extend our hands to those who are suffering, what kind of creatures are we if we choose to stay our hands and sit on our wallets?


Here are two simple ways you can help those in need; make a donation to CARE International or to LDS Philanthropies.


CARE International accepts donations of $50.00 or more and 90% of your donations are allocated to community development and emergency relief worldwide.


LDS Philanthropies accepts donations of one dollar or more and 100% of your donation will be directed to emergency relief for either Myanmar or China. You can designate where you want the funds allocated.


Administrative costs are funded through other means allowing 100% of donor contributions to be directed to those in need. Although LDS Philanthropies is associated with a church, no proselyting is involved. Humanitarian relief is distributed to those in need without regard to race, gender, religion, political, or social affiliation.


Here is a link to an article explaining how both organizations have partnered with the UPS Foundation to deliver supplies to Myanmar.


Sometimes the suffering of the innocent can bring about a unity of heart. Now is the time to let the suffering of those in Myanmar and China bring greater unity to us all.


Enabling Perception of Control (Part I)

Perception of Control

Back in the 20th century I worked retail for Franklin Quest (Now FranklinCovey) and I was given “frontline authority.” This meant I was enabled to call the shots with our customers. If a discount seemed appropriate I could give a discount.  If a return seemed questionable the decision was mine to accepted or decline.  I was trusted to call the shots.

My ability to discern the appropriate course of action on the “frontline” quickly grew with experience.  My self confidence also grew. 

At the time, this concept of frontline authority seemed to be a unique course of action. The corporate decision makers could have followed the example of other retailers and distributed a detailed handbook mandating that all customer service decisions follow a strict written policy.  Functionally this could have been effective but it would have caused significant problems for our customers and employees. It would have been bad for business.

When an employee who should be making decisions is blocked from doing so, customers can feel it. It doesn’t take long before a request is made to speak with a “manager,” meaning someone the customer believes has the authority to make a decision rather than repeat policy.

Granting frontline decision making authority is essential to developing trust and strength in any organization. When individuals perceive that they have the ability to choose for themselves their world is expanded. When this perception is damaged or distorted their world shrinks and their work becomes frustrating. 

Making decisions and experiencing the consequences of those decisions is critical to individual development. If individuals do not perceive themselves as appropriately in control of their work, the organization suffers. They can, over time, develop a sense of learned helplessness. Not that they are helpless but by perceiving themselves as helpless they act as if it was true. Those who refuse to accept the model of learned helplessness eventually leave the organization.

I’ve used my days at FranklinCovey as an example of an organization that successfully enabled a strong perception of control in its most basic employees. If doing so is critical to running a business, how much more is it to a marriage, raising children, or even developing friendships?

Their Dreams are more Beautiful

istock_000000584392small.jpg 

Their dreams are more beautiful than yours. You’ll never be able to create an image of something your audience knows well, better than they can. If you ask them to imagine a wonderful dinner, you can describe the setting, the food, the drinks, but the minute you show them a picture of that dinner you’ve ruined their image, and perhaps their appetite.

So pick your images wisely and let the audience dream and imagine in those realms they know best. That’s what often makes the book, better than the movie.

Cooking and Learning

This beautiful metaphor on cooking and learning was sent to me (And a thousand other people) in an e-mail from Elliot Masie. For me, it describes exactly how a training experience should be.

Cooking and learning are almost exactly alike in that you can do everything correctly from the technical perspective and still come up with something mediocre. As long as you follow all the steps and don’t tinker with the ingredients the output won’t kill anybody but it might not make them want to come back for seconds. On the other hand each –if structured properly– leaves the opportunity for surprise and delight: you connect the new learning with old knowledge in an unexpected way, or you decide to throw a handful of lavender into the pan with the beef even though the recipe didn’t tell you to. You may never be able to duplicate that dish but your dinner guests will want to come back for whatever you make next time.

– Ron Dickinson, Intel Communications