Suggestions for mid-year resolutions

June 24th, 2011

We’re halfway through 2011. It’s a great time to muster some resolutions that can take us through to 2012. Here are some that I’m putting into practice to make sure I’m creative, productive, and grounded in life and work:

1. Listen to entire albums

I’ve become a serial user of sites like Pandora and Grooveshark. Albums contain entire stories. Songs are just the chapters. I’m get started I have sitting next to me Beck’s Modern Guilt, Radiohead’s, The Bends, Sinatra’s, September of My Years, and Van Morrison’s, Astral Weeks.

2. Check my email inbox about as often as I check my mailbox

If you’re trying to do work that is creative and contributes value to the lives of other people, multi-tasking is a myth (recent research is pretty conclusive about this one). Good work comes from deeply focusing on one project at a time. Email inhibits this kind of focus.

3. Draw one picture each day with my non-dominant hand

For many of us, our left brain (the logical, rational, and rather uninventive side of the brain) is like a cushy couch we can’t crawl out of. To wrest myself from its grasp I’m going to solicit help from my right brain. So I went to the university bookstore yesterday and purchased a drawing pad and nice black Copic pen. These drawings are horrid to look at and so fun to make, especially knowing I can’t erase.

4. Read better books

Good books make skimming impossible. You have to completely immerse yourself in the text. I’m a third of the way through The Brothers Karamazov. I’d say it qualifies.

5. Complete my next book

I’m near the completion of my first short ebook on how to engage people with important messages. This will be the first portion of a larger book on engagement that I plan to publish by January 2012. If you’ve ever taken on a project like this, you know it is like trying to wrestle Andre the Giant while wearing a blindfold. But I plan to see it through.

I better stop there. I hope you find this interesting, perhaps even inspiring. Make your own list. It’s nice to have a handful of things to tether to which you can tether your daily schedule.

Tags: , ,

    The People Garden

    June 23rd, 2011

    Gardens and factories, for all of their conspicuous differences, are similar in that they produce things and do so with high degree of predictability. Factories produce finished products. Gardens are places where fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants mature.

    In the marketplace, companies like Google and Ideo are more like gardens than factories. These companies thrive because they are full of fertile compost, permitting employees to be more creative, engaged, and productive.

    Tragic is how pandemic the industrial factory sensibility is in many educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.

    Fortunately places like Gutenberg College and St. Johns College serve as gardens that cultivate creative, collaborative learners and thinkers. These skills have become the x-factor in the 21st century marketplace.

    Here’s an activity for you and people you work with. Feel free to print it out. Just click on the image and save it to your computer.

    Tags: , ,

      Do more with less

      June 7th, 2011

      We have a message. We know this message can change lives. But how can this message be as engaging as possible?

      Here’s the problem: when we know a lot about something we tend to share too much. The result is that the people who could benefit most from the message disengage from it, or don’t engage deeply enough for the message to shape their behavior.

      With this conundrum in mind, I designed and implemented with a group of teens an unconventional approach to engagement. I imposed the following limits on myself:

      1. My notes had to fit on one side of a single sheet of paper.
      2. I could only make two points during the hour and ten minute class period. The rest of the content had to come from the teens.
      3. I couldn’t use any other resources (slides, books, etc.).

      This is good time to emphasize just how frightening it can be to challenge the far reaches of our comfort zone. I knew that what transpired would be either dynamic or awkward and clunky. I had no idea which. What happened surprised everyone in the room. Especially me.

      I filmed the demonstration and will post the footage in short segments throughout the summer. For now, I wanted to share the development process so that you can experiment and interact with it.

      So here is what I did:

      Step 1: Answer the following question with a single statement:

      Question: What do I want to do?

      At the top of the paper I put a summary statement: “Demonstrate tools of engagement.”

      Step 2: Answer the question:

      How am I going to accomplish step 1?

      I wrote down all of the skills and practices that make up this engagement model which I had been collecting on 3” x 5” cards: Use of divergent questions, reflective listening, synthesis, curiosity, etc. These I wrote down on mini-sticky notes.

      Step 3: In what sequence will I do these things?

      I arranged the sticky notes in a progression that I thought would flow best.

      Step 4: I transcribed the sequence into my single sheet of paper with one column for each of the two days I would be there.

      With my single sheet in hand I was ready to put my engagement model to the test. What would you put on your single sheet of paper?

      A reporter from the local paper observed the presentation. Click here to read the article.

      Tags: , , , , ,