Tag Archives: Engagement

Ten. Again. Nothing. Again.

“Why do you drive yourself nuts over all this gloom and doom violence and murder? It is what it is, no matter what you think or say.”

Can’t accept it, can’t buckle under, can’t go numb. My hot buttons revolve around our kids and their future. Bullying, mass murders, apathy, stress, suicide…they deserve better, don’t you think? If I can nudge the needle just a little, I have to try. Move the needle, make a difference. The first step is awareness…help enough people understand and maybe care. A movement requires grass roots, a critical mass. We’re out there, somewhere.

All this nobody can do is drop my little pebbles into this one pond, and hope the ripples reach others. Even if I never know the effects I have to believe I’m making some kind of difference. How about you?

******

(real time) Oh great, another school shooting. I guess another rant is due. A broken record, but can’t get numb. Just had a school break, home long enough to find out about the Santa Fe, TX shooting. Ten more and counting. This time, the weapons of choice were a shotgun and handgun. IED’s too but none set off. Like the shooter was consciously trying to make a second amendment statement.

OK, maybe not by intent but that’s what is happening….”see, NOT an AR. And it’s not guns. It’s people”. Book it. And stay tuned for another lightning round of thoughts, prayers and outrage–an emotional gusher for an appropriate time then…. nothing. Again. (Update: not even two weeks later…this “event” came and went in a huge hurry. Numb)

After break, my classroom will be filling up again with 6th graders, and I can only hope that for now they are blissfully ignorant that more kids have been gunned down. It won’t ever happen here…will it?

Oh, but it could.  The kids in Santa Fe probably thought “never here”. They participated in the last protest.

I know myself well enough that I expect to have a hard time keeping it together every time I look at all the faces, kids I’ve watched get older for several years. What if….?

We’re in a science classroom. A big aquarium with a couple of painted water turtles is 3 feet away. One of them was on their rock sunning, and got startled…thumpity thump, splash. I’m on edge, I jumped. This sucks. If you haven’t been in a classroom lately, if you haven’t been painfully aware of the “what ifs” you can have no idea how this feels. I’m not a badass but I do know how I’d react if some nutjob tried to come after my kids. I think about it every day, first thing in the room it’s recon time, get the plan in place….this sucks.

Do something! Someone please….we all deserve, we all need better.

It won’t kill me to say it…it is NOT just guns, and gun control is not “the” solution—that’s just a band aid, but it’s one we need now. There, I said it OK?! It’s more than laws, policies, regulations. We cannot legislate values and ethics. We CAN use a little common sense to keep the wrong stuff out of the wrong hands. What is so stinking radical about that?

The highest priority is for long-term systemic preventive action, a resolution of this inhuman funk we’re in, starting very young in school and extending into the workplace and community, solidified in the family.

The most shocking issues: mass murders, gun violence especially in schools., followed by youth suicides. But also harassment, abuse, bullying; bias, bigotry, intolerance, hatred, polarization….HOW can we re-boot society’s ethical, values-based respect for each other and for human life?  What can we do to rediscover our humanity? It used to mean something to be an American. Now, we’re the worst of the worst.

We’re not having the right conversations, not exploring lasting solutions. We’re focused on using band-aids to fix things. Typical isn’t it? Is it because the social-emotional issues are too overwhelming? Still. ignoring the real issues is not the appropriate course of action. We need to get started. Somewhere, somehow. No other mission is more critical. And it should be simple, really….

Understand true root cause(s) -> Identify feasible interventions > Implement > Make systemic, coordinated improvements

Hold my beer, right?

People in Peril:  Excerpts from Mojo (itals)

It’s depressing but necessary to call attention to our human shortcomings. They are collectively overwhelming–we’re a mess. But we must more fully understand them. The issues have common roots; they’re one giant Gordian knot. So if we wield the right sword with the right concentrated effort we can slice the knot into pieces. Focus and effort…that’s “all” we need.

Our social, moral, ethical fabric is being torn to shreds, society is imploding. We’ve disconnected from our selves, each other, our environment, our basic human values. We’ve lost our humanity. We’re emotionally confused, socially isolated, ethically directionless. There’s apathy and disengagement at one extreme, and over-engagement, stress and burnout at the other. Both lead to physical health issues and emotional and social baggage. We desperately need realignment and emotional healing.

We need a visionary and ethical compass, we need compassion, we need to be part of a community that cares. But we don’t know where we’re going, and no one seems to have the ability to collectively get us back on track. Identity, community, principles and values, purpose and meaning are among the most powerful universal human drivers, right up there with love, compassion, the need to contribute to something meaningful. We’ve lost touch with those things, which has a lot to do with why society is self-destructing.

Our kids are in trouble, they’re killing themselves and each other…. The same transient blip of caring, same outpouring of thoughts and prayers magically appear every time we have yet another mass murder at a school, every time another child hurts badly enough to take their own life. But they go away. Until next time.

Out of control depression, anxiety, stress impacting kids, teens and adults alike. Death by Lifestyle. Killing ourselves and each other, both slowly and traumatically. It’s even visible….On your next trip to the store do a little people-watching. You’ll see good people soured on life, hopelessness and pain in their eyes or worse, nothing. Spirit drained, their demeanor screaming “I’m tired of this life!” Forgotten dreams, no purpose, no meaning, no fulfillment? Still, we keep isolating our Selves further from others and from being human, starting with how we raise and “teach” children into adulthood, and  the nature of work, the meaning of “success”. We’re in a constant struggle with our core human values, we’re denying our humanness. We self-inflict pain and do irreversible harm to others too. We floor it, stretching to hit 130mph in a broken down Yugo. And we wonder why we’re stressed out, miserable, killing our Selves physically and emotionally.

We’re unknowingly coerced into recklessly pursuing more and more “things” at any cost, while we juggle the demands of an endless list of urgent to-do’s. We’ve forgotten what it means to be human, paying a high price. When values and norms die problems crop up—unethical / illegal behavior, a myriad list of significant social issues, rudeness and other variations of treating each other like crap.

How did we get to such a dark, scary place?

Plenty of reasons, just a couple of starter thoughts….To me, a really big culprit is conspicuous consumption driven by capitalism without conscience. We’re brainwashed to buy, buy, buy well beyond our “needs” and beyond our means. We’re driven by Wall Street’s slick, scientifically perfected marketing onslaught.

The long-standing expectation to make sure our kids have it better is also driven by Wall Street. We take on two, maybe three jobs to deliver the goods. If we don’t we’re failures. In doing so, we rob our kids of what they really need: nurturing and love, freedom to be kids without any strings attached. We load them up with activities > shuffle them off to caregivers so we can get out there and earn, earn, earn > buy, buy, buy.

Adults obsess over STEM, driving kids toward what may be their greatest potential for earnings, but with no regard for what their real life’s passion may be. They are destined to become the hollow stares in the store, terminally miserable, another generation fully engrossed with buy, buy, buy. Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

(More From Mojo)

We’ve Lost Our Humanity. Humans are by nature caring, compassionate, social / tribal. Bad behaviors are learned, and our toxic lifestyle and sick society are artificial creations; they are unnatural and incredibly destructive; Kids (big people too!) need to know they matter, that they make a difference in the world. People need purpose, vision, values and a community built on caring and compassion. Purpose, meaning, values, ethics cannot be legislated or otherwise mandated. All we can do is provide opportunities for discovery of Self.

Poor Information, Polarization. Deep ideological differences have polarized us. Misleading and dis-information have us paralyzed. Combine the two = rabid advocacy of issues / ideologies with positions supported by poor information. Who and what do you believe, who and what do you trust? No wonder we’re at each others’ throats.

So, where to start restoring our humanity? With young people? There’s plenty of rework to do with big kids too. Focus on kids in school, or adults in the workplace? The family unit? One community at a time? Society? Short answer….”Yes, all”. We’re in this together, we all need the same attention at the same time…ASAP.

What if?

I’ve been involved in developing a model of workplace prep for our future workforce, extending through working adults. Needed: systemic intervention, all of a community’s stakeholders playing an active role. “Real-world Prep School”…information is here:

(one) Real-world Prep…Vision or Delusion?

(two) Potholes to Repair—Intersection of Education and Workplace

More critical than “systemic intervention” is the need to focus on the right things: People First, then process. If you don’t take care of people issues you will never, ever, achieve maximum “thing” results. It’s been studied, measured, verified, validated: how well people are socially and emotionally adjusted directly impact results. S-E well-being even affects physical wellness, and not just a little.

Last consideration: there’s a difference between an in-charge authority figure demanding compliance to marching orders, and developing full commitment to vision, mission and goals. One works considerably better than the other—academically, in the workplace, personally, socially….guess which?

Here’s a radical sci-fi epiphany: what if the right values, goals and actions were shared community-wide among education, employers and organizations, community members and even (gasp!) politicians? What if an entire community focused its efforts, all stakeholders on the same page? Synergy, reciprocation, constant reinforcement would kick in. The broader the ownership and collaboration, the greater the sustainable impact becomes. With a big enough lever, we can move the world.


An earlier blog has been referenced a bunch here, as the theme has been with me for some time. Go here, read the whole thing and let me know what you think…. Searching For Our Mojo

While you’re at it, all this social-emotional stuff is well represented in something I’ve been deeply involved in for years, engagement theory. Emotional intelligence, mindfulness, social-emotional development in education, and engagement…they’re all pretty much the same thing, the same basic human motivators and values. We ought to be able to leverage the similarities.  See Engagement and Mojo—Peas and Carrots

 

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Google’s Ginormous (Non-technical!) Breakthrough

The Google Epiphany has nothing to do with algorithms or search engine optimization.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded (Google) on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. (see end: Wa-Po source)

In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998.  Project Oxygen and Project Aristotle were the result.

“The seven top characteristics of success at Google are soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.” (Project Oxygen report)

“Project Aristotle, a study released by Google (spring 2017), further supports the importance of soft skills even in high-tech environments. Project Aristotle analyzes data on inventive and productive teams.” Findings: “…the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety. No bullying. To succeed, each and every team member must feel confident speaking up and making mistakes. They must know they are being heard.”

Google people are masters at collecting and analyzing data and translating it into meaningful information. We’re so used to command and control, being shoved in a box, fear of failure…all disengaging and counter-productive…that it’s no surprise the top impact on team effectiveness was  psychological safety: “…a group culture that Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson defines as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’ Psychological safety is ‘‘a sense of confidence that the team will not embarrass, reject or punish someone for speaking up…It describes a team climate characterized by interpersonal trust and mutual respect in which people are comfortable being themselves.” (NYT source)

Project Aristotle has significant intersects with mainstream engagement theory. So all this is nothing new, no big secret. But how do you “do” psychological safety? Another way of saying it: what helps people feel comfortable with fully engaging? These Universal Engagers are a few proven “hows”.

We’ve known it for some time, but are so painfully slow to embrace the obvious. Unless you’re totally on your own or are work-at-home you’d best be good with people and be well adjusted socially and emotionally.  Google stumbled across the keys to organizations, effective teams and people leadership. The keys are standard practice non-secrets. What IS incredible is that a tech giant had this voluntary epiphany that soft stuff is at least as critical as tech skills!

Google is a tech giant, so Project Aristotle’s findings are likely to be relevant to the tech industry overall. Still, Education continues its obsession with filling the STEM hard skills pipeline. There’s still little attention given to social-emotional development, interpersonal skills, stuff for whole-life survival. Education needs to catch up in a hurry, and it wouldn’t hurt to partner with its customers in fully defining needs and meeting them. Our productivity and global competitiveness is at stake, as is quality of life and, even more importantly, our physical and emotional well-being, our love of being happy with our lives.

It’s A Man’s World (NOT!) Silicon Valley has been under fire for a grossly uneven gender playing field and recently, both covert and more subtle gender-based harassment and discrimination (search for “silicon valley good old boy culture” and look around). Remedy: a booster shot of decency in the form of social-emotional development…equal inclusion, understanding, respect, acceptance, dignity for all.

The Google Epiphany alone shouldn’t trigger a mad rush into a significant direction shift in education. But Project Aristotle isn’t the first or the only study to indicate the significance of soft stuff. From the Wa-Po article: Google’s studies concur with others trying to understand the secret of a great future employee. A recent survey of 260 employers …which includes both small firms and behemoths like Chevron and IBM, ranks communication skills in the top three most-sought after qualities by job recruiters. They prize an ability to communicate with one’s workers and an aptitude for conveying the company’s product and mission outside the organization…

STEM skills are vital to the world we live in today, but technology alone, as Steve Jobs famously insisted, is not enough. We desperately need the expertise of those who are educated to the human, cultural, and social as well as the computational.

We cannot dump STEM entirely because we need 21st century technical skills to compete. But we can do better at balancing hard and soft. When should young people as potential employees be trained on specific, necessary hard skills? Each company / situation / position has unique needs and skills, and Education cannot possibly hit so many targets. Why not focus on prepping students to succeed in life in general, to cope with what they will face emotionally and on the job, to be able to adapt and quickly pick up on the specific skills they will need to be a high contributor…but only after the skill gaps are more clearly understood. Hire for the intangibles: potential, the right attitude, soft stuff mastery.

What’s at Stake, Really? From Social Science Fiction

Too many young people suffer irreversible long-term harm, even commit suicide because of pressures they can’t handle. Key triggers: education demands, bullying, growing up in a vacuum. Too many adults are in pain too, suffering from isolation, lack of purpose, workplace pressures, big kid bullying a.k.a harassment.

     Stress, anxiety, formally diagnosed mental / emotional illnesses, self-harm, suicide are all increasing across all ages. Hypothesis: we’ve turned our backs on the importance of treating each other like human beings, and we’re far too often killing ourselves and each other. We’ve devalued our humanity.

Envision a company using its considerable influence to help provide a stabilizing force in the local community. Consider the impact on social issues if employees feel a sense of community, a purpose larger than “me”, an island of safety and sanity in the midst of the turbulence of their lives.

That community happens to be the company’s current and future talent pool. A forward-thinking company that champions the social-emotional well being of its host community would realize huge bottom line improvements. Not a hunch, it’s been validated over and over. Now, what if shared values were embraced throughout the community? All-community stakeholder alignment would exponentially boost isolated company impact. Conclusion: a broad collaboration to impact the greater good would boost our well-being, the social condition, and our economic prosperity.

Epiphany: capitalism’s Job One isn’t economic prosperity, competitive advantage or global market superiority—all outcomes—but to impact the human condition. People-first is a high-return endeavor that assures sustainable social-economic success and personal well-being.

Barriers

What S-E material should be used, and who will lead the charge? Good questions! There’s already an overabundance of material, but spotty half-hearted efforts. I’m concerned with what I’ve seen of social-emotional learning in education, and I’m also concerned with how a revitalized initiative would be handled. This is not a condemnation of education, just observations of the current state:

  •  Academia is not capable of real-time responsiveness to market needs for S-E or any other subject matter;
  •  No polite way to say it: educators can be a closed and protective group. As a result academia tends to suffer from inbred thinking, country clubbing, not-invented-here;
  •  Lack of funding is a huge constraint: no staff, no resources to give the necessary level of attention to soft stuff. Academic demands are stifling—educators’ hands are tied;
  •  S-E is more than a dinner garnish, it must be recognized as a main course;
  • Real-world practitioners are best suited to design and co-deliver real-world subjects. Even though the help should be warmly welcomed, Education would likely not embrace outsider meddling and would likely push back.

Education isn’t market or needs-driven, is slow to respond demanding validation, research, papered educator / expert design, academic rigor. How to sneak the Trojan Horse past the guards at the gate?

Resolution? We’ve missed the real-world skills target. Kids need much more in the social-emotional development a.k.a soft skills department. Employers have a vested interest, and we’d be improving the chances of kids having a much more fulfilling life. Proposed: don’t call it social-emotional development. Work around the associated baggage and NVA connotations by providing real-world prep skills. As such, it only makes sense for the future employers to step up to the plate and pull their weight.

Too Much of a Good Thing. Our STEM obsession is counter-productive and is potentially detrimental to young people who are herded into STEM education and careers regardless of their talents, passions and interests. We can do so much better for them, for ourselves, for the world.

No student should be prevented from majoring in an area they love based on a false idea of what they need to succeed. Broad learning skills are the key to long-term, satisfying, productive careers. What helps you thrive in a changing world isn’t rocket science. It may just well be social science, and, yes, even the humanities and the arts that contribute to making you not just workforce ready but world ready.” (from the Wa-Po article)

SOURCES

The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students   Washington Post December 2017, by Valerie Strauss

What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team  by Charles Duhigg Feb. 25, 2016

In Search of Lost Mojo: The Series   (lots of embedded links)

Loops

(this article is a high-level summary of an in-process pdf that is (will be!) linked here: Loops . Please take a look when it’s available and comment. Download the pdf if you’d like but if you share it please leave the  contact information intact so people can connect to discuss)

I’ve always been process-focused, a product of an environment in various private sector roles. Focus morphed over the past several years into education and whole-person human development. It was a natural progression to dive into systems thinking, especially causal chains, process interrelationships, reinforcing loops.

Senge took us on a loops deep dive in The Fifth Discipline, exploring all kinds of different archetypes. I was given a copy shortly after its release, and loved it. Systems purists and academics really glammed on to the whole “systems thinking” thing and the resulting gobble dee gook is, in my opinion, a huge roadblock to furthering systems awareness and everyday application.

Loops are closed causal chains: a sequence of events where one thing leads to another, “closed” because the chain eventually links back into itself. Per chaos theory, if you look out far enough any loop is closed. Closed loops are self-perpetuating, or reinforcing: they tighten and gain strength on their own. There are good loops, sometimes called virtuous circles, and there are bad loops-vicious cycles. Bad loops can be straightened out with awareness and action. Good loops can be leveraged and are usually a whole lot more fun!

My big take-away was, simplified here for mortals like me, loops. Add a few key points to go along with those loops. There’s a lot that needs to be learned and accomplished.

  1. People Needs—social-emotional development, well-being etc—rule the roost, validated by decades of study and data on engagement and impacts on academic and workplace performance data. Can’t optimize “doing things” results without first meeting people needs;
  2. Human development, personal satisfaction and maximizing performance are interrelated in one big, lifelong reinforcing loop;
  3. We’ve thrown a monkey wrench into things starting with the way we raise and educate our children, through our adult working lives. Self-imposed authoritarian systems and potential- limiting practices have drastically suboptimized our ability (our right!) to be all we can be.

Big deal, right? Yes it is. We’re causing our own mental and emotional challenges up to and including increased levels of stress, anxiety, depression, suicides even among middle school children. Declining social health and spikes in significant social problems: opioid addiction, violent crime including mass murders, and intense rudeness and insensitivity…terminal redneck behavior. It’s fair to say our social fabric is tattered and torn, locally and globally. Emotional well-being, physical health and economic effects of these problems are profound.

Fall 2017 Impacts Profundity Update

We’ve been on a roll. Nationalism, race supremacy…random and planned lone wolf attacks. Most aren’t terrorists on jihad. ISIS is not the only group radicalizing, recruiting, hating. Newtown still wipes me out. And the Vegas slaughter was a whopper. Where do these people come from? Are there no warning signs? Neighbors and relatives said the shooter and his girlfriend were quiet, normal, stuck to themselves. So…why? My opinion: it comes down to chronic disconnection, self-imposed solitude. We’re social creatures and we must reunite with our tribe, badly. But that’s just part of it…..

Late addition, fall 2017: the huge spike in allegations of sexual harassment (see “Kids Bully, Big Kids Harass”)

Is the species simply dumbing down? From Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance”

It’s not just poor education or inadequate preparation for the workplace or not becoming an acceptable member of society. Go back to #2 and #3. We’ve become skilled saboteurs of the loop of development > satisfaction > performance that would potentially ensure we realize our potential.

One major monkey wrench: compulsory education and command and control work environment–authoritarian practices, precision amputation of children’s and adults’ ability to think creatively, to freely explore the world around them, to develop and fully utilize their human capabilities. (see School and Work–One Big Prison System.) We’re posing a substantial threat to our selves and doing irreparable harm, making these issues high priority to address. It’s tough to see the subtle relationships behind these issues without a systems thinking view.

A Loopy Vision: make a positive impact on the greater good, improving social well-being through values-based and environmental interventions in all sectors of the general population: home, school, work, community. (1) Build a broad base of grassroots awareness, support and involvement to ensure  across-the-board, all stakeholder engagement. (2) Study, understand and leverage shared motivators, perceptions, attitudes and values that originate with basic human nature. And, (3) realize and leverage the existence of loops to formulate a systemic action plan.

This is nothing but incoherent babbling without first envisioning a systems and loops perspective.

The Greater Good Loop: closed loops connect me and others and connect employers, communities and society. If we are aware of the loops, we can consciously leverage them.

Do you buy into the notion that the Private Self and the Work Self are distinctly separate people? Sorry, it doesn’t even make sense. We’re not two people, we can’t somehow magically switch between them. We’re at work for the lion’s share of our adult lives, so it stands to reason that personal norms and belief systems are impacted by the work environment. And workplace influence does not exist just at work; it carries over to personal, home, social environments. To isolate them is to push any conflict under the surface, but only temporarily. What would really help things is if employers understood the systems relationships and took an interest in making sure there was no opportunity for conflict within its people.

Our work life helps shape our personal lives. A community’s social well-being certainly impacts the workplace, the sustainability of organizations that exist within a community. And a company’s success and results are driven by its internal culture, which is the collective influence of the individuals who work there. These are all two-way streets. Work, society and me: one big reinforcing loop. It may be a virtuous circle, may be a vicious cycle. One leads to prosperity, the other to failure.

https://onepondripples.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/virtuous-circles-aka-reinforcing-loops/

Organizational Loops: People Generate Profit (gasp!)

It’s human nature to search for a connection, to belong to something bigger than “me”. An employer is very probably the most influential force in peoples’ lives, just because of the amount of time we spend at work. Organizations and their leaders are capable of exerting significant influence not just on employees, but on the surrounding community through their employees.

Consider the potential of an organization with a strong values base and principles-centered, ethical leadership that helps people feel a sense of purpose, belonging and stability, people with something to care about. Think about the impact on social issues when employees have a strong sense of community, a purpose larger than “me”, a values-anchored island of safety and sanity in the midst of the turbulence around them.

Oh, the bottom line…a company with a winning sustainability strategy has values and principles-based organizational expectations for leaders and followers alike, and sets its sights on being a normalizing force in the community. Doing so beefs up the local talent pool, and the existing workforce is highly engaged. There is an encyclopedia full of studies that validate the direct relationship between level of engagement and performance.

Teaser: it should go without saying: community activism builds a strong democratic society. Later.

What About “Me” Loops?

My work environment and society both continuously shape me, that’s easy to buy. But the thought that it’s a two-way street is a bit tougher to embrace. You’re telling me my company and even society is impacted by me? Only when I mess up really bad! Truth: balanced, personally aligned individuals impact both the workplace and society. A culture and its norms are depend on people with strong values who, by intent or accidentally, impact others. So collectively, we enable culture to survive and thrive. DANGER: this could instead be a toxic culture. Both are self-sustaining, reinforcing loops.

Individual community members are the foundation of society, therefore culture. As the workplace influences people, employers have a direct and significant influence on community social well-being. Employer impact potential is much broader than an individual’s, impacting an entire region’s or even country’s ethical foundation, economic stability, way of life, quality of life. The collective influence of people undeniably shapes company culture. So no matter how insignificant an individual’s impact may seem, the reality is more than a bit humbling:

My values and integrity have direct influence on society’s norms!

There are three levels of proven payback from social-emotional well-being:

  1. Individuals: less stress and longer, healthier lives with greater personal satisfaction;
  2. Social problems: well-being in general is an amazing antidote and it’s preventive vs reactive;
  3. Companies and the economy overall: a highly engaged workforce is more productive. Oh, and that physical health thing…have you seen the cost impacts of health issues lately?

At least one of these are wildly important things for most of us. They should all be, because of the  Me > Community > Employer loop, but it goes deeper. A closer look…

Social Impact: the Greater Good

The main traditional socializing institutions where norms are established and reinforced—church, education, family—have all lost impact on influencing people. Social development and norming are not good to leave to natural evolution, but there is a huge void in the socializing process.

People need a sense of community, of belonging to something larger than they are. The workplace has a chance to reach people on a regular basis and people will gladly embrace what the workplace offers. But it’s the reciprocating nature of influence within our personal and our employer’s virtuous circle that is the scary proposition:  how can we as individuals and even a large, powerful company, expect to influence society? The real question:

How much are individuals and companies willing to commit to impacting society?

The potential is limitless but there are both risks and rewards. No company can survive long-term without a vibrant community. No community can exist without solid norms. Communities with staying power eventually become the building blocks of culture. Communities, even entire cultures, without a solid base are destined to crumble and fall. I take that back…what risks? A sure bet?

The workplace influences me, I influence my workplace and environment. The workplace and individual both impact social well-being. We need to better understand the interdependencies, whether we have earned calling them virtuous circles or reinforcing loops. Key components: engagement and well-being; satisfaction and contribution, (maybe explored later in greater depth in TWO: Loops and the Greater Good.)

Environment Drives Performance, Results, Success

Trace the private sector’s evolution from the early days of total quality, quality circles and employee involvement to just-in-time, SPC, lean, six sigma…to the present where we’re shifting gears with employee engagement and emotional intelligence. One fundamental truth has been taking shape the whole time: attending to human needs and issues is the gateway to performance excellence. People before process.

Here we’ll look at an article recently published by the Greater Good Science Center, Kids Need More Than Just Brains to Succeed in which Jill Suttie talked with science journalist Paul Tough about his book Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why. While Tough’s focus is children living in poverty conditions, here we’ll look at broader applications.

Decades of private sector studies have identified core human needs and validated their impacts in the workplace. More recent research suggests that the same needs and impacts are in play in education and even in society. The emerging universal truth: the greater a person’s social-emotional well-being, the higher their level of engagement and contribution to the environment around them. People before process.

We could stand to get a better grip on a few critical causal relationships:

  1. Social-emotional well-being (SEWB) is based on the same attributes as engagement theory.
  2. SEWB and engagement are not directly actionable goals. They are both outcomes of an environment that is right for people to choose to be more engaged, resulting in a greater feeling of well-being.
  3. The same universal human needs and values move people, whether young or old.

Education is locked in on cognitive skills development. Tough’s proposal in Helping Children Succeed is that social-emotional related environmental factors greatly influence learners’ ability to fully learn the how-to-do-stuff, cognitive skills. Maximum learning potential is not realized without social-emotional environmental support.

Tough’s academic investigation findings mirror what I’ve observed in the private sector so regularly that it’s become one of my personal core beliefs: people before process.

Tough observes that non-cognitive attributes like grit, perseverance, self-regulation, optimism are not learned and cannot be taught. These attributes and more govern a person’s ability to learn cognitive skills. They evolve given the right supportive and engaging environment. And….

People Before Process is Relevant Across-the-Board…In Education, Workplace, Community

What specific things can we do to provide the right environment? Tough offers actionable examples for two different environments and phases of development. First in the home, early childhood: “…neuroscientific research tells us that when kids are in early environments that are responsive, interactive, and warm and stable, and involve what psychologists sometimes call “serve and return” parenting, which involves face-to-face, back-and-forth interactions between parents and their babies, that creates secure attachment—a real sense of security that kids have with parents or other caregivers.”

Second, the school environment where consistently providing the right narrative is critical: “…create environments in the classroom that change students’ mindsets by implicitly and explicitly giving them messages around belonging and possibility. When kids are given the message that they belong in the academic community, it has a profound effect on their motivation and on their ability to persevere and to stick with projects and problems for long periods of time. And if you’re in a school where you’re given the message that failure is part of the process of learning and that people change, and that you can improve your abilities, and that challenge is part of that process, those are the kids who are much more motivated to persevere, and work hard, and take on more challenges.”

Two Education Environment Building Blocks

Tough singles out two practices as particularly successful in nurturing non-cognitive attributes:

(ONE) Teacher-leaders stay with one group of students called “crews” for several years. Leader and crew meet for a half hour each day, giving the kids “…a sense of connection, of belonging and relatedness, and all of the psychological research suggests that those are incredibly powerful motivators to persevere at school.”

(TWO) Project-based learning: “…really challenging academic work-rigorous, long-term projects that students take on where they can’t help but learn in a deeper way. In addition to the academic skills that kids are learning…they’re also experiencing a psychological message: I can learn from my mistakes; I can get better at things. I can take on challenges that seem impossible; I can get the right kind of help; and I can solve them.”

You Get What You Measure. So Measure What’s Important

SEL is viewed through the same lens used to assess achievement in cognitive skills development and educators have struggled with accepting SEL as important. What does it do, what are the results? How do you measure it?

SEL’s effectiveness and engagement levels are not directly actionable or measurable objectives.  But there are wildly important outcomes impacted by (1) social-emotional development, (2) designing a supportive environment, and (3) using known engagement levers to encourage people to fully engage. There are known, fully actionable factors for all three. It’s a logical progression:

SE development / environmental engineering -> supportive environment ->

Social-emotional well-being and greater engagement ->

Maximum performance -> achievement, success.

Teacher Assessments

Tough observes “A lot of people feel that test scores alone are not a full measure of what kids are learning or how successful they’re going to be. And yet the problem with trying to put numbers on non-cognitive qualities is that we don’t have measures for grit or self-control that are as reliable as the standardized tests are for cognitive skills.”

Northwestern economist Kirabo’s work on assessing teachers is based on value added to students, using four common measures: attendance, behavior, grade point average, and grade progression. Kirabo found these to be reliable indicators of students who are more motivated and engaged, and that certain teachers consistently had students who performed better in the four measurement areas. Tough explains: If you were a student in one of these teachers’ classes, you were more likely to show up every day, more likely to work hard, and less likely to get in trouble. And that’s an incredible skill for a teacher to have. Using the tools of economics, he showed that those teachers are having a bigger effect on students’ long-term outcomes—including high school graduation, and college matriculation and graduation—than the teachers who were particularly good at raising students’ test scores.”

Tough concluded that There’s something about the classroom environment certain teachers are creating that makes students feel more of a sense of belonging and motivation and the desire to take on challenges.” And their performance shows it. We need more attention here-and that’s not a plea to indulge in endless navel-gazing!

The Engagement Factor

Employee engagement has had peaks and valleys of attention for decades, and engagement in the academic environment is gaining traction. Engagement and social-emotional development are closely related, with many common attributes. That common ground is examined in Supercharging Engagement. Note in particular the detailed description of eight Universal Attributes — basic human values, needs, motivators. Cliff Notes version follows.

  1. Relationships Built on Caring and Trust.  We all need to be nurtured no matter our age. Humans thrive when someone truly cares, not about what we do or how much we do or how well we do it, but when someone actually cares about US.
  2. Clear Expectations and Feedback. We want to make a meaningful contribution…and we need to know we’re doing the right things and how we’re doing along the way.
  3. Sense of Community.  Humans have been social creatures since first banding together in tribes for safety and companionship. More than strength in numbers or birds-of-a-feather, we have a basic human need to be part of a group;
  4. Connected to Community Vision. Connecting to vision can be simple as providing the “why” behind “what”, providing a line of sight from everyday tasks to compelling community or group goals.
  5. Sense of Personal Purpose. We all want and need to leave a legacy. What I am involved in that matters long-term; how can I make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
  6. Values-centered. We’re at ease when our values are aligned with the environment, we’re uncomfortable when our values are stifled or contradicted. Even if we’re not aware of our values, when there’s a conflict we still know something’s not right and we don’t like it. We just don’t know what’s wrong or why we feel bad.
  7. Opportunity to Shine: when people do what they do best and truly enjoy doing, they produce exceptional results. Well-being skyrockets with accomplishment, leading to even more impressive performance.
  8. Opportunity to Grow. The Army has it right. We all want to be all that we can be. We have strengths (#7) but that’s not enough. We want to be more, we want to do more.

BEST PRACTICES! Benchmark the studies and findings from the employee engagement experts. We know it works in the workplace for those attentive to their environment. Similar high levels of improved performance are attainable in education.

The Brass Ring Is In Reach

Tough concludes with the observation that research is still new, but slowly picking up steam over the past three years: “In the K-12 realm, the idea that teachers can be coached to provide a different kind of environment for students and that those environments make a big difference is not mainstream thinking right now in education. As with anything, when you’re trying to change people’s fundamental understanding of the work they’re doing, it takes time.”

Teachers make a difference in the education environment. Doing so improves performance, possibly more than teaching to the test to improve standard test scores. In the face of growing evidence and general acknowledgement of an overwhelming need to improve, what’s the holdup? Let’s get serious about understanding engagement and social and emotional well-being, about understanding what we need to do to create environments where people–young learners, workers, everyday citizens of all ages–not only survive but thrive. Then, let’s roll up our sleeves together and build a system that taps into the abundant common ground among the sectors. We are, after all, talking about universal human values and basic human needs.

The stakes are incredibly high, with minimal risk and maximum reward–no significant monetary investment needed. It doesn’t take Einsteins, it takes involvement and effort from an army of John and Mary Everymans.

******

If you made it all the way through to the end, you must be interested! Below: a few other relevant articles, on LinkedIn Pulse and here on Ripples.

Environment Drives Performance > Results > Success  (you are here!) review of interview with Paul Tough published at the Greater Good Science Center

Where is Education Improvement Headed? It’s Academic A review of a recent article posted by Education Reform Now.

Supercharging Engagement. We know it works in the workplace and in school. So let’s get serious about it!

Kids’ Epiphany—For Brielle. I am deeply committed to making a difference in young peoples’ lives, for good reason.

Process is Process—Education Too.  Leaning on my manufacturing roots, education could use a little process management discipline.

Philanthropists–Butt Out. A recent game-changing revelation on its education improvement efforts by the Gates Foundation.

We’re All On (or Off!) the Same Bus Universal truths relevant in education, community, private sector.

Re-thinking Purpose and Roles in Education>Training>Development>Skills

(by the way, the Greater Good Science Center is an incredible resource for educators and regular folks who just want to get informed and be involved!)

Process is Process-Education Too

I grew up in manufacturing— making stuff, delivering on customer expectations, process control, hitting the numbers. Time to go back to my roots for some common-sense introductory process management. For those in the education business, this applies to you too.

How Things Work: Three-minute New Hire Orientation

Each process step adds value to incoming material (inputs) by transforming the product in some way. Process specifications are based on customer needs and requirements. The customer may be the next step in the overall process or the end user. Minor defects may be repaired, but if a product is too far out-of-spec it becomes unusable. Too many unusable units from one step can bring the entire process to a grinding halt. If the production schedule is missed, heads will roll.

Internal or external customers do not appreciate having to cover a supplier’s mistakes by reworking substandard units to make the product fit for use. Repairs are costly and repaired units are not as functional as those made right the first time. If product is too far out of spec it is scrapped, a huge bottom line drain and productivity killer. And resources are diverted to make up for lost units. If a supplier cannot resolve its process issues and consistently meet requirements for both quantity and quality, the customer may have no choice but to find another supplier.

Common reasons for missed requirements are simple to resolve: unclear, poorly communicated or ignored customer specs. Business is pretty simple too: customers reward suppliers who meet needs and punish those who do not. In a market-driven world, if you keep the customer happy you stay in business. Don’t and you’ll have trouble keeping the doors open.

perpertual gitRdone2small

Process is Process, Customers are Customers…Usually. Education is the sole supplier of human resources to the employer and community markets. Education is an out-of-control process. Don’t hate on me yet, my academic friends. There’s a valid reason and it’s not all your fault for a change!

Education is not market-driven and finding another supplier is not an option when the vendor is the education system. Employers and communities are captive customers, they are co-designers of their prison. They have not been actively involved, have not helped education set goals and develop curriculum based on customer needs and expectations, have not provided performance feedback, have not helped the supplier meet those expectations.

Wait, you say…”what makes you think Education even wants our outsider help? They’ll only snub us if we meddle in their affairs.” Is that a valid assumption? Think about the eight ball Education is behind with the demand to deliver more with fewer resources. Sounds like your world, doesn’t it Mr. Operations Manager? Maybe you should challenge those assumptions and feather your own nest while you’re at it.

Problem Analysis

Current State: the education process transforms raw material called students. The output of the education process enters the workforce and community. Both customers are impacted by an under-developed talent pool and poorly prepared future citizens. Productivity is falling, social issues are rising, grads do not have a purpose or clear path forward. Outputs can be customers too.

Problem Statement:  customers’ needs and expectations have not been clearly communicated to the supplier. Traditional driving metrics are cost per unit, capacity utilization and velocity of product through the system. The new standard is first-time quality: make it right the first time with “rightness” determined by how fully requirements are met. Conflicting goals among performance measures are common in the private sector among the Holy Trinity of cost, capacity, throughput. And then along comes quality. Education faces the same conflicts.

Can you really achieve low cost, rapid production with full asset utilization and high quality at the same time?  Traditional management thinking says there is give and take. But years ago W. Edwards Deming identified variation as Public Enemy Number One. The more a process is in-control, the more consistently high quality the outputs are as the process is more capable of hitting spec dead-on, not just within broad upper and lower spec limits. And Phil Crosby proposed decades ago that “Quality is Free”. Poor quality eats your lunch–rework, scrap, lost production, missed deliveries, poor attitudes.

Marginally out-of-spec outputs can often be reworked. But repair is expensive, it doesn’t add new value, it consumes time, it can never make something as good as an original produced right the first time. The supplier falls behind, and is producing sub-par goods for the customer.

When the process cannot consistently provide in-spec product (students), it’s time to invest in upgrading the process. Universal Truth: the cost of limping along on old, incapable equipment far outweighs the cost of re-tooling an entire production facility. Evolve or die.

Education determines crystal clear academic requirements for students. But there is little input from customers, just after-the-fact complaints. Because customer needs are not being met Education is labeled an unreliable supplier with out of control processes. Impact: the private sector and society have significant problems. Education is in the middle-both impacted by, and part of, the issues.

All Things Considered….

Root Cause: if requirements are not accurate up-front, no amount of downstream fine-tuning can make up for it. And there are no customer requirements in the education process.

Resolution: a customer/supplier partnership to set requirements early in the academic life cycle. Use requirements to develop curriculum, learning objectives and outcomes. Then, set controls in place to ensure those requirements are consistently met throughout the entire education process.

The Spec That Matters Most comes from the customer. Learning objectives must be driven throughout the education cycle by customer needs. Collaboration ensures that needs and expectations are realistic, truly critical to output quality, and clearly communicated.

The Learner Goal That Matters Most is to make sure learners have a vested interest in their education, that they are hopeful for what’s ahead, and they can see that education will help them get to a promising, desirable future.

The Education Process Output That Matters Most is highly engaged young people who are ready to take on the world, regardless of what comes at them.

The US is market-driven, we’re used to it. Process management and customer requirements in a market-driven system are common sense and necessary. We’ve dropped the ball here with education because we’re not very good at Big Picture thinking. Here’s the key:

Until we consider education, society and the private sector as part of one big system we’ll continue down the same path and get the same results.

Those results have been unacceptable.

We’re All On (or off!) the Same Bus (updated 8-11)

Experience and environment shapes our attitudes, beliefs and knowledge base. So I need to share a wee bit about my background as it has everything to do with the following.

     I’m a private sector / education hybrid, and I’ve been in diverse roles in both worlds. “People and process improvement practitioner” is a fitting byline. While I love playing around with cool theories, I’m proud that I’ve earned that last “p” in the eyes of my peers. And I’ve had a blast on this journey of many winding paths that have somehow merged into one big superhighway.

    I died and went to heaven when Senge came out with the Fifth Discipline, especially Vol. II, the Fieldbook for practitioners. It expanded my world view as well as my personal purpose and goals. It’s been one gigantic “AHA” moment that I’ve tried to break down into digestible chunks here.      

     The AHA’s that follow are universally relevant Indisputable Truths. At least I think so.

     After I finished writing this, another “AHA” came along…I make a big deal out of personal values—each of our non-negotiable beliefs. These AHA’s should be an important part of my personal beliefs system. Going back through them, that’s a correct assessment.

    Learning new stuff is one of my long-time core values. I hope it’s not a personality disorder, but I am into a whole lot of different things. Thankfully, by finally understanding the systems view they are all part of one big story.  I’ve been writing lately about education and social improvement, but the essays still have manufacturing roots. Sometimes I’ll call out those connections, but other times they must be discovered by you. But they’re there. Best practices come from unlikely sources. Benchmark everything and shamelessly steal what you can put to good use (another Universal Truth?)


Are You On the Bus, or Off the Bus?

On the Bus2

This “on the bus” thing is not in the same context as Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters and their infamous adventures on Further the Magic Bus. Our bus has left the bus stop and those who are on board are having a ball. Others were just a little late, they’re running behind the bus trying desperately to catch the driver’s attention but to no avail. Still others are sitting patiently on the bus stop bench, waiting for another bus that may or may not come. A few folks are clueless there’s even a bus, they’re nose-down searching for Pokemon. Right off the cliff….


A Few of My Indisputable Truths—What Are Yours?

What’s the priority order? Not sure, because they’re part of one big system. Each impacts the others and point of entry is beside the point. Dig into the relationships and feel free to make up your own connections and add your own Indisputable Truths—that’s half the fun.

Profound Knowledge and Systems Thinking.  From the Deming Institute: Dr. Deming ….defined a system as a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. The aim for any system should be that everybody gains, not one part of the system at the expense of any other. In a business context this includes shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community and the environment. (Google “Deming Institute profound knowledge” for the Tolstoy version)

I was already a long-time Deming fan, but his System of Profound Knowledge struck a nerve with me.  Then Peter Senge really got me going with his popularization of systems thinking in the Fifth Discipline. What really hooked me was that all that was so contrary to operations managers’ obsession over production-first starting with Taylor’s scientific management, which broke down a process into the most basic repetitive, mind-numbing tasks possible, all in the interest of high volume mass production.

The reinforcing loop diagram below is one example of a system where everything is connected, and all the seemingly isolated components impact one another. We must better understand the interrelationships and the nature of often-hidden impacts if we are to truly resolve our issues.

Process is Process– they all run (or don’t run) by the same basic rules and constraints. My output is someone’s input–my customer. Customer expectations rule. Customers reward suppliers that meet their needs and expectations, and punish those that do not. Basic market-driven economics.

Continuous Improvement is not an option. If you don’t continuously get better customers…and life…pass you by and doesn’t look back. No growth leads to stagnation > atrophy > death. This applies to work processes, meeting expectations, personal growth and lifelong learning.

To Understand It Break It Down, Put It Back Together. Soldiers’ lives depend on knowing their weapon. They learn very early to break it down and put it back together to understand each little component in the context of the entire weapon, and understand the larger, interrelated system. But that’s too much work, right? You have more important stuff to do, right?

If you don’t reach that deep level of understanding, you’ll be continuously putting out the same fires. You may think they’re out, but the embers will smolder and eventually burst back into flames.

Address Root Cause. My favorite “duh” expression: “I know how to fix this. I’ve dealt with it bunches of times before.” Really? You evidently haven’t really accomplished much, have you?

People are People. Young and old, we’re driven by the same basic needs and hold the same human values…at least we all start out at the same place until our unique environments start messing with our humanity. It stands to reason that since we’re all driven by the same things….

“People are People” Applies Globally. No religion, race, ethnicity or nationality is different enough that it’s worth shunning, hurting or killing each other. One race: Humanity. One citizenship: Planet Earth.

Engagement is Engagement. Engagement addresses human needs and appeals to basic human values, with a tweak: what engages me is driven by those values that are most important to me and by my purpose in life, whether I’m aware of them or they’re lurking in the shadows. So engagement works for those who have not been totally led astray from the basic needs and values package. Here’s the payback:  emotional well-being -> reduced stress levels -> physical well-being -> a healthier, longer, more satisfying life. Solid enough WIIFM for you?

Have you taken the time and effort to identify and really understand your personal values? Do you have a clear purpose in life? What you don’t know can kill you before your time is up.

Engagement Theory is Universally Relevant. Why do we suboptimize its potential by limiting engagement to the workplace? Except for a few minor cultural differences, Rules of Engagement cross all geographic and demographic boundaries. See Time to Re-think Engagement especially the Universal Attributes section.

People Before Process. Well-adjusted, satisfied people perform better–young learners, adults, citizens. Ignore personal needs and you’ll never realize the highest possible achievement levels or resolve process issues and achieve those precious desired results. Not long-term. Well-adjusted young people and parents have stronger family relationships.

Well-adjusted students achieve higher academic goals. Well-adjusted workers give their employers maximum effort and deliver maximum results. Well-adjusted citizens freely give their all to community betterment.

Still, we’re obsessed with demanding that people do their stuff as efficiently as possible with little concern for the human issues. We’re really missing the boat on this one….

I Determine Social Norms, Shape Culture. Our individual values and beliefs systems are shaped by our environment and experiences. And social norms emerge from the collective of individual beliefs systems and individual values when they are shared by enough people. Notice the loop?

This means norms can be intentionally shaped, if a large enough group of individuals has common values and beliefs taught to them and continuously reinforced. Manipulative? Yes, if the wrong norms are promoted for the wrong reasons. Safeguard: people will resist a mismatch!

Current State: politely, our social norms, collective values and beliefs are anemic. We’ve had a systemic diluting of the influence held by the institutions that once drove norms: education, religion, family. Without some kind of central direction there is moral chaos and anarchy, with the strongest-willed person or power cartel taking control. We’re there right now.

Bullying is Bullying whether kids or adults, power corporations and governments. Grabbing all the power they can, picking on other allegedly weaker or inferior players…bullying is a finely honed weapon, a slimy art form, a highly destructive force. We will never effectively address bullying at any level until we attack the anemic norms and non-values that make it “OK” to bully.

Stewardship is Serious Business. “As a human being I acknowledge that my well-being depends on others, and caring for others’ well-being is a moral responsibility I take seriously.” If the Dalai Llama buys it, stewardship is good enough for me….

Stewardship used to be all that, the hippest of the hip leadership trends. But it’s faded from view. Stewardship must become a shared human value, and not just a trait owned by leaders. We must all be stewards first and foremost, taking guardianship of our future seriously.

I pledge allegiance to the earth and all the life which it supports. One planet, in our care, irreplaceable With sustenance and respect for all.

Stewardship of others and stewardship of this planet that is (so far) allowing us to exist is a survival issue of the highest order. Humanity is unsustainable without stewardship NOW. If we don’t kill each other off first, Mother Earth will eventually get tired of our crap and evict us. And it won’t be homelessness but extinction. Argue the point, please. It may help me feel better about our chances if we don’t take a radical course of action. But I doubt it.

A Few To-Do’s

Based on my values, beliefs system and these indisputable truths, here are a few things I am focused on. It’s tempting to stretch for that one silver bullet that encompasses all. My one all-consuming project right now is promising in that respect. But the hugeness is daunting, so I need to break it down and put it back together again, to understand all the moving parts. Then, find the engagement levers that will recruit champions to the cause. Working on it!

  1. Educators: understand and meet the needs of customers in the marketplace. Employers, communities, students, parents: what are their expectations? Don’t treat them like they are captive consumers of your product—graduates—just because they are.
  2. Flip priority from process / doing stuff to people. Proven over and over, if you don’t tend to people issues first, you’ll never achieve maximum performance and results. It starts with kids in school, continues to the workplace and community—all ages, all stakeholders.
  3. Leverage the power of engagement systemically. Engagement boosts performance. Piecemeal efforts suboptimize engagement’s potential. Applications: young students and adult employees—and not just in school and the workplace, but social and community engagement as well. And don’t forget seniors. This is a universal, global opportunity!
  4. We need systems thinkers. Understand process–what’s upstream and downstream, not just what you do. Understand how your process interacts with others (the diagram is an example). Systems thinking makes sense even for young learners.
  5. Rediscover Our Humanity. Stewardship, acceptance and inclusion, purpose and values must be ingrained across the board. It’s not so difficult because it’s human nature, the way it’s supposed to be. We must reconnect with our selves, others, our planet.

If you’re not familiar with NCIS Agent Gibbs’ Rules, here’s Rule #1: “there’s always more rules”. And Rule #2: “every rule has exceptions.” Enough for now, except for those you add.

Here’s an example of a reinforcing loop, one of the building blocks of systems thinking.

5-5 Coalition Loop

Remove “Young” from the top box to supercharge the loop

 

GLOBAL vs. NATIONALIST Perspective

I wish I didn’t even think about these things. It gets me nothing but a splitting headache short-term, and long-term it frustrates and terrifies me. But I’m a fairly well-informed, caring human being, not an ostrich. Really, really need some help figuring this out.

The message here is grass roots…plant seeds! Start small, network and grow. Tiny pebbles that will create ripples in the pond. All that is fine and good, but my greatest fear is that the progress that has been made will be slowly strangled by the powers that be. WE need to keep it alive. How? A little help, please?

It’s been a natural evolution: information flow via the internet; transportation; global trade and economic interdependencies; mobile populations. The world has shrunk. We cannot avoid or stop globalization. Sure, there are issues-big ones. But we can’t retreat, can’t hide from them. Yet, there’s a huge groundswell of nationalist reaction, notably Trump and Brexit. Supporters of neither appear to really understand what and who they are supporting.

Two opposing world-wide camps—for lack of better terms, global thinkers vs. nationalists. “Nationalist” doesn’t reference a country allegiance in this respect, nationalist allegiance is to power, control, $$$. “Vs” because it truly is a monumental battle. Now in power: the nationalist establishment elites. Big business and unfettered capitalism, politicians, the filthy rich. Splinter religious groups, including radical Islamist terrorists are “our way or off with their heads”. Me-first, short-term view, instant gratification, work the system for political / personal / corporate gain. No concern for people or planet, only profit and more power.

Then there are global thinkers…We the People of the Planet. Grass roots, a growing consciousness of no-borders connectedness among the masses. Sustainability of humanity, and the environment. Social AND economic well-being and prosperity for all. Long-term view.

It would be interesting-no, scary-to compare the occurrence of mental health / emotional problems, maybe even the suicide rate between….

  1. Global thinkers who can’t save the world or even impact positive change; and
  2. Nationalists who don’t have the money, bombs or other clout to get their way.

Just my opinion, the nationalist perspective will force us into a non-traditional world war three. What am I saying?! We’re already fighting WWIII….

Just one tiny piece of the puzzle was noted in a recent Forbes article Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050

“Fund managers at global financial institutions own the majority (70%) of the public stock exchange. These absent owners have no stake in the communities in which the companies operate. Furthermore, management-controlled equity is concentrated in the hands of a select few: the CEO and other senior executives.”

The problem: the only focus is a relentless drive toward profit, short-term at that. If a company doesn’t “perform”…aka make insane quarterly profits…fund managers move investors’ money to another entity that doesn’t mind selling humanity down the river for Big Bucks NOW. And the CEO doesn’t get a fat bonus. No thought of sustaining the company much less humanity or the planet.

Democracies around the world are failing and the masses are beginning to notice. From an insane level of corporate media influence over current affairs to science denial and rigged political elections both driven by deep-pocket special interests….control lies with the nationalist elite power brokers. People are more aware and are flat-out fed up. Is all-out class warfare next? If so, we’re David with a slingshot going up against a regiment of Goliaths.

Yes, it’s a battle. Bitter, winner-take-all, the future of the world and humanity are on the table.

A global thinker feels a deep sense of moral responsibility. If there is a crisis in one corner of the world it must be addressed with a concerted effort from the rest of the world. We have an abundance of resources and ingenuity yet the refugee crisis, genocide, epidemics, widespread famine, climate change are allowed to go unchecked.

 

On a localized scale the US is (allegedly) the most prosperous, powerful, affluent country in the world. Yet poverty, hunger, medical and mental health care, homelessness are major domestic issues. Why can’t just some of our abundance of resources and ingenuity be dedicated to at least partially alleviating those problems?

Because we’re in the grips of a nationalist / me-first mindset. And that nationalist perspective is a global force. And the nationalist keeps the suffering many conveniently out of sight.

We’re not talking Robin Hood or embracing socialism or some weird spirituality. We need a shift in perspective. But unfortunately that requires a shift in power from the nationalist establishment elite to a broad base of global collaboration, cooperation and above all….consciousness. HOW can we tip the scales?

Two major areas we must exert influence over–the education and communication systems: what we learn and what is constantly reinforced. Big problem. “They” control both. “We” need to start impacting even little slivers of what we can in these two systems for starters.

  • Education reform: push for curriculum enhancements, adding coursework that builds environmental and civic savvy and global citizenship; human values-based attributes like acceptance and inclusion and other social-emotional competencies. DANGER: the establishment powers are dead-set against it, obsessing over STEM which only prepares cannon fodder for the establishment machine;
  • Challenge mainstream media disinformation with social media. Don’t discount the power of starting local, growing scope and a network of support. Awareness fed by real, credible information is an incredibly empowering thing. But again, establishment media rules supreme. So we need to dredge out alternative channels. Less reach means more “little” effort needed.

Just my thoughts on the fly. Need yours—how can WE change the world?

Plant Seeds! Grass Roots, Critical Mass

Bernie’s social revolution mobilized and somewhat organized millions of people around the world. Imagine if only some of those people were to continue following…better yet, leading… the call?

If the movement continues, what will it look like? Bigger is not necessarily better. My most active, passionate FB friend complained that it’s impossible for contributions to be recognized on Bernie’s official FB page. You need connections, need to “be somebody”. “Big” cannot survive in anarchy. Big requires some sort of structure, a hierarchy of organizers and decision-makers. Structure calls for defined roles and rules. Individuals easily get lost in the bigness,  and there is a danger of a grass roots organization becoming what it despises….the establishment.

It’s probably a bad correlation, but look at how terrorist networks are organized. Or if you prefer, consider the CIA or your favorite clandestine operation that engages in black ops stuff. Typically small cells of operatives connected by a common vision and shared values that carry out their mission independently, often even without awareness of other cells’ specifics.

The only chance we have of taking our world back is to become the irresistible force that may stand a chance going up against the immovable object. It’s a Herculean task, the Nationalist elite establishment has a tight grip and is scary bad powerful. We don’t even know the extent.

The older you get the less time you have to piss away. I’m impatient as hell, I want change yesterday. But just one perspective at a time can do wonders. I love Humans of New York. This came from one of HONY’s global excursions, to Hunza Valley, Pakistan.

Before education, we knew only how to work. It was always very quiet in our home. My grandfather was a laborer, but he paid to send my father to a tutor so that he could learn to read. He told my father that, if nothing else, he should begin by learning how to read and write his name.

When I was born, my father taught me how to read. I started with local newspapers. I learned that our village was part of a country. Then I moved on to books. And I learned that there was an entire world around this mountain. I learned about human rights. Now I’m studying political science at the local university. I want to be a teacher.

The first of many great reader comments: “Imagine what he will pass on to his own children.” Imagine, indeed.