Communication R Us

Every day a new book, article, or piece of research is published with some new spin on the Art of Communication – often, a re-work of common-sense principles that are well worn and “life approved”.  I’ve no idea how it all works, really – my communication ability largely predicated on some internalized win / loss metric dealing in trial and error…

So, this morning is largely dominated by a common mode of communication – responding to student email – minus the spam.  I continue to note, that student ability (effectiveness?) using this baby-boomer driven means of communication, um, generally sucks… But, not always.  Be still my heart.

Communication may work wonders; effective communication works miracles…

Turning Around

Human behavior is complex – or at least it is to me.  Even my own behavior can be perplexing, which of course occurs only when I make an effort to self-diagnose or evaluate an overt action or emotion, AKA personal reflection.  And today, I committed that crime; that is, an adult male who overtly and without forethought, malice, or external stimulus decides to take an emotional dive.

Ouch.  OK, the water was not all that deep.  I don’t swim well in those waters anyway.  And I was up and moving onward in a minute.  But, I did note that technology played an essential role in the modification of the way I do things…  Wait, no, more like technology directly caused me to change a well-established behavior – that of leaving the house and driving somewhere – in this case to class.

I turned around.  Four minutes out, and I turned around.  What, pray tell did I leave behind?  My cell phone?  Wallet?  Briefcase?  Forget to  close the garage door?  Did I leave the A/C on?  Did I forget my gourmet brown bag lunch?  Nope, none of those..  I turned around to fetch my FitBit, that was left in a state of disassociation.

Damn…

Coaching 101

Recently, as in earlier this week, I noted with some measure of interest that about 1/2 of a business class had accessed a Homework prompt that had been online for weeks.  The LMS does not provide insight if an assignment prompt is “actually digested” by an unsuspecting student.  Wouldn’t that be nice, the technology is there…   Anywho, along with that nugget of information, I peeked to see if anyone had actually started on the assignment.  This was doable cuz it required a public-facing entry – a concrete measurement at the ready.  I log in.  I navigate to the assignment area.  I peek.  Nothing…  No surprise, the assignment is not due for 15 days.  Minor disappointment nonetheless – it is a good assignment that knocks off an SLO and actually can result in meaningful learning…

So, I think – what to do with this data, this negative information – hmmm, why not share it with the students?  Just maybe, doing so might provide the necessary pebble-like catalyst to garner some movement, right?  Decision made, I make it so – incorporating an old business principle into my email.  I let my students know that good business folks measure everything, injecting a favorite quote about control and measurement.  Swoosh – off it goes.

Some time has passed.  Enough time to know I over-reached.  And, I guess I did.  I mean, what 19 year old is going to turn some work in early.  Geez, Wal-Mart has developed a complex set of logistical processes specifically designed to not waste a second of valuable time – and that would include doing shit two weeks in advance of a due date!  Time is money.  What was I thinking…

The takeaway – I was outgunned by thousands of years of human nature!  I had a noble cause – my effort at best will garner marginal results – not unlike a Botox injection to abate / retard a migraine.  Being oversensitive now, I realize that it is probable that most students did not even read my “be proactive email”.  Hoping for an adjustment in student behavior may be a bit of a stretch.

But, back in the saddle now, I am not disheartened.  Like Forrest Gump and a box of chocolates, ya just never know what you’re going to get – maybe a single light bulb will go off.  Probably not, but I felt compelled to try and I will again.

The Art of Procrastination

You know, I was thinking.  And, no, such activity is not that rare given the season of my life.  It is Sunday, and my “work plate” is rather full.  Not overflowing full, but that’s true only because of how the shit is arranged on my plate – which required a personal undertaking of no small measure.  You might think I was a high school football player during hell week having dinner at an all-you-can-eat buffet.  Piled high.

This begs a question, and I have many, as to why this is.  As an educator, I live for those few moments where a “focused and engaged” student passes through my field of vision.  You know, locked-on.  It happens, but not all that often.  But when it does, I marvel at the wake of success and progress that engaged student leaves behind.  Of course, that “wake” conveniently serves as a metaphorical equivalent of a mountain – a mountain that other students must navigate if they are to have a chance to wet their beak at the free enterprise fountain of opportunity.

So, what it the key difference among students?  Among anyone who is living life?  What separates the normal from the uncommonly normal?  I suggest it is the “Art of Procrastination”.  We can try to learn time management, digest project management techniques, do a Black Belt in Six Sigma, and earn a sigma that.  All good stuff really…it helps…  But, that ain’t it.  There are some things we can’t teach and some stuff we can’t learn.  We can try, and we do.  We are then called consultants or subject matter experts… Not a bad thing, really, you can make a living, but the majority of us are not “the one”.

Just who is “the one” and how did they earn that title?  Well, they are different.  They are wired, yet remain open systems.  They are prescriptive and creative at the same time.  The coup d’état – they can actually handle change – not fake it with a casual embrace, pun intended.  How?  Geez, I don’t know.  Look at me, my plate is piled high with things to do and I am writing this.

But I suspect, they have mastered procrastination – the last bastion of inefficiency.  Not mastered as in they do not procrastinate.  Rather, they have taken procrastination, the proclivity to postpone, to new heights.  A new discipline, really; “The Art of Procrastination.”  Such mastery promotes efficient, effective, creative, and focused behavior.  Their results come sooner, faster, better, cheaper, and all that.

So OK, these folks are different.  They possess the ability to discern the important from the urgent and when they have to guess, they guess right a lot more than wrong.  They are gifted to the degree of ordinary.  They are blessed and their most centered and observed quality is their humble nature.  And, most of all, they do not know they are truly special.

And that, folks, is a precious moment to witness.

Life and Physics

So, when seeking “life balance”, personal focus is often directed on establishing some basis of equilibrium – a stable, fixed, still, in control environment…  Makes perfect sense to me.  And then, of course, life happens…

In time and with an ample amount bruises indicating a life lived, one must discover (rediscover?), acknowledge, and reckon with a basic principle of physics  – that “balance requires movement”.

Geez, this conflicts with a premise or objective to seek and maintain a quality life that is nestled in some ongoing state of equilibrium.  Um, no…  Well, kind of, or maybe sometimes.  I don’t know.   When I look outside, things move around.  On the inside, not so much. An ongoing conundrum perhaps…

Customer Service and Spin the Bottle

So, yeah, customers are winners and losers in the game of “customer service”.  You expect, as a consumer, to have fate deal you some bad service now and then.  And, this is generally not a problem, so as long as the “bad” is equally parsed out among the many – the masses if you will.  In the economics of service delivery, there is equity in a virtual abstract pattern of poor customer service or random consumer abuse.  The “other guy” gets his…

And then, there is AT&T.  OMG…  We are talking 3rd Standard Deviation of “can’t get it right” service.  How bad?  I mean, right past the “this sucks” to the “I can’t believe this is happening to me crisis.”  Not slowing down, AT&T has now gone turbo and moved right through the “wow, this is so surreal it is kind of funny” and on into the twilight zone.  A game of chance?

The math to control for a discrete random variable in the statistics of all this simply escapes me.  But what has not eluded my attention is that AT&T is not finished – there is more to come.  Dare we talk 4σ?

Ya, it ain’t over…

Planning – Understanding Tradeoffs

The efficacy of planning is revealed in contrasts.  Consider this:


– The need: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

– All in: Paralysis by analysis – “You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.” ~ Gordon B. Hinckley

– All out: I’m a great believer in spontaneity because I think planning is the most destructive thing in the world. ~John Cassavetes

– Optimum: “A violent plan executed today is better than a perfect plan next week.” ~ Patton