Sunday, June 28, 2009

The 3 Ages of a Human Being (de Bono @ the ICOT)

Friday was the second time I watched Edward de Bono speak. He's not the most passionate speaker in the world but the minutes fly by when he presents. His visual language is pure captivation.

De Bono didn't say anything he hasn't been saying the past 20 years. The talk revolved around the importance of perception, the inadequacy of argument, the benefits of 'parallel thinking' and the need to design new ways forward via the use of lateral thinking.

Key ideas:
  • We need a new word, 'ebne' which means: Excellent, But Not Enough (de Bono applied this to our traditional tools of thought, which have come down to us from the GG3, the Greek Gang of 3 - Socrates, Plato and Aristotle)

  • 90% of errors made around the world are errors of perception (rarely to do with knowledge or truth, e.g. a small boy is frequently asked to choose between a BIG $1 coin and a small $2 coin and he always choose the $1 coin, creating laughter among the older boys; when someone advised him that the smaller coin was actually worth more, the small boy politely agreed but said that if he has selected the $2 coin he wouldn't have earned as much money! The boy had perception, the others seemed only concerned about truth)

  • Truth / Judgment, Logic and Argument were tools promoted by the Church to combat heresy, resulting in herself being rather poor at Perception, Creativity and Design

  • Argument is poor thinking because it's largely negative, anti-explorative, inefficient and the two parties tend to focus on the "worst 5%" of their opponent's point of view
  • If we can change perception, we can change emotion, thus changing behaviour (ditto with NLP which seeks to change perception by manipulating physiology and internal representations)

  • An idea for the Israel / Palestine issue: All nations supporting Israel should provide $3 billion in aid to Palestine with the caveat that for every rocket fired into Israel, Palestine would have to give Israel $50 million

  • The yellow hat (among the six thinking hats) promotes "value-sensitivity" - we may reject an idea but the more creative among us would still hold on to and explore the helpful concepts inherent in an impractical suggestion

  • Every creative idea is logical in hindsight, but invisible in foresight"(!!), thus the need for lateral thinking (e.g. challenge, provocation, concept-exploration, etc.)
De Bono ended with a delightful look at the three ages of a human being. Ages 0-5 is the age of WHY. 6-11 is the age of WHY NOT. And age 12-80?

The age of BECAUSE.

Kirpalian Kernels

Kirpal Singh - poet, author, futurist and creative thinker extraordinaire - is best known for his work, Thinking Hats & Coloured Turbans where, if my sketchy recall of reviews of the book is right, he proposes a kind of imaginative, cyclical, loopy and even semi-mystical form of thinking.

Singh likes to provoke and the ICOT organisers can surely take pride in his note that he was 'occasionally provoked' during the weeklong conference. Some jottings I took down from his plenary address on Day 4:
  • "Scientific proof is for and of the times...we must nurture our children's confidence in their intuition"

  • "Learning just a little about each other is not enough...e.g. simply studying about Comparative Religion is insufficient, we need to live it" - spoken in the context of a call for deeper inter-cultural understanding and even the insertion of this subject (and that of Relationships/The Other) in to school curricula.

  • "Futurist studies must be taught in schools" - Singh lamented the fact that at present nothing was being taught on how to develop, say, space colonies or deepsea colonies; he related this to the work of Alvin Toffler (author of FutureShock and, most recently, Revolutionary Wealth) and Kevin Warwick's cyborg studies and how the future would bring inconceivable changes (all the more reason, I reckon he would say, to begin conceiving of all we'll have to deal with!)

As a professor of Literature, Singh invests much energy in peering boldly outside his field of expertise. I was moved by his story of how he brought his hosts from Laurentian University to visit a Sikh community which initially invited him for dinner. Apparently, the non-Sikhs and Sikhs, despite living together for about 120 years, have never once visited each other's homes. That a Singaporean had to travel 12,000 miles to arrange a meeting is telling, to say the least.

As with communities of ethnicity, so with communities of learning. I am sure Singh would welcome efforts towards more inter-disciplinary studies (in fact, he coined the term 'HISTERATURE' to denote a juxtaposition of History and Literary studies). Such learning would - not unlike welcoming strangers into one's home - reflect a good foot forward in the journey of reconciliation, something our fundamentalist-stricken world surely craves for - even if it doesn't know it yet.

Buzan and Managing the Manager of Knowledge

Tony Buzan in his plenary address on Day 4 talked about:
  • The inadequacy of traditional school systems to assess the intelligence of students (hardly a new thought but certainly worth repeating)

  • The importance of nurturing the mind, failing which paralysis and atrophy sets in (read: if you're NOT working out on a regular basis and/or if you're NOT consistently learning new things - why not?)

  • The significance of images (as the universal language of mankind) and associations in understanding how the brain works, thus his brainchild, the mind-map
Buzan put the modern development of education and brain research into some perspective: The universe began 15 billion years ago, civilisation a 100,000, the traditional school system 150 and breakthroughts in brain research less than 20 years ago. A drop in a drop in a drop of space-time history. (I'm not sure how useful this piece of data is but it does at least have that 'ooh-ahh' effect).

We've come a long way from the industrial revolution to knowledge management to themanagement of the manager of knowledge i.e. the brain.

"WE are teaching THEM?!" (Buzan on Children's Thinking)

Tony Buzan did a Q&A with the crowd with resonated deeply with me, especially given the way my newborn daughter stares at her proud (and still somewhat dazed) parents:
  • Which group of people are the most inquisitive? Answer: Children
  • Who are the most enthusiastic? Children
  • The most persistent? Children
  • The most happy and enthusiastic? Children
  • The most eager to learn? Children
"And," he then cheekily asked, "WE'RE teaching THEM how to think??" The tragedy of the destruction of children's love for learning can be seen in the everyday:
  • Children love to run - we tell them to sit still
  • Children love to sing - we tell them to keep quiet and "Listen to me!"
  • Children love to look deeply into objects and people's eyes - we say, "Don't stare!"
  • Children love to touch anything and everything - we go, "Don't touch!"

Cyborg 1.0 (Day 3, ICOT)

Cyborg 1.0. That's the label for Kevin Warwick, who put a computer chip in his arm, connecting his nervous system to a computer, the Web and another nervous sytem! This allows him to control robots with his brain and communicate 'invisibly' brain-to-brain with another human being.

The implications are tremendous:
  • we're closer to a 'cure' for brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (Warwick showed a video of a Parkinson's disease patient who, when stimulated via electrodes, actually got up from his chair, walked faster than he previously could, and even performed a small jingle!)

  • can education be Matrix-like, where skills are downloadable? (Warwick explained that, yes, theoretically, entire neural archtypes can be transferred; on the other hand, just because you possessed, say, Tiger Wood's neural structure - although what this would consist of is another black box altogether - that wouldn't necessarily mean you could win the U.S. Open because you'd also require his physique, etc.)

  • what about identity, free-will and consciousness? if someone else could tap into your brain and nerves, could that imply a potential loss of self-determination (a'la Being John Malkovich and similar super-suggestive mechanisms)
Warwick also made a fascinating point about neural implants enabling the human brain to access dimensions we previously couldn't: infra-red, ultra-sound, ultra-violet, x-rays, etc. Our five senses miss out on 90% of the sensory dimension!

Mahathir, James & Capelli (Day 2, ICOT)

Not exactly a day with much new knowledge or tools, but lots of metaphors and good reminders. I listened to four talks, one of which was only a 'brochure' for the school the speaker was from : not good.

Quotable quotes from the other three:
  • "How does a man not necessarily burdened with a superior intellect find himself in a position of extraordinary power?" (Colin James on President George Bush)

  • "Democracy cannot solve the problem of bad leadership" (Dr. Mahathir on the inadequacy of liberal democracy, although he wasn't saying we shouldn't vote)

  • "The timespan for one generation today is 6 years" (Glenn Capelli)
  • "The camel looked like it was designed by a committee" (Dr. Mahathir)
  • "I was suspicious the IMF and World Bank were really trying to control our economy instead of helping the country" (Dr. Mahathir on why he rejected IMF loans during the 1997-8 financial crisis in the region)

  • "I'm not a scholar. My only qualification is my driver's license" (Colin James)

  • "A five-month old foetus can distinguish his/her father's and mother's voice from the womb" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "Being analytical is great but if you overdo it you become the first four aphabets of the word." (Colin James comparing analytical intelligence with somatic and emotional intelligence)

  • "Why should someone spend their time translating for you??" (Dr. Mahathir promoting the use of English - the 'language of knowledge' - to teach Science and Maths in Malaysian schools; he was taking a shot at those who wanted to revert to Malay)

  • "The deaf talk with their entire body; we normal folks are so boring - we just move our mouths." (Glenn Capelli)

  • "There are 6,000 languages in the world - 90% of them near extinction" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "When you run out of language, the violence begins" (Colin James on the Middle-East situation)

  • "Natural play is the greatest developer of the brain - it's better to let a child play with the cardboard box than the toy inside it!" (Glenn Capelli)

  • "I was studying to be a priest, but I had a problem with one of the vows: Obedience" (Colin James)

"There is no PURE intelligence" (Day 1 of the ICOT)

Some points from the sessions I attended (about all I can recall for now):
  • Giving standard tests and examinations, whilst seemingly the fairest way to assess pupils, may in fact be un-fair because it ignores the different kinds of intelligence of the students

  • Intelligence is always contextual; there is no 'pure' intelligence (syllabus- and lesson-planners, heads up!)

  • Multi-tasking is a myth!

  • Photographic memory is a myth (the savant who could draw out the exact details of Rome as he flew in a helicopter over the city notwithstanding)

  • Character is indispensable for education; the 'best and the brightest' of America were the ones who started the Vietnam war

  • Teaching knowledge is less effective than teaching concepts

  • The best way to win in Monopoly is to buy as much as you can, not just Mayfair and Park Lane!

  • Learning increases when our hormones are tensed or fired up (e.g. driving!)

  • 55% of Australian workers wouldn't mind taking a pay-cut for a more fun work environment

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Can we save our students the cost of textbooks?

I fully support Seth Godin's rant:
"Professors should be spending their time devising pages or chapterettes or even entire chapters on topics that matter to them, then publishing them for free online. (it's part of their job, remember?) When you have a class to teach, assemble 100 of the best pieces, put them in a pdf or on a kindle or a website (or even in a looseleaf notebook) and there, you're done. You just saved your intro marketing class about $15,000. Every semester. Any professor of intro marketing who is assigning a basic old-school textbook is guilty of theft or laziness."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Be Irreplaceable

If you wait tables, make sure that the customer's experience depends on you, and who you are, and would have been different with another server who served the same meals.

If you are a technology consultant, make sure that your client's experience would be totally different if another consultant were delivering the same advice.

If you are a doctor, make sure that your patient's experience is made special by who you are, and would be different if another doctor delivered the same diagnosis.

If you are lecturer, make sure.....???

Read the full post at the Tom Peters blog.

Question: Is there a difference between being irreplaceable and being indispensable? (Hint: If no one else can fill your shoes, how are you ever going to get promoted?!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now (from TIME)

From TIME magazine. Which is most relevant in a college setting?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Web 2.0" is one millionth word!

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A U.S.-based language monitoring group crowned Web 2.0 as the one millionth word or phrase in the English language on Wednesday, although other linguists slammed it as nonsense and a stunt.

The Global Language Monitor, which uses a math formula to track the frequency of words and phrases in print and electronic media, said Web 2.0 appeared over 25,000 times in searches and was widely accepted, making it the legitimate, one millionth word.

It said Web 2.0 started out as a technical term meaning the next generation of World Wide Web products and services but had crossed into far wider circulation in the last six months.

Other linguists, however, denounced the list as pure publicity and unscientific, saying it was impossible to count English words in use or to agree on how many times a word must be used before it is officially accepted.

There are no set rules for such a count as there is no certified arbiter of what constitutes a legitimate English word and classifying the language is complicated by the number of compound words, verbs and obsolete terms.

"I think it's pure fraud ... It's not bad science. It's nonsense," Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told reporters.

Paul JJ Payack, president of the Global Language Monitor, brushed off the criticism, saying his method was technically sound.

"If you want to count the stars in the sky, you have to define what a star is first and then count. Our criteria is quite plain and if you follow those criteria you can count words. Most academics say what we are doing is very valuable," said Payack.

He has calculated that about 14.7 new English words or phrases are generated daily and said the five words leading up to the millionth highlighted how English was changing along with current social trends.

This list included "Jai Ho!" an Indian exclamation signifying victory or accomplishment, and "slumdog," a derisive term for children living in the slums of India that became popular with the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire."

The list also included "cloud computing," meaning services delivered via the cloud or Internet, "carbon neutral," a widely used term in the climate change debate, and "N00b," a derogatory term from the gaming community for a newcomer.

"Some 400 years after the death of the Bard, the words and phrases were coined far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, emerging instead from Silicon Valley, India, China, and Poland, as well as Australia, Canada, the U.S. and the UK," said Texas-based Payack.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Godin's 6-month MBA

It's unaccreditated, free, residential and six months long. Details here.

This was the 'online forum' used throughout the course.