Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

“You’re the same today as you’ll be in five years

except for the people you meet and the books you read.”

~Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

The philosopher’s choice

In the late 1970s I took a graduate school course in the Philosophy of Education which changed the way I thought not just about Education, but about the very way we assemble and articulate the ideas by which we live. The course was taught by a professor who had been first trained as a lawyer, and he had an uncanny ability to persuade you to his way of thinking. Although any good teacher can be persuasive, this man could make you a believer in a particular approach to Education one week, and the next week bring you in total opposition to it.

The course was structured so that in 12 weeks we covered 6 major Philosophies of Education, each of them quite different from one another, and each with both a history and a following. The first week was devoted to the pros of that philosophy, all of the excellent reasons why that approach was not only the best, but perhaps the only way to educate children. The following week took exactly the opposite point of view, destroying each argument he had made one by one, until you become a total believer that this particular philosophy of education was not only fundamentally flawed, but perhaps outright dangerous to the education of children.

He systematically constructed and then deconstructed the pros and cons of the six major philosophies behind Education in the Western world from the time of the ancient Greeks to modern day. His persuasive prowess was impressive enough, but even on the final day of the course, his response to our burning question of which philosophy did he believe in, was simply to smile and laugh under his breath, like Buddha turning a flower in his fingers rather than making any final statement of belief.

It was also remarkable how the same belief systems would rise and fall throughout history, each having its crusaders and opponents, each enjoying a heyday and a May Day. Although the professor was skilled at presenting the various perspectives on the Philosophy of Education, what really stimulated our thinking at the deepest level was reading the various arguments pro and con. It was an exhilarating and exhausting mental exercise, touching deepest at the roots of how we think about teaching and learning, and it would have been nothing by mere opinions were it not for the reading we did.

Which way reading today?

The mental shock came with real world aftershocks, on realizing that in schools not only were students reading less and less, but teachers and educational administrators were also reading less and responding to believe systems of which they were barely aware, just for the sake of survival. And this was in the days well before the Internet, which arguably has stricken a massive blow to the world of reading as we knew it.

A generation which grew up reading no longer reads books, at least in the same concentrated reflective way. The newer generations are growing up with too many distractions to take an interest in books. Reading today is more like sampling from a digital smorgasbord, than eating a well prepared meal.

Leaving regrets and longing for older ways to the Luddites, let’s consider what can actually be done today to make reading an even richer experience than was ever possible in the past.

Quotes. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” ~Emile Buchwald. These ten words speak volume on what is required to raise a generation of readers. It is not the love of knowledge that drives the process at first, but rather the love of parents, and the way in which adult society views and enjoys reading that guides the future of the next generation.

Benefits. Though there are many benefits of reading, there is an excellent summary of the definitive benefits in an article called “10 Benefits of Reading” on the www.inewsindia.com website. They can be summarized as ➀ Active mental process, ➁ Increased vocabulary, ➂ Other cultures and places, ➃ Concentration and focus, ➄ Builds Self-esteem, ➅ Improves Memory, ➆ Improves Discipline, ➇ Improves Creativity, ➈ Material for Conversation, ➉ Reduces Boredom.

Sharing Knowledge. It is not just the process of reading that changes you, and certainly not the tests that you take on what you read and soon forget, but rather the way in which you share the knowledge you have gained through reading. Talk about what you have read, write about it both formally and informally. Encourage others to talk about what what they are reading. This is what makes ideas come alive and have a practical bearing on how we live our lives.

Digital vs Analog. Although e-books and tablet reading is rapidly overtaking paperbacks, they are not necessarily mutually exclusive. We are blessed with a choice that previous generations never had. Each has advantages that they other cannot provide, so why not engage in both/and thinking, rather than making an either/or choice?

Notetaking. This is where the mind gains traction and actually begins to travel. If you read without taking notes, you will merely skim the surface or spin your wheels. People who read books without taking notes often feel they are trying to scratch an itchy foot with their shoes still on. They never reach the deeper part of the mind that is calling for attention. Your notes reflect the quantity and quality of your thinking. Therefore, why not emulate the great geniuses of history and keep a notebook as a matter of course? Fill your notebook with sketches and illustrations, no matter how rough. Your thoughts will come alive and reward you with greater insights than you can get from reading without notetaking.

Commonplace Book. Read my article “Making Your Mark” to learn about the lost tradition of the commonplace book, the handmade personal book, which was not only taught at Oxford and Harvard until the early 20th Century, but was practiced by people in all walks of life. Active journaling make for active reading.

Foreign Language. An even greater way to stretch your mind than reading is to learn to speak and read in a foreign language. You quickly learn that all a foreign language dictionary can do is roughly point you in the right direction. Words are not mathematical equivalents, but rather living nuances, like the spread of a fan. This is why a literal translation is actually a mistranslation. The proverb “Out of site, out of mind” was translated into Chinese by a computer, and then back into English. The words came back, “Invisible Idiot.” Clearly there is more to translation than plugging words into a formula. A new language means a new world, new opportunities, and greater flexibility in your thinking.

Flexible Focus. Reading itself stretches your mental legs and gives you new perspectives on people and places. But you can also enrich your reading experience by introducing more variety into what you read, where and how you read. Try changing your reading environment, read aloud, read together, read alone.

Lastly, for reading follow the wise advice of Peter Drucker.

“Follow effective action with quiet reflection.

From quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

Download a READING MANDALA for a summary of the ideas in this article, and as a guide to how to enhance your approach to reading

Whenever listening to a public speaker, ask yourself two things: 1) Does the message make sense without the skilled speaker’s delivery and 2) Were the key points crystal clear? Make sure that (you)

  1. Remove the oratory (the effect of the speaker’s delivery style and voice).  You can either do this mentally or you can find a transcript of the speech.  Do the words still make sense when just written, not spoken?
  2. If the key messages were not clear, was that intentional?  Could simpler, more commonly used words have made the message unmistakable?  If so, then why wasn’t it said that way?  Perhaps it was worded so each member of the audience could interpret the speech individually by “hearing what they wanted to hear?”

The danger is being lulled into complacency.  Quite a large number of reasonably intelligent people adopt “selective hearing” when a speaker or writer uses ambiguous words: They often see/hear what they want to see/hear, either pro or con.  And less-educated people, who mistakenly question their own ability to understand “complex” subjects and assume the unfamiliar words surely must make sense to somebody, fall into the same trap.  This is partly because everyone is busy managing their daily affairs, working and . . . . just . . . living.  It is soooo easy to defer to the “ruling class” in the State capitol and/or Washington DC – – – the professional economists, strategists, politicians and lobbyists.  But many things that happen in the State and US capitols impact the business environment and, therefore, the company where you work.

The Danger for Our Country:

This “letting the experts handle complex things” is an age-old problem in every country and is especially risky in any democracy or republic, regardless of your political persuasion.  Howard Troxler said this temptation to be lazy is very dangerous in last week’s editorial “I’m Too Busy is not an optionin a Virginian Pilot editorial on June 13th (an outstanding newspaper, BTW).  He says, in part,

We should pay more attention to what Washington is doing. We should pay more attention to what the state legislature is doing. We should pay more attention to what City Hall and the School Board are doing. If we don’t, then the same bunch in Washington will keep right on driving the country off the cliff. . . . Paying attention is not something optional that you can get around-to one day. Tell everybody you know.”

The Danger for Your Company

There are clear parallels in the business world:  It is easy to get tunnel-vision, to adopt a narrow focus on only your little part of the organization.  Don’t do this.  Know the big picture.  Listen closely to management’s speeches but be sure you know what matters most in your organization (cash flow, orders backlog, etc.).  In any company be sure you understand at least four things:

  1. How the financial community rates your firm (if publicly traded) and what they are saying about your management (good, bad, strong vision, confused, etc.)
  2. The company’s long term strategic plan and how your team (and job) fits into that plan
  3. How your company generates cash
  4. What your team’s financial objectives are for the month, quarter and year (in other words, what your boss signed you up to accomplish)

If you are intimidated by financial terms and statements, here is a great $20 booklet “Guide to Finance Basics for Managers” from Harvard Business Review at. Remember – – – what you don’t know can hurt you!

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

Flexible Focus #54: Modeling Your Business

by William Reed on May 19, 2011

In search of a Toolbox

We have looked at the power of the 2×2 Matrix, as well as how to gain additional degrees of freedom with the 3×3 Matrix of the Mandala Chart. Any kind of Matrix can be useful, because it helps you compare variables that interact with each other, and it puts everything on a single screen. This gives you the vital element of perspective, something that is easy to lose when you are caught up in the fray. In business, this can spell the difference between success and failure.

Now there is another kind of Matrix which enables you to map out and test proven business model concepts, not only by seeing the parts in relation to the whole, but also with the ability to run interactive simulations and projections with numbers. Introducing The Business Model Toolbox for iPad.

Even if you don’t have an iPad, the Business Model Generation book can guide you through the process, with beautiful illustrations and real world examples of successful business models in action. This book is a remarkable innovation in itself, having been co-authored by 470 strategy practitioners from 45 countries. Ordinarily it would be nearly impossible to integrate that much diversity into a single package, but this book is held together by a highly integrated visual design, and the fact that the contributors speak from real world experience.

Their methodology is practiced by companies such as Ericsson, 3M, and Deloitte, and the book is available in 18 languages. It is positioned as a handbook for visionaries, game changers and challengers, and the communication savvy of the core team behind the project is self-evident in both the book and the website navigation.

Telling Your Story with Prescience

Guy Kawasaki is the founder and managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, a seed-stage and early-stage venture capital fund, and a best selling author whose successful books include The Art of the Start, and Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. I interviewed Guy Kawasaki on video for the iPad Creators Club, and in that interview asked Guy, of all of the factors that go into evaluating a business model as a venture capitalist, which factor carried the greatest weight. He said that it was 90% in the story behind the business model. He added that we all know that the numbers are made up, but you cannot fake the level of passion, belief, and commitment that is either evident or missing in the story itself.

Nevertheless, the power of story in business is more than just the power of narration or stage presence. The story must be delivered with the skills of an actor, but it must be grounded in the perspective of the strategist, and this is where Business Model Generation can make the difference.

Think of it as the power to see there before you can be there. Prescience is the knowledge of things before they exist or happen, foreknowledge, foresight. Surely it must seem as magic to those who lack this ability, and often it is the experts, blinded by their own knowledge, who have the least prescience! This is laughably evident in just reading a few of the bad predictions by the leading experts of their day, in nearly every field that has been touched by technology. And what field has not been radically altered by technology?

If the numbers are fabricated, and the experts totally off the mark, then how can we develop some degree of prescience? How can we navigate through this unpredictable world, without falling for superstitious fallacies, or succumbing to the hypnotic mantras of the latest guru?

As a reader of this column, you know by now that reality is not fixed as it appears to be, and that with flexible focus, you not only can see more, but you can actually create more. It is ancient wisdom that comes back to remind us that we are co-creators of our own reality, that the sky is not empty.

Nevertheless, to help others see the dimensions and qualities of our vision, indeed to be able to perceive these things ourselves, we need the help of tools which help us to make the invisible visible, and the impossible possible.

Vision is not enough. We need resources and collaborative support to make things happen, and that will not happen without prescience and a powerful story behind it.

Knowing that you don’t Know

One reason why the experts are so often lacking in prescience is that they think that they know. The beginning of wisdom is knowing that you don’t know, having a beginner’s mind. In the classic book of informal talks on Zen Meditation and Practice, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

One of Socrates’ most famous sayings was, “I only know that I know nothing.” This is the beginning of knowledge, because it drives the spirit of inquiry, the quest for knowledge that is behind the question. The Matrix is the flexible container that begs to be filled, the toolbox that supports our vision.

In Sharing look for Caring

by Guy Ralfe on April 20, 2010

Whenever you try something new and share your idea with others, you get met with such diverse responses. How people respond affects how you see the world too.

Go through a day where you come across three people who spend all their time telling you why you will fail and you quickly start to question your judgment. On the other hand discuss the same idea with three optimists and you suddenly think you are setting your sights too low.

What we must always be aware of is that when you tell someone your idea or ambition their response is always from their point of view. Their point of view appears to be driven by two factors:

  1. Knowledge of the topic or business area
  2. Support – driven by the persons mood, personality, ambition combination

Having reflected on this over the last few weeks I have come up with Guy’s Magic People Quadrant.

Guy’s Magic People Quadrant

Neatly illustrated in the picture there are four quadrants; Partner, Decoy, Fairy, Onion determined by the intersection of the above two factors of Knowledge and Support.

Partner – These are the individuals you need to isolate and partner with for longer term success. These individuals have a keen understanding of the business or topic to be able to advise, mentor and facilitate your success not just provide you with support. These individuals are interested and inquiring into your plans and able to guide rather than just bestow good wishes. They care.
Decoy – These are the individuals you have to watch out for. While they share the same knowledge as the partner group, their moods, personality and ambitions prevent them for providing you support, unless it is for their gain. These individuals (or groups) appear as inquisitive as partners do but are extremely selfish and you are viewed as purely a pawn to achieve their ambitions. They can come across as supportive but will soon show up in conflict with their words through their actions. BEWARE!

Fairy – This group have little to no knowledge of the topic, however from what you tell them they formulate an image based on how they see what you are doing. Your ambition appears to them as grandiose and enviable. For them they cannot see themselves making a similar choice or action, for this they are in awe and wish you every success, and believe that you will have success. These people would help you if they could. In reality this is the fairy godmother talking to you – yes you do feel good but you are no better off when you wake up.

Onion – The next best way to describe this group is disinterested or self important. These people are so selfish that the notion of you having an ambition brings tears to their eyes. Having the conversation with these types is like talking to a black hole – it sucks the life out of you. Keep clear!

One thing to know is that there is a lot of gray between the obvious extremities that I describe above, but if you are going to discuss your ambitions with others be mindful of the individual behind the spoken words before you respond to them. Reputations are earned and past actions are a fairly good indication of future. There is no short cut to gaining Knowledge, but gaining it from people who care is about as good as it gets.

Seek out Partners in all that you strive for in your careers, and bump into the odd Fairy just to keep your spirits up. Good luck!

Fundamental Knowledge to prevent and fight flu

by Vijay Peduru on December 22, 2009

flu“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

– Thomas Edision

Since the flu season is setting in, We need to take good care of our health and our family’s health. Good health is an opportunity to take care of things which we want to take care of like our startup. if we are sick, things don’t happen and just come to a screeching halt.

There are several ways to fight flu., but if we understand the fundamental knowledge, it is easier to find “solutions” to prevent and fight flu. we won’t be misguided by all the advice out there.

As many of you are aware, the most fundamental thing to know is  that the flu and common cold is caused by Viruses and there is no medicine for Viruses. (strange isn’t it!). These viruses continuously mutate i.e they keep changing their DNA Structure, so it is difficult to create any medicine for these types of viruses.  If there is no medicine, then the question arises on how to cure it. The answer is, Our amazing human body has the capacity to create the medicine by itself to destroy the virus if we let it do its work.

When a virus enters our body, our immune cells checks its memory  to see if it has destroyed this kind of virus before, if not, then it gets to work to find the right type of medicine, It keeps trying various combinations until it finds the right combination. When the body is actively working, it generates a lot of heat and this is what we commonly refer as “fever“. Once it finds the medicine, it starts killing the virus. After successfully killing the virus, it has to send the dead viruses out of the body. The body creates mucus and puts the destroyed viruses there and the mucus flows out of our body through the nose. This is what we call “Runny Nose“.  Anything we do to stop this natural flow, will inhibit our body to do its job. So, for example taking cold/fever medicines will inhibit the body too. So, unless it is absolutely needed, it is not recommended to take medications. In fact, if you ask the doctor, they will say “Take cold medicine only if required”, but we ignore the “if required” part and take them anyway. “if required” means we should take it only if the pain becomes unbearable.

Here are a few ways you can help your body fight the cold or flu when you see the starting symptoms.

1. Give good Rest to your digestive system: In our everyday life, When we focus our energy on the job at hand, we can complete it faster. If we have too many distracting tasks, we don’t do any of the things properly. In the same way, when a cold or flu virus enters our body, we have to let the body concentrate all its energy on eliminating the virus. If we take heavy food, then the body is “distracted” and has to perform both the digestion process and also has to prepare the medicine. The best option is to not eat any solid foods and take only liquids.

2. Take only liquids without any added sugars: Doctors advice to take plenty of liquids.  This means any liquid which is easy for digestion. Yes, this means Coffee and Tea are out. Some Juices have added sugars in them and need to be avoided as well. The best option is –  Take 200 or 250 ml warm water, mix four to five spoons of honey and Squeeze half a lime and drink it. This gives the needed energy for the body, The body needs about 800 calories per day when fasting  and taking the “warm honey water” about four to five times a day should be enough.

In the past three years, I had symptoms of a flu once and fought it back within a day by fasting with liquids.

Wishing you healthy holidays


Data Isn’t Information

by Wayne Turmel on August 10, 2009

Readers of this site are very tech savvy – in fact (without sounding too flattering) I’d suggest that we are among the most technically proficient workers in the world. I would also submit that many of us don’t use technology properly. I don’t mean our fingers don’t fly and we can’t multi-task-web-cam-Google-group like a rock star. What I mean is we send more data than information.

Here are a few examples to clarify further: You check your email inbox or your project collaboration site. There’s the spreadsheet you wanted with the numbers you need to complete your task. That’s data. The problem is that the person who sent you those numbers didn’t tell you that they were put together at the last minute because they’d be in trouble if they were late, that they are only based on someone’s best guess or that the minute they hit “send” someone called with a last-minute correction. That’s context and it’s what turns data into information you can actually use.

There is an old model that talks about the learning and communication hierarchy:

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Data (the raw numbers or facts) turns into… Information (what it means) which, when we apply to our real life problems effectively, we turn into… Knowledge (how do we apply this contextual information to move the project/company/species forward and finally… Wisdom (how do we use this knowledge in the most far-reaching, strategic and positive way)

In the lightning fast-paced work world, data is constantly flowing. We have all kinds of tools that allow us to get the numbers/project status/debugs anywhere in the world in seconds. The problem is not with the delivery of data, it’s how it’s processed and turned into action once it arrives.

We need context in order to understand all the subtleties of what the data means and what to do with it. Context is established when we seek answers to questions like:

  • Why is this data important?
  • Where did it come from?
  • What are you supposed to do with it?
  • Who sent it and how much do you trust them?
  • Who will use it and why should they trust you?
  • In other words, the data and the tools that send it are useless without the human dynamic, which brings us back to technology. We have all the technology we need to send the data and create context, we just don’t use it as well as we might.
    Take for example. You are an Agile team that wants to hold your scrum and get back to “the important stuff”. You don’t waste time on social niceties and “fluff”. Effective web meetings are held to under 10 minutes, the way they should be. IMs are held to ten words or less and anything more social than a “Hi are you busy” is considered unimportant. But if you don’t have social conversation, or allow for time to get to know each other, do you really know what’s going on with your teammates? Do you know who’s having trouble, who’s really doing more than their share and who can really give you insight into the data you’ve just received?

    I hear so many times that web cams are a waste of good bandwidth; time zones mean it’s easier to just hit “send” and go to bed, knowing that the folks in Bucharest or Bangalore or Boston are professionals and will know what to do with it when it arrives; Group collaboration sites don’t need pictures of the teammates on whom your job depends and “Why does it matter what Mary or Karim look like as long as the work gets done?”

    It matters. The human component matters, and we ignore the tools – and more importantly the techniques – that let us build those human connections at our peril.

    I’d like to end with a thought provoking question: What are you doing for your team (and what help is your company giving you) to learn to send data as well as turn it into information?

    ——

    GiveHelpBI don’t know about you, but this certainly makes my head spin!

    Before we set out on our little quest to untangle this, lets start by stating a core truth of life. Everyone needs help. [If you feel you do not belong to this category, try living 1 day of your life without using the bridges (built by others), electricity (discovered by others), food (grown in farms by others)… you get the drift].

    What I just said is so fundamental, it is worth repeating again. Everyone needs help. Now, lets begin to untangle the first part of the title of this post…

      “Help yourself… by helping others”.

    Given that everyone needs help, so do you. The question then becomes: How do you get good help? The answer lies, ironically, in the question: “How good of a help can you provide others?” This is indeed, quite logical as the better help you can provide others with, the more they will be willing to help you, in return. Pick your favorite leader or entrepreneur and read their autobiography (or biography); you’ll find many stories of how much help they gave and got back.

    Time to untangle the final portion, now…

      “helping others … by helping yourself, first”

    This simply means that before you provide good help to others, you must increase your own capacity to help. In other words, you need to help yourself first by investing in your education, your skills and your knowledge. Once you are an expert in your field of work, you can help others… and once you help others, some of them will help you back! Lets go back to thinking about your favorite leader or entrepreneur… and you’ll notice that they would have been always working to learn more, gain more knowledge and increase their competence in what they do… so that they have the capacity to help others.

    That’s how you get good help… by helping others… but, start with helping yourself, first!

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