Take Off The Halo and Horn

Thought this was a learning moment. 


The halo and horn effects. 


This has to do with generalizing about people, things, places, or events. 


With the halo effect, if we like (are positive) about one or a few things about it, we may put a proverbial halo on it and and treat or rate everything about it as great.


Similarly, with the horn effect, if we dislike (are negative) about one or a few things about it, we may put a proverbial horn on it and treat or rate everything about it as horrible. 


This means were not really being objective or balanced in our assessment. 


Usually, it’s not all just good or bad, black or white–but good AND bad, black AND white.  


And obviously, this can cause us to make bad decisions based on poor analysis and judgement. 


Therefore, the importance of taking a step back, looking holistically at all the facts, and evaluating things for what they really are, rather than making snap calls to judgement–and poor ones at that! 😉


(Source Photo: here with attribution to darksouls1)

When You Need To BLUF

Bottom Line.jpeg

Most professional (and even personal) communications should start with…

________________________


BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front).


This means that you start with the ending–in mind, on paper, verbally, and in digital format. 


You provide the conclusion and/or recommendations right up front.


Rather than first wadding through all the details–context, analysis, considerations, assumptions, risks, etc. 


Let the reader know right away what it is you want. 


Generally, this is different than an abstract or summary that provides a synopsis and leading evidence for the argument put forward. 


Tell me what I need to know and get right to the point! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Arguing The Negative

Evidence.jpeg

I thought this was an interesting sign this gentlemen had.


It says:

“Those who reject Jesus do so because of sin, not science or evidence.”


Overall, religion is a matter of personal faith not to be argued, but rather when based to good, to be wholly respected. 


This argument though was basically saying, not to reject this particular tenet of faith of a major religion because there is “not science or evidence” from which to reject.


But usually, don’t we look for science or evidence to accept or do something. 


In other words, the default usually is that if you want me to believe in something or somebody, prove to me why I should


It’s a bad argument when you ask me to prove to you why you shouldn’t believe in something. 


Very often this is the same argument people use in relationships and in organizations.


We do the same thing everyday or over and over again, and we often don’t ask ourselves why we do it this way or believe this is a good way of doing something…we just do it. 


And in fact, when someone new comes in with “fresh eyes” and questions why we do it a certain way or have we considered another approach, we ask them to prove to us with “science or evidence” why their way is better, rather than reexamine our own ways and means.


I’m not in any way questioning here G-d or religion, but rather simply our approach to self-examination, introspection, and betterment.


Don’t ask me to prove to you why you should reject something, but rather be prepared to defend your hypothesis. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Memorization To Thinking

From Memorization To Thinking

Our education system continues to suffer as we rank somewhere between 17th and 20th globally.

This means that our economy will assuredly suffer in the future from the global competition that strangles us.

Some prominent experts in the field, like Walter Isaacson, say that innovation occurs at the intersection of arts and humanities meeting science and math–and I really like that.

Personally, this inspires me to think about whether education reform is perhaps focused too much on the teachers, tests, and core curriculum, and less on changing the way we are approaching education in the first place.

For as long as I can remember (i.e. even when I was in school way back when), we based our education on lots of memorization–multiplication tables, periodic tables, vocabulary, history, and much more.

For those with great short term memory, you could do very well to memorize, spit it out, and forget it, so you can start all over again with the next great wave of facts and figures.

The emphasis on memorization of basics, is important in getting a foundation of knowledge, but seems to me to come at the expense of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

From my own experience and watching my kids in school, I often see boredom at raw facts, and excitement and self-satisfaction at figuring something out.

Yet, too often students are asked to do rote memorization and test accordingly, rather than really think.

You can’t memorize innovation, but rather you need to be able to apply learning.

In this day and age, where facts are but a Google search away, memorization is less important and real analytical, reasoning, problem solving, and communication skills (all anchored in solid core values) are more relevant to our national and personal success.

Yet, have our school caught up with this?

Unfortunately, it seems most have not, and perhaps that is one reason that many of our preeminent innovators are dropouts–from Steve Jobs to Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Ted Turner, etc.

Will we ever get away completely from memorizing the basics? Certainly not. Do we need to spend so much of K-12 education and even college years playing instant recall? What a waste!

The best experience that I remember from my younger daughter in school was her activities in the Ethics Bowl, where schools competed in analyzing ethically challenging situations and arguing the merits of the various sides. They learned to think and articulate their reasoning and conclusions and that is the best education that I can imagine.

Until we stop using education techniques from the dinosaur age–memorizing species and trying to recall where the eggs are buried, I fear we are doomed to subpar educational performance–in a boring, memorizing, and non-thinking way.

No wonder the kids want to develop the next great iPhone app and use their textbooks as a handy-dandy booster seat. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lansing Public Library)

Why Memorize?

Why Memorize?

G-d, I remember as a kid in school having to memorize everything for every class–that was the humdrum life for a schoolchild.

Vocabulary words, grammar rules, multiplication tables, algebraic and geometric equations, scientific formulas, historical events, famous quotes, states and capitals, presidents, QWERTY keys, and more.

It was stuff it in, spit it out, and basically forget it.

This seemed the only way to make room for ever more things to memorize and test out.

In a way, you really had to memorize everything, because going to a reference library and having to look up on the stacks of endless shelves or microfiche machines was a pain in the you know what.

Alternatively, the home dictionary, theasarus, and encyclopeda were indispensible, but limited, slow, dated, and annoying.

But as the universe of knowledge exploded, became ever more specialized, and the Internet was born, looking something up was a cinch and often necessary.

All of a sudden, memorization was out and critical thinking was in.

That’s a good thing, especially if you don’t want people who are simple repositories of stale information, but rather those who can question, analyze, and solve problems.

Albert Einstein said, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

But an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal by an old school teacher questions that logic.

David Bonagura Jr. proposes that critical thinking and analysis “is impossible without first acquiring rock-solid knowledge of the foundational elements upon which the pyramid of cognition rests.”

He says, “Memorization is the most effective means to build that foundation.”

As a kid, I hated memorization and thought it was a waste of time, but looking back I find that more things stayed in that little head of mine than I had thought.

I find myself relying on those foundations everyday…in writing, speaking, calculating, and even remembering a important story, principle, saying or even song lyrics.

These come out in my work–things that I thought were long lost and forgotten, but are part of my thinking, skills, and truly create a foundation for me to analyze situations and solve problems.

In fact, I wish I knew more and retained it all, but short-term memory be damned.

We can’t depend on the Internet for all the answers–in fact, someday, it may not be there working for us all, when we need it.

We must have core knowledge that is vital for life and survival and these are slowly being lost and eroded as we depend on the Internet to be our alternate brains.

No, memorizing for memorization’s sake is a waste of time, but building a foundation of critical skills has merits.

Who decides what is critical and worthwhile is a whole other matter to address.

And are we building human automatons full of worthless information that is no longer relevant to today’s lifestyles and problems or are we teaching what’s really important and useful to the human psche, soul, and evolution.

Creativity, critical thinking, and self-expression are vital skills to our ability to solve problems, but these can’t exist in a vacuum of valuable brain matter and content.

It’s great to have a readily available reference of world information at the tips of our fingertips online, but unless you want to sound (and act) like an idiot, you better actually know something too. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chapendra)

Analyzing The Law

Analyzing The Law

So I am back in school AGAIN (I’m a life-long learner), augmenting my not so slow-paced job.

Let’s just say that at this point, I recognize that the more I know, the more I don’t know anything.

The class that I am taking now is Cyberlaw, and while I did take law in business school–many moons ago–that was more focused on contracts and business organizations.

This class looks interesting from the perspective of the legal and regulatory structure to deal with and fight cybercrime, -terrorism, and -war.

One interesting thing that I already learned was a technique for evaluating legal cases called IRAC, which stands for:

– Issues–the underlying legal matters that the case is addressing.

– Rules–what legal precedents can be applied.

– Analysis–whether those rules apply or not, in this case.

– Conclusion–rendering an opinion on the case.

This is a structured way to analyze any legal case.

Of course, before you do these, you have to look at the facts–so that is the very first section.

The problem with that is then you have F-IRAC and that can definitely be taken the wrong way. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Counterterrorism Calendar

The Counterterrorism Calendar

The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) “leads our nations efforts to combat terrorism at home and abroad by analyzing the threat, sharing that information with our partners, and integrating all instruments of national power to ensure unity of effort.” The NCTC is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

Not since the playing cards used in the 2003 Iraqi invasion with the most-wanted identified on the cards have I seen the employ of such a common tool for sharing such important information–until now with the development by the NCTC of a Counterterrorism Calendar.

Typically, pin-up calendars have been devoted to beautiful models, Dilbert cartoons, and areas of personal interests and hobbies–such as cars, sports, aircraft, boats, or whatever.

I was impressed to see this concept used for sharing counterterrorism information; really, this is something that we should be mindful of every day–it’s about our safety and national security.

The counterterrorism calendar has both a website and a PDF download.

The website has an interactive timeline, map, and terrorist profiles–so you can learn about terrorism by time and space and those who commit the atrocities.

Timeline–you can view by month and day the major terrorist acts that have occurred–and many days have more than one terrorist act associated with it–and only seven days out of the whole calendar year have no terrorist acts listed–so for those who are focused on just 9/11, there is a whole calendar waiting for you to view.

Map–the map allows you to see the home base and geographical sphere of influence of many terrorist organizations–17 of them–along with a profile of each of those terrorist groups. There is also a button on the bottom of the page to see all the countries impacted with victims from 9/11–there are 91 countries shown with victims from this single catastrophic event alone.

Terrorists–the site has a list of terrorists with their profiles, identifying information, what they are wanted for, and amount of reward offered, or whether they have already been captured or killed. There is also a list of the 10 most wanted off to the right side of the page–with a rewards of $25 million listed for the #1 spot for Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The downloadable calendar has this information in a 160 page color-calendar–with a wealth of information for a calendar format like this–it is so large, I don’t think you could actually hang this calendar because no regular push pins could actually hold it.

So if you can pull yourself away from the stereotypical Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar, then you may actually be able to learn a lot about what our counterterrorism efforts are all about. 😉