What’s The Capital Of The United States Again?

world-map

So this is what the state of education in the United States has come to.


We were having dinner last night with another couple. 


They asked my daughter, “Do they still teach geography in school? They don’t teach that anymore do they?”


My daughter said, “Yeah, we learned a lot of geography” and gave some good examples both modern and ancient. 


So the guy says, “Well I don’t think a lot of other schools are teaching geography anymore, like they used to with us.”


Then he tells us a story how someone they know was asked what the capital of China was.


And he goes to me, “You know, you know [he emphasizes again], what the guy said?”


I looked at him a little puzzled by this question, like what could someone possibly answer to such a simple question, so I said, “Well I hope they said Beijing.”


He nods his head back and forth no, eyes closed, lips pursed, like we won’t believe what he was about to say.


Then, he says, “The guy said that the capital of China is…JAPAN!”


I looked at him my eyes squinting in disbelief, like that can’t be a for real answer, right?


“No,” he says, “That was what this guy thought, can you believe it?”


I said sort of laughing out loud, “Well maybe if World War II had ended differently that would be correct.”


It sort of reminds me of the famous goof when Clinton gave the Russians the now famous “Reset Button.”


It was supposed to indicate a thawing and renewal of peaceful relations, only the word printed on the button was “Peregruzka” meaning a more hostile “Overcharge.”


Oops! 


Maybe the overcharge referred to was prophetic of the West’s losing the strategic Crimea to the Russian blitzkrieg in 2014. How much did that mistake cost us?


I guess it’s not only STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) suffering in our educational system. 


How’s that standards based education reform “No Child Left Behind” (2001) working out? 


It definitely seems like some folks are most definitely being left behind if not completely lost in the system.


At this rate, I fear the capital of the United States is now Iran. 😉

>Information Stats to Scare

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We all know that we are generating and receiving more information then ever. Good thing? I like to think so, but sometimes, you can have too much of even a good thing.

Certainly, information is a strategic asset—its vital to making sound decisions, essential for effective communications, and critical for expanding our thinking, breaking paradigms, predictive analysis, and helping us to innovate.

But when information is too much, too unorganized, too often, or too disruptive, it’s value is diminished and organizations and individuals suffer negative effects.

Here are some information stats to scare from Harvard Business Review (September 2009):

  • 60%–Those who checked email in the bathroom (and 15% even admitted to checking it while in church)
  • 20—Average hours per week spent by knowledge workers on email
  • 85%–Computer users who would take a laptop on vacation
  • 1/3–Emails considered unnecessary
  • 300—Number of emails executive get a day
  • 24—Minutes for worker to recover from being interrupted by an email notification
  • 40—Number of websites employees visit on an average day
  • 26%People who want to delete all emails (declare “e-mail bankruptcy”) and start over
  • 3—Number of minutes before knowledge workers switch tasks
  • ~$1 trillion—Cost to economy of information overload
  • 85%Emails opened within 2 minutes
  • 27%Amount of workday eaten up by interruptions
  • 2.8 trillion gigabytes—Size of digital information by 2011
  • 31%Workers whose quality of life is worsened by email

Some interesting antidotes offered by HBR:

  • Balance—weigh cost-benefits before sending another email
  • Reply to all—disable the reply all button
  • Five sentences—keep email to 5 sentences or less
  • Allots—affix virtual currency from a fixed daily amount to email based on its importance
  • IM Savvy—program by IBM that senses when you are busy by detecting your typing patterns and tells would be interrupters that you are busy
  • BlackBerry Orphans—to regain the attention of their parents, children are flushing their parent’s BlackBerries down the toilet

While the issues and proposed assists for information overload are thought provoking (and somewhat humorous), what is fascinating to me is how technology and the speed of its advancement and adoption are positively, but also—less spoken about—negatively affecting people and organizations.

It seems like life keeps accelerating—faster and faster—but the quality is deteriorating in terms of fuzzy boundaries between work-life, weakening of our closest relationships, burn-out of our best and hardest working people, and unrealistic expectations of people to be always on—just like the email account that keeps spitting out new messages.

Somewhere along the line, we need to hit the proverbial “reset button” and recognize that information and communication are truly strategic assets and as such need to be used intelligently and with good measure or else we risk cheapening their use and limiting their effectiveness.