Review of “Moon Walking with Einstein”

Much of what’s been written about memory improvement by self-help gurus is tainted by scams, scammers and shady marketing. Checking on Amazon.com, I found 198,111 results for “memory books” making claims that they could teach me how to “never forget a telephone number or date” or “develop instant recall.” One book even pronounced that it would show the reader how to use the “other 90 percent” of your brain.

But memory improvement has also long been investigated by people whose’s interest in memory is grounded in science and whose research measures up to scientific standards. Academic psychologists have been interested in expanding our natural memory capacities ever since Hermann Ebbinghaus first brought the study of memory into the laboratory in the 1870s.

Moonwalking With Einstein, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Josh Foer is a book about the year the author spent trying to train his memory, and also trying to understand it – its inner workings, its natural deficiencies, it hidden potential. It’s about how the author learned firsthand that our memories are indeed improvable, with limits, and that the skills memory can be tapped by all of us. It’s also about the scientific study of expertise, and how researchers who study memory champions have discovered general principles of skill acquisition – secrets to improving at just about anything – from how mental athletes train their brains. It is not meant to be a self-help book, but the author hopes you’ll come away with a sense of how one goes about training one’s memory, and how memory techniques can be used in everyday life.

Historically, memory was at the root of all culture, but since humans began painting their memories on cave walls, we’ve gradually transitioned our natural memory to  a more complex system(s) of external memory aids – a process that has exploded in recent years. Imagine waking up tomorrow and discovering that there was nothing to read and all our “clouds” had disappeared. What would become of our lives and work? Literature, education, music, government, law, banking, politics, science, and math: Our world is built of externalized memories.

If memory is our means of preserving that which we consider most valuable, it is also painfully linked to our own shortcomings as humans. When we die, our memories die with us. In a sense, the elaborate system of externalized memory we’ve created is a way of living for ever. The externalization of memory not only changed how people think; it also led to a profound shift in the very notion of what it means to be intelligent. Internal memory becomes devalued. As our culture has transformed from one that was fundamentally based on internal memories to one that is fundamentally based on memories stored outside the brain, what are the implications for ourselves and for our society? What we’ve gained is indisputable. But what have we traded away? What does it mean that we’ve lost our memory?

Foer highlights his own memory training as he does research for the book and chronicles his own skill development as he readies for the U.S. Memory Championships. He also focuses on “memory athletes” he meets in his preparation and research. One such person is Ed Cooke, grand master memorizer from England. Cooke explained to Foer that the competitors see themselves as “participants in an amateur research program” whose aim was to rescue a long-lost tradition of memory training that had disappeared centuries ago. In our past remembering was everything. A trained memory was not just a handy tool, but also a fundamental to a worldly mind and personal intellect. What’s more, memory training was considered a form of character building, a way of developing the virtue of prudence and ultimately ethics. Only through memorizing, the thinking went, could ideas truly be incorporated into one’s psyche and their values absorbed. The techniques existed not just to memorize useless information like decks of playing cards, but also to etch into the brain foundational texts and ideas.

In the 15th century, Gutenberg turned books into mass-produced commodities, and eventually it was no longer all that important to remember what the printed page could remember for you. By the 19th century the skill are art of memory had been relegated to carnival sideshows and tacky self-help books. It is in the the 1990s that the art and skill of memory has been remembered, so to speak, do in-large part to making memory a competition according to Foer. 

Tony Buzan (British educator and self-styled guru) founded the World Memory Championship in 1991 and has since established national championships in more than a dozen countries. He says he has been working since the 1970s to get these memory techniques implemented in schools around the world. Buzan believes schools go about teaching all wrong. They pour vast amounts of information into students’ heads, but don’t teach them how to retain it. Memorizing has gotten a bad rap as a mindless way of holding onto facts just long enough to pass the next exam. But it’s not memorization that’s evil, says Buzan; it’s the tradition of boring rote learning that he believes has corrupted Western education. “What we have been doing over the last century is defining memory incorrectly, understanding it incompletely, applying it inappropriately, and condemning it because it doesn’t work and isn’t enjoyable,” Buzan argues. If rote memorization is a way of scratching impressions onto our brains through the brute force of repetition – the old “dill and kill” method – then the art of memory is a more elegant way of remembering through technique. It is faster, less painful, and produces longer lasting memories, Buzan says.

“The brain is like a muscle,” he said, and memory training is a form of mental workout. Over time, like any form of exercise, it’ll make the brain fitter, quicker, and more nimble. It’s an idea that dates back to the very origins of memory training. Roman orators argued that the art of memory – the proper retention and ordering of knowledge- was a vital instrument for the invention of new ideas. Today, the “mental workout” has gained great currency in the popular imagination. Brain gyms and memory boot camps are a growing fad, and brain training software was a $265 million industry in 2008, no doubt in part because of research that shows that older people who keep their minds active with crossword puzzles and chess can stave off Alzheimer’s and dementia, but mostly because of the baby boomer generation’s intense insecurity about losing their minds. But while there is much solid science to back up the dementia defying benefits of an active brain, Buzan’s exaggerated claims about the collateral effects of “brain exercise” should bring a great amount of skepticism. 

In his short story “Funes the Memorious,” Forge Luis Borges describes a fictional man with an infallible memory who is crippled by an inability to forget. He can’t distinguish between the trivial and the important. Borges’s character Funes can’t prioritize, can’t generalize. He is “virtually incapable of general, platonic ideas.” His memory was too good. Perhaps, as Borges concludes in his story, it is forgetting, not remembering, that is the essence of what makes us human. To make sense of the world, we must filter it. “To think,” Borges writes, “is to forget.”

Researchers have used MRI scanners on both memory athletes and normal folks (i.e. control group). Not a single significant structural difference in their brains turned up. The brains of the mental memory athletes appear to be indistinguishable from those of the normal folks (comparison group). What’s more, on every single test of general cognitive ability, the mental athletes’ scores came back well within the normal range. The memory champs weren’t smarter, and they didn’t have special brains. They are average people with average memories; they just practice how to consciously convert the information they are being asked to memorize into images, and distribute those images along familiar spatial journeys. 

On a personal note, I have used several of the memory approaches Foer highlights in the book and developed my own memory strategies. To date, I can consistently memorize 20 random playing cards in less than one minute (I assign each playing card a visual picture depicting is color and value and use the houses on my hometown street to organize them). I have a system to remember any combination of 4 digit numbers (I have assigned each number from 00 to 99 to my favorite athlete who wore or wears the number). For example to remember 243 I think of Jeff Gordon (drives the #24 race car) racing around the bases and running over Harmon Killebrew (former #3 for the Minnesota Twins) standing at home plate. Not Memory Championship caliber skills yet! The real work is memorizing and remembering your system. It takes lots of consistent practice, but their is much value in remembering. I highly recommend reading Moon Walking with Einstein.

http://joshuafoer.com/#moonwalking-with-einstein

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The Difference Between Successful and Very-Successful People

By Greg McKeown  Author, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

 I recently met with a capable and driven executive and asked him, “How are you?” He gave me a rapid-fire answer of all of the things he was doing: travelling, business updates, career changes and his children’s innumerable activities. It sounded like an intense but satisfying life.

Then I asked him again, “How are you really?” And the moment I did, he became emotional and the reality of his life just flooded out of him: his stress, his frustration of trying to juggle it all, his sense that he had no time to really think, or play with his children or enjoy any of it. The (cute) summary is this: his schedule was always filled but his life wasn’t fulfilled. What is less cute is the idea that he, and many of us, have been sold a bill of goods.

 We’ve been sold on a heroic ideal of the uber-man and super-women who kill themselves saying yes to everyone, sleeping four hours a night and straining to fit everything in. How often have you heard people say, “I am so busy right now!” But it almost seemed like a back-door brag.

 But it’s a bogus badge of honor. It suffocates our ability to think and create. It holds otherwise hard working, capable people back from our highest contribution. Below are a few of the myths of success that hold us back from becoming very successful.

 Myth 1: Successful people say, “If I can fit it in, I should fit it in.”

Truth: Very successful people are absurdly selective.

As Warren Buffet is credited with having said, “The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say no to almost everything.”

As I wrote in a piece for Harvard Business Review, this means, “Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones.”

 Myth 2: Successful people sleep four hours a night.

Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.

In K. Anders Ericsson’s famous study of violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as the “10,000 hour rule,” Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. What is less well known is that the second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good ones was actually sleep. The best violinists averaged 8.6 hours of sleep in every 24 hour period.

 Myth 3: Successful people think play is a waste of time.

Truth: Very successful people see play as essential for creativity.

Just think of Sir Ken Robinson, who has made the study of creativity in school’s his life’s work. He has observed that instead of fueling creativity through play, schools actually kill it: “We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it’s impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies. Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement.”

 Myth 4: Successful people are the first ones to jump in with an answer.

Truth: Very successful people are powerful listeners.

As the saying goes, the people who talk the most don’t always have the most to say. Powerful listeners get to the real story. They find the signal in the sound. They listen to what is not being said.

 Myth 5: Successful people focus on what the competition is doing.

Truth: Very successful people focus on what they can do better.

The “winningest coach in America” is Larry Gelwix, the former Head of the Highland High School rugby team. His team won 418 games with only 10 losses in over 36 years. One of the key questions he challenged his players to ask was “What’s important now?” He didn’t want his players getting distracted with what the other team was doing. He wanted them to play their own game.

Last week I took a tour of the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts. One of the quotes there grabbed my attention. John F. Kennedy said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

The myth here is celebrated in modern culture: it’s someone who is capable, driven and wants to win and be popular. They have been rewarded for their willingness to take it all on, fit it all in and just make it happen. They believe doing more is better than doing less. I call this type of person a Nonessentialist.

 Still, there is a new hero in our story. She asks, “What is essential?” and is willing to eliminate everything else. He says no to the less important activities so they can give themselves fully to the few things that really matter. It is a path that takes courage. It may require making the tradeoff between short-term popularity and long-term respect. It leads to a greater sense of control and even joy. But as an added benefit it also seems to be the thing that distinguishes the successful from the very successful.

Interview with #IAedchat

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In 2012 Bettendorf, IA High School Principal Jimmy Casas made the conscientious decision to become a more connected learner through social media in order to grow a more meaningful network, expand his knowledge of available resources to share with his team and gain greater insight on educational topics. He connected with Fairfield, IA High School Principal Aaron Becker and Bettendorf High School Assistant Principal Matt Degner to start #IAedchat via Twitter as a way to bring Iowa educators and others from across the globe together on a weekly basis to discuss educational topics. On January 6, 2013, they hosted the first #IAedchat and the response has been overwhelming! Jimmy states, “We are pleased to help advance these conversations and connect great grass-roots educators together!”

 In January of 2014 Montezuma, IA Superintendent Dave Versteeg of Leaders on Thinking proposed to Jimmy a chat session titled, “Inside the Mind of Successful Leaders” which would highlight the subjects of leadership, decision-making and thinking.  Not only would the chat itself be insightful, Dave would also summarize the tweets into an interview for this blog, Leaders on Thinking.

 On March 9, 2014 Dave facilitated this session and #IAedchat became a “person” so to speak. The individual tweets given during the session have been combined and composed into a single answer to the chat questions giving #IAedchat a voice, personality and point of view on leadership, decision-making and thinking.

 Twitter hashtag: #IAedchat, “Inside the Mind of Successful Leaders”

Moderators: Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy), Aaron Becker (@Aaron_Becker32)  & Matt Degner (@mwdegner) Guest Moderator: Dave Versteeg (@montezumaschool)

#IAedchat can be followed every Sunday night at 8 pm (central time).

L on T: What goes through your mind when you have a difficult decision to make?

#IAedchat: When I have a difficult decision I try to keep what is best for students at the forefront—that is the first thing I think about. It is also important to consider how the decision aligns with the mission, vision and goals of the district and my school. I find it very helpful to visit with others, especially those in my professional learning network (PLN), to find different viewpoints concerning unintended consequences and short-term vs. long-term results. I don’t want to be rushed in making a difficult decision but when it is made I stick with it and own it.

L on T: Fill-in-the-blanks: I use to think _________, now I think ___________.

#Iaedchat:

  • I used to think it was all about teaching, now I think it is all about learning.
  • I used to think points, homework and grades motivated students, now I think students are motivated by success in learning.
  • I used to think that leadership was for a few, now I think leadership is for everyone.
  • I used to think I could do everything by myself, now I think collaboration is always better.
  • I used to think I knew a lot, now I think I have a lot to learn.
  • I used to think it was wrong to fail, now I think it’s the first step in learning.
  • I used to think it was all about me, now I think it’s about everyone else.

I like this question because it reminds me it’s okay to change my mind. Changing my mind shows that I am constantly learning and open to better information and perspectives.

L on T: What specific strategies or ideas do you use for reflecting?

#IAedchat: My favorite way to reflect is writing. Blogging has transformed my reflective process and makes me accountable. I also like to read others’ blogs to stretch my own thinking and point of view. I have become more intentional about using my PLN for reflective conversations. I am looking forward to warmer weather because exercising outside is a great way for me to reflect and disconnect electronically for a few minutes each day. The key to reflecting for me is that it be intentional and consistent each day.

L on T: How does your use of technology improve your thinking or distract you?

#IAedchat: Both, but I think it helps more than it distracts. Using technology improves my thinking because it connects me with many different perspectives in an efficient and effective manner and improves my ability to gather resources and collaborate with others. I welcome and use the power of technology to inform, connect, reflect, inquire, share and collaborate. However, at times I become overwhelmed with information, ideas and options. I can waste a lot of time researching and gathering information because technology makes it easy to do so. Being constantly connected can be exhausting at times too. I have to learn how to unplug more.

L on T: When presented with failure, how do effective leaders respond?

#IAedchat: I am reminded of something I said earlier about changing my mind. I use to think it was wrong to fail, now I think it’s the first step in learning. It isn’t that I expect failure and then just accept it. Effective leadership is about embracing the chance to learn, grow and move myself and organization ahead. Effective leaders take calculated and strategic risks. Failure and mistakes are inherent with risk taking. The personal characteristics of optimism, grit and perseverance are so important for me to keep my perspective in risk taking. I am also reminded of what I said in a previous question about reflecting. It’s my mistakes that I most reflect upon so I can figure out how to learn from them, avoid them next time and model how to deal with a mistake. I find failure much more motivating than success. I have to be careful not to let the power of my position (as an administrator or teacher) give me the moral high ground to expect more of others than I do of myself when it comes to mistakes and how I treat those that make them. I want to encourage risk taking in my organization and creative solutions to difficult problems. If I am viewed as punishing those that take risks on difficult tasks, pretty soon no one will want to try.

L on T: How and or when do effective leaders challenge the process so thoughts become actions?

#IAedchat: When results align with my actions and my actions align with my thoughts I will be the most effective as a leader. I have to be ready, willing and able to challenge any process, any practice and any tradition that is not in the best interest of the students based on the results, core values and vision we aspire for. This question makes me think back to why intentional and consistent reflection is so critical to being an effective leader. Challenging a time honored tradition needs to be more than a leader saying, “I think we need to change things up.” The most effective leaders I know have evidence (or lack of evidence) to support a challenge.  He/she has the trust and credibility with staff and students to support the change and he/she understands the big picture of change and how to move the organization from where it is to where it should be. Sometimes this is a messy process but incremental change is progress.

L on T: Great leaders seek to make an impact. How will you strive to influence others to continue the journey to positive change?

#IAedchat: The best way for me to influence others is through my relationships. I have to model change and how to deal with it. Creating a culture of collaboration and transparency is vital to having influence. I don’t want top down hierarchical influence but influence that flows in all directions, to and from each person and student in our school. I think leaders need to be credible to influence others. Credible means authentic and trustworthy. I have learned that people want credible leaders not perfect leaders. No one expects a perfect leader, people want their leaders to be real and authentic. Authenticity is how leaders gain respect. Being who you say you are, that’s credibility. The greatest way to influence others is to be a person that is trusted. When I am trusted I can do things at such a faster pace because people don’t have to go through the questions of who is this person and why is he/she doing this.

How The Best Entrepreneurs Think

 

By Paul B. Brown, Contributor to Forbes.com

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(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

If you just observed the actions entrepreneurs take, you would conclude there isn’t that much to be gained from studying them. Each entrepreneur’s behavior is as idiosyncratic as they are. You would have to be Larry Page and Sergey Brin to start GoogleOprah Winfrey to found Harpo Productions.

But—and it is a huge but—if you look at how they reason, you see remarkable similarities.

The process just about all of them follows in creating their companies looks like this. They:

1. Figure out what they really want to do; what gets them excited. In other words, what is it that they really desire.

2. Take a small step toward that goal.

3. Pause after taking that small step to see what they have learned.

4. Build off that learning and take another small step.

5. Pause after taking that step.

6. Then they build off what they learned and take another small step…

If we were to reduce it to a formula, it would be, as we have written about before, Act. Learn. Build Repeat.

In other words, they don’t spend a lot of time planning or playing “what if” games. You never truly know how the universe is going to react until you give it something to react to.

So, in the face of an unknown future, entrepreneurs act. They deal with uncertainty not by trying to analyze it, or preparing for every contingency, or predicting what the outcomes will be. Instead, they act, learn from what they find, and act again.

Three things follow, all of them good

There are three wonderful benefits of taking this approach.

–You can get started right away.  You don’t do a lot of planning and guessing about what the market might want. You go out into the marketplace and find out.

–You don’t need a lot of resources. Remember, the best entrepreneurs are taking small steps toward their goals.  That means they just need sufficient resources to take the next step.

–You can quickly respond to market needs.  Because they are moving rapidly, and don’t have a lot of resources committed, they can move to satisfy customer needs almost as quickly as those needs appear.

It is a simple, straight-forward approach.

And what worked for these people should work for you.

Being Assertive – Leading a Difficult Team

This is a guest post by Eve Pearce

Leading a Difficult Team

Effective leaders who commence a new job in a company with a difficult team where blaming, gossiping and unresolved conflicts are the order of the day, can certainly have a challenge on their hands. Establishing a better working environment where goals and roles are clear, opinions are accepted and conflict is viewed in its most positive light, should be the priority of any new leader. The following strategies can help when it comes to leading a challenging team to a greater level of success:

  • Identifying Roles, Goals and Procedures – The Triumvirate of Good Leadership: One of the characteristic flaws of unsuccessful teams is an environment in which bickering, gossip or blame are key ways of dealing with tense situations. Often, this ambiance is caused by is a lack of clarity as to the roles of each staff member and the precise procedures that should be followed if goals are to be achieved. Conflict can arise, for instance, when one member of a team assumes another is responsible for a task the other worker does not believe to be their own. One of the first duties of a new leader is to establish clear (written) rules of the duties of each post. The procedure required to use to carry out particular tasks should also be clearly laid out (a leader can ask workers for suggestions that will increase speed and efficiency), and workers should always know the ultimate goal of the company. Clarity in what is expected not only leads to less errors; it also makes it easier to identify parts of particular procedures which are flawed, so that effective solutions can be more easily identified.
  • Rating Team Members: Leaders can benefit greatly by rating each worker’s performance. Relevant criteria which will need a score include each staff member’s technical abilities, the quality of the work they actually produce, their ability to meet goals on time and their level of teamwork. Those who rate highest should be those who do not just comply with their job, but also display initiative and creativity in the face of problems and challenging issues. The lowest scorers should go to those who foster an attitude of blame, negativity and gossip, even if they are talented or highly functional.
  • Resolving Conflicts: When rating staff, you may find that particular members of the team to be causing the great majority of conflicts. Often, these members can be highly competent yet simply lack conflict resolution skills. Holding workshops on conflict resolution can be very useful in tense teams. At the outset, staff should be taught the value of conflicts; often, it is when mistakes are made that crucial flaws in procedure or roles, are exposed. Additionally, the culture of ‘triangling’  should be avoided. A typical example of ‘triangling’ is when, worker A has a conflict with worker B and reports their annoyance to worker C, or immediately bypasses worker B by complaining to you, the leader. Concerned parties to a conflict should be encouraged to attempt to solve issues between themselves with the spirit of positive resolution. Some strategies include keeping calm during talks, using assertive language and avoiding insults and sarcasm. Attempting to lower stress levels at the outset is vital in order to avoid conflicts escalating. A few tips to share with staff include:

     * Focusing on the issue at hand (not mentioning past mistakes etc.)

     * Focusing on solving the issue rather than on being right.

     * Selecting the right issues to deal with: Staff should be discouraged from pointing out mistakes made by others too often; in a well functioning team, members often overlook oversights or errors committed by others, taking over when required without much fuss being made. Otherwise, team members can feel defensive and fail to respond to constructive feedback. These strategies are not exclusive to workplace conflicts; they work equally well during personal conflicts, so staff will probably be appreciative of being able to take skills gleaned at work home. Interestingly, these techniques are also used in the most challenged families (those who have been subject to drug addiction or abuse, for instance). In states like Connecticut, New York or California, for instance, many rehab centers regularly employ conflict resolution in an attempt to heal not just an addict, if not his/her entire family. In this sense, work teams are similar to families; one troublesome member can often reflect larger problems plaguing an entire team.

  • Providing Feedback: If your team is not accustomed to receiving regular feedback, hold an initial meeting explaining that your intention is for the entire team to move forward. Ask each staff member to write down the things they feel they do well, as well as tasks they feel they may need help with. Likewise, ask them if they feel that anything in current procedures or anything you as a boss are doing, is stopping them from feeling motivated or completing their tasks efficiently. Explain that the ultimate goal of each feedback session is to come up with an action plan to improve problem areas. If the team is particularly conflictive, it might be wise to ask them to avoid using conflictive language (comprising statements such as “You always…” “Why don’t you ever” etc.) in favor of assertive but non-confrontational language).

Quotes from Leaders on Thinking Interviews

 

“To have thousands of fellow minds in your pocket via a mobile device is to have an immensely unfair advantage over humans who think alone.”  - Kevin Honeycutt

“I don’t face big decisions. All decisions to me are big and small. I pursue ideas that excite me.”
- Yong Zhao

“I encourage our management team to make lots of mistakes and learn from them.”
- Phil Harrington

“I believe good thinking doesn’t always have to be followed by immediate action. The right time could be at a later date.”  - Paul Rhoads

“I see things in shades of grey and keep working for more complete information. This can frustrate those who see things as black and white, but it helps me gain a better understanding of the situation.” 
- Ben Allen

“The most successful people I know got that way by ignoring the race to find the elusive, there’s-only-one-and-no-one-has-found-it right answer and instead had the guts to look at the infinite landscape of choices and pick a better problem instead.” 
- Seth Godin*

“One thing that leads to poor thinking is thinking in isolation, and believing I, alone, have all the answers.”  - Dan Smith

“I was given two months before I took the CEO job to do whatever I wanted. I used that time to learn where the business should go by talking with countless individuals to find out what they were doing that worked. This gave me the confidence to recommend significant changes.”  Bob Demeulenaere

“I used to think in terms of black and white, from an ideological point of view with logical decisions. Now I think in terms of Venn diagrams and blended models. Less and less ideologically and more pragmatic about how to get the goal accomplished.”  – Jason Glass

“Would you make a better decision if you waited 24 hours? That rule would avoid a good deal of grief for many people. That said, a commitment to avoiding mistakes is a prescription for paralysis. Sometimes one must, as Luther said, ‘sin boldly’ — take the risk, make the decision, and live with the consequences, learning from mistakes along the way.”   Doug Reeves

“I used to think organizations were about tasks and execution, but now I think they’re about relationships.”    Mark Putnam

“Leaders who are out of touch with reality will make very poor decisions in isolation. You must be in-touch and in-tune with your organization, the circumstances of the decision, or the political landscape. Some can do this more on their own than others.”  – Bud Hockenberg

“Our company maintains visuals on our goals to constantly track progress. We want to know at all times if we are meeting, exceeding or falling short of our targets. You need to keep the big goals out there, but you need the metrics to see if you are making appropriate progress.”  Mary Andringa

“The most critical thing is to enjoy swimming in data (e.g., prior literature, prior thinking, prior evidence), surround yourself with excellent critiques, and remember that 1 of the 100 ideas you have today is worth revisiting tomorrow – if only you could work out which one.”    John Hattie

“For me, leadership is about staying connected. I most enjoy getting out, meeting people, meeting recruits and seeing first hand what is going on. I have to invest time in the people of my organization to get the most out of them.”    Tim Orr

“I use to think I needed to know all the answers, and then I thought I needed to ask the right questions. Now I think, and know, I have to live with some mystery. There are some things we will not be able to understand. They are, and always will be, a mystery.”   Kevin Korver

 

Interview with Kevin Honeycutt

Name: Kevin Honeycutt
Current Position: Technology integrationist and staff developer

Kevin Honeycutt is a technology integrationist and a staff developer from Central Kansas. He spent 13 years teaching K-12 art, and now travels the country and the world sharing ideas with educators.

L on T: Where and when do you think?

Honeycutt: It seems I use to have lots of time to think, and then work on projects. Now I try to find time to think in between projects and work. I try to use every minute – walking, sitting in airports, in the car, etc.

L on T: What goes through your mind when you have a big decision to make and how do you make it?

Honneycutt: I try to make the big decision based on what people’s needs are. I do a lot of research and become an “idea chameleon”, where my ideas match and align with the needs of the people I am working with or for.

L on T: Fill-in-the-blanks, I used to think _________ now I think___________.

Honeycutt: I used to think my own abilities would get me through. Now I think I am at the mercy of the world. As I have gotten older, I have realized what works best is what feels right and not always what is planned. I have been forced, and choose, to do projects and trainings that I didn’t think I should or could do. But, I have been able to do so. Perspective is an arrogant gift. Teachers should not build the perfect classroom, but build it as they go to better meet the needs of the students.

L on T: Do your best ideas and thoughts come from thinking alone, with a group of people or some combination of both? How do you work this out?

Honeycutt: To have thousands of fellow minds in your pocket via a mobile device is to have an immensely unfair advantage over humans who think alone. The group inspires me, but then I take the ideas back to the studio in my brain. I want my ideas to be like an art form on a canvas, so that they can be different to different people. The most powerful ideas, as with art, are sometimes the simplest. I will take an idea, often unedited, and throw it out to the masses through social media for their feedback and editing. I will do this several times. Sometimes I will even drop an idea and come back to it years later.

L on T: What specific strategies or techniques do you use to improve your thinking and creativity?

Honeycutt: Predicting and anticipating trends and outcomes is an important skill to develop. Attentialition – doing something consciously over and over until you have an unconscious ability to recognize and see something important to you. I have trained my mind to be inventive in this way, seeking creativity and attention to details that matter to me.

L on T: What new projects are you working on that you would like to share?

Honeycutt: Art Snack is an on-line sharing of art lessons.

Check out Kevin’s web site for a plethora of tech integration information and ideas – http://kevinhoneycutt.org/
Follow Kevin on Twitter, @kevinhoneycut

Interview with Yong Zhao

Name: Yong Zhao

Current Position: Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon and Professor in the Department of Educational Measurement, Policy, and Leadership
Past Positions: Professor at Michigan State University and executive director of the Confucius Institute
Book List (currently reading and wants to read): The Coming Prosperity, by Phillip Auerswald

Dr. Yong Zhao is an internationally known scholar, author, and speaker. His works focuses on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has designed schools that cultivate global competence, developed computer games for language learning, and founded research and development institutions to explore innovative education models. He has published over 100 articles and 20 books. His latest book, World Class Learners, has won several awards including the Society of Professors of Education Book Award (2013), Association of Education Publishers’ (AEP) Judges’ Award, and Distinguished Achievement Award in Education Leadership (2013).

L on T: What goes through your mind when faced with a big decision? In the end, how do you decide?

Zhao: I don’t face big decisions. All decisions to me are big and small. I pursue ideas that excite me.

L on T: Do your best ideas and thoughts come from thinking alone, with a group of people or some combination of both? How does this play out?

Zhao: Most of my ideas come from talking with others and then pursing the idea deeper alone. I play with ideas a lot, trying to see as many connections as possible.

L on T: What specific strategies or ideas can you share with us on how to improve one’s creative and entrepreneurial thinking?

Zhao: Ask the question: ‘How can I be valuable to others?’ and then decide on a path, with action to follow.

L on T: Any current or upcoming projects, books or work you would like to highlight?

Zhao: I am working on a couple of new books including Counting What Counts: Redefining Educational Outcomes and Why China Has the Best and Worst Education in the World.

TV Character Quotes on Thinking

Some infamous advice as given by TV characters.
Keep checking back as we will add to the list.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could ask a woman what she’s thinking?”
“What a world that would be if you could just ask a woman what she’s thinking.”
“You know, instead I’m like a detective. I gotta pick up clues. The whole thing’s a murder investigation.”

Jerry Seinfeld and George Costanza, from the show Seinfeld

“Would you [women] like to know what men are thinking? The truth, the honest truth of what they are thinking? …Nothing!”
Jerry Seinfeld

“I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn.”
Francis Underwood, character from the show House of Cards

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch though of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas

“Give me a minute, I’m good. Give me an hour, I’m great. Give me six months, I’m unbeatable.”
Hannibal Smith, character from the show The A-Team

“You can think I’m wrong, but that’s no reason to quit thinking.”
Dr. Gregory House, character from the show House

“Imagination is the most important thing the human mind has.”
MacGyver, character from the show MacGyver

“Just remember, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and the wrong way is to keep trying to make everybody else do it the right way.”
Colonel Potter, character from the show M.A.S.H.

“You don’t get to be two time non-consecutive district salesman of the year without thinking inside the box. That’s right I said inside. You know why? Cause while everyone is chasing each other around outside the box, you know what the box is? Empty.”
Phil Dunphy, character from the show Modern Family

Festus: “I just thought . . .”
Doc Adams: “Don’t think! That’s when you get dangerous.”

Festus Haggen and Dr. Galen ‘Doc’ Adams, characters from the show Gunsmoke

CNN 10: Thinkers

Great advances come from great ideas. And great ideas come from great thinkers.
CNN is honoring the visionaries whose ideas are shaping our future by highlighting 10 of their favorite thinkers in science and technology. These are people who have shoved conventional wisdom aside and are changing the world with their insights and innovations.
For the complete CNN story on these 10 thinkers, including specific information and details of their ideas go to: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2013/10/tech/cnn10-thinkers/?hpt=hp_c3
Caroline Buckee
ROLE – Epidemiologist, Harvard School of Public Health
AGE – 34
IDEA – Using cell phone data to track and fight malaria
QUOTE – “You can’t make headway without thinking about a problem for a long time, in collaboration with smart researchers from different fields, as well as reading a lot. But sometimes that hard work reaches fruition or comes together at a random time once you have let thoughts settle down.”
Regina Dugan
ROLE – Senior vice president, head of Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP) group at Google, Motorola Mobility
AGE – 50
IDEA – Pushing high-wire innovation by embracing the risk of failure
QUOTE – “Our lives are so full of activity and ‘chatter’ it’s difficult to find quiet time… Those are the moments that are the most creative for me. The location is less important than the choice to turn other things off. Because I find that the quietest times of my life speak the loudest.”
Tony Fadell
ROLE – CEO, Nest Labs
AGE – 44
IDEA – To revolutionize home energy consumption
QUOTE – “That’s really where the inspiration comes from – this frustration I have with products that really have meaning to me and I wanted to go off and fix them and make them better.”
Mary Lou Jepsen
ROLE – Head of Display Division, Google X
AGE – 48
IDEA – Creating the next generation of computer displays
QUOTE – “We aren’t afraid to ask questions from radically different perspectives, rethink solutions from the ground up and have a healthy disregard for the impossible.”
Sugata Mitra
ROLE – Professor of educational technology, Newcastle University
AGE – 61
IDEA – Bringing free online education to impoverished children
QUOTE – “For making real conceptual jumps, one needs to think in really different ways and to mix up things in one’s head.”
Elon Musk
ROLE – CEO, chief technical officer and chairman at SpaceX, Tesla Motors and SolarCity
AGE – 42
IDEA – Privatizing space flight, building a better electric car
QUOTE – “It’s not as though I was convinced that it would all work. I thought, ‘Well, it probably won’t work, but it’s worth a try because the outcome is important.’”
Andrew Ng
ROLE – Co-Founder, Coursera
AGE – 37
IDEA – To give everyone free access to top university courses
QUOTE – “A lot of my best work has been done on one lucky white sofa.”
Jennifer Pahlka
ROLE – Deputy CTO, White House
AGE – 44
IDEA – Creating tech tools that make government more efficient and responsive
QUOTE – “That space of being between things where you can see how one group of people see things and you is really where I get my energy. I think that intersection is very fertile for me, finding the best of both worlds.”
Bre Pettis
ROLE – Co-Founder and CEO, MakerBot
AGE – 41
IDEA – Bringing 3-D printing to the masses
QUOTE – “We innovate so others may innovate. Seeing what people do with the MakerBots we put out into the world is a constant source of inspiration.”
Shyam Sankar
ROLE – Director of Forward Deployed Engineering, Palantir
AGE – 31
IDEA – Mining big data to fight injustices such as financial fraud and human trafficking
QUOTE – “If you really want to solve problems in the world you have to be committed to going out into the world.”