Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Whoa......Wait a Minute, Haven't I Heard That Comment Before?

"Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. The government won't work without it. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

Thus responded Barry Goldwater to John Dean in a telephone conversation in November 1994. (From: Conservatives Without Conscience, by John Dean) The comment was referring to some individuals who exerted influence over conservative thinking in the United States.

"Believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise"--where have I heard something like that before? Read that comment from today's perspective and you might assume it is referring to Islamic extremists.

And yet when I consider some of the terrible things that have been done in the name of Christianity--in or out of the political arena--I have to admit the comment applies all too well to groups professing Christian beliefs. I can understand why some good people would abandon religion all together, or adopt a philosophy that is less authoritarian in it's enforcement. Let's face it, if you believe you are carrying out God's will what choice do you have? You either obey or disobey.

I would respond that if those professing to be Christian were truly living their religion they would be more tolerant, loving, and forgiving. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone." But there are numerous stories in the Bible where God, through his people or in his fierce anger, wipes out a specific group of people. We're His creations so He can do that. As for me I would want to make pretty sure I was doing what God wants before I went around eliminating or hurting people.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Think Like a Dandelion

Cory Doctorow uses reproductive strategies of mammals and dandelions to make a point about how information and influence are distrbuted in the virtual world. Mammals generally exercise much more control over their offspring than do dandelions. Obviously most mammals wouldn't survive if they adopted the dandelion approach, but the point is our own Internet creations are not the same as our physical offspring.

Still the unresolved question remains, "How do you earn a living if you give away your creations?" I don't have the ultimate solution, but it seems to me the wider your sphere of influence the greater your opportunity to translate what you do into cash flow of some sort.

Nine Inch Nails made its last two creative efforts available for free over the Internet. It's album The Slip is not only available for free, but the group also encourages people to share it, use it and change it. I would never have purchased a NIN CD at the store, and I probably would not have purchased its music over the Internet, but I know the group now and I'm more likely to complete a money transaction in the future. So, has the increased exposure offset the lost revenue from selling music through traditional formats? I don't know. Has it increased the groups sphere of influence? I think so.
The Internet is still relatively new; most people and businesses try to force the ways of commerce from the past on to this new and really uncharted medium. I believe we are on the threshold of significant changes in the way we interact and conduct business on the Internet.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Made to Stick

Why is it some ideas lodge themselves in our societal memory and others--even good ones--don't? Sometimes, the idea that sticks isn't even true. The Great Wall of China is the only man made structure visible from space; Coca Cola will rot your bones; razor blades in Halloween candy have all been part of our culture for years. True or not almost everyone knows these stories.

What is it that makes these stories memorable? Are there any common themes to ideas that stick? Will these themes help our ideas stick?

Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick have done exhaustive research on what makes ideas stick and as it turns out there are several common characteristics that may be applied to any idea or course of study.

So what helps an idea stick? The authors identify six concepts that make ideas more stickable: Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and in the form of a Story. The book develops each of these concepts. A stickable idea may not use every element, but the more it uses the better.

Most text books and lectures have not been particularly strong in using the Made to Stick principles. As we move into the Information era this will surely change. If you think about it, how information is presented makes all the difference, regardless of the idea or subject matter.

With the Internet virtually everything we know is available or will be available on-line. Unlike the classroom setting the Internet gives people a choice. Information presented in the simplest, most understandable and most attractive form will get top priority. People will learn rather than be taught much of what they know. Today knowledge can be broadly categorized in two forms: that which we know and that which we know where to find. As mankind's knowledge base continues to expand, knowing how to find information we need will become increasingly more important.

Our school system was developed during the Agricultural era and most of the teaching methods are still from that era. Back then most people did not continue on with advanced learning. Only the brightest and highly motivated continued to learn. Information presenters--teachers--had very little incentive to wrap their knowledge in an attractive format. Presenters of today and tomorrow will compete for the minds of the learners. Presenters who employ the principles in Made to Stick will have the advantage.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Big Picture

If you heard only of Ben Carson's childhood you would be amazed to learn he is now the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

The inner city of Detroit, Michigan was his home and as a youth he gained the nickname of "Dummy." He looked destined to live the fate of too many that grow up in such circumstances. His mother had other ideas; she curtailed TV watching and required her boys to read two books a week and write reports on them. (They didn't know it at the time, but she couldn't read the reports.)

There are at least three ways to learn: visual (seeing things in writing), auditory (lectures, audio-tapes), and kinesthetic (learning by doing, hands-on). At school Ben had been in an auditory environment and things weren't sinking in. Reading turned out to be his strong point and a new world opened up to him. Within a year he went from the class dummy to the top of the class. He graduated from high school with honors went on to Yale University and then received his medical training at the University of Michigan.

At the outset of his medical schooling he again struggled to learn the material. His councilor even suggested that medical school might not be for him; he knew better. He stopped attending most of the class lectures and immersed himself in his medical texts and any other related texts or materials he could get his hands on. In addition, he made a point of attending all lab sessions to get the hands-on experience. His dramatic improvement shocked not only his councilor, but himself as well.

The Big Picture is not about Ben Carson the neurosurgeon, it's about what was required to take Ben Carson from what was--by all outward appearances--a no account black kid in the slums of Detroit to the top of his field in the medical profession and then beyond.

The principles he used will help us all succeed in whatever we do in life. These principles transcend race, religion, personal background and political correctness. We don't alway like to hear them, but they are indispensible just the same: working hard; accepting hardships and working through them; refusing to accept the "I'm a victim someone should do something" mentality so prevalent in our society; doing things differently if the established way does not work for you; being nice to people and doing good things for them just because you can; and, if you are a parent, accepting the responsibility and realizing that being a parent is more important than anything else you may do (even brain surgery).

Finally, Ben Carson is a Christian he has no reservations about that and he has a deep abiding faith in God and believes it has made all he does possible.

Stumble Upon Toolbar