Posts Tagged ‘responsibility’

The End Of Fooling

December 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

That must be good news, surely – the end of fooling.  However, where fooling ends is not necessarily the end of fooling.

In a 1939 radio address, President Franklin D Roosevelt uttered these words:

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.

This is undoubtedly true in principle.  A fiction does not become a fact simply through the process of being repeated.  But the evidence indicates that it is not always true in practice, particularly where an individual and management of their own behaviour is concerned.

Unless we are vigilant, monitoring and managing our behaviour, the ‘lies’ we employ can and do transform into our ‘truths’.  Fooling ends because we no longer consider ourselves to be fooling and that is, perhaps, the ultimate foolishness.  The Doobie Brothers acknowledged this in their – What A Fool Believes – when they sang that ‘what a fool believes, he see’:

Fooling can end when we ‘see the light’.  However, fooling can also end when we hide the light so deeply that we forget that this particular light exists, replacing it with the false illumination produced by our deceptive behaviour.

The approach known as bounded rationality does not mean that our rationality is applied in leaps and bounds; it means that our rationality can be constrained.  Our rationality is not bound (in the sense of ‘heading for’) the right reason or understanding.  Rather, it is bound (in the sense of ‘tied up’) to just a slice of the situation we find ourselves in.  Within this situational slice, it is both easy and tempting to distort things to suit your needs and then consider this distortion as truth.  Are lies the new honesty?

What a fool believes, he sees.  If you see it often enough, what you see eventually becomes true for you.  The end of fooling is determined by what you remember and what you forget.  Will you remember to not believe your own lies or will you forget that your own lies are (and will always remain) lies?  Do you repeatedly transform your own lies into truths?

Fooling Permits

November 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Deception, whether you apply it to yourself or you adopt it in your behaviour towards others, washes through and throughout daily life.  It is such a common occurrence that ‘tis nobler wonders whether the deception process requires regulation, perhaps through the issuing of fooling permits.  With such a permit, fooling yourself or others would be permitted under certain conditions.  Would you queue for a licence to fool?

Of course you wouldn’t – it’s a foolish idea.  But there are serious issues involved if you view ‘permits’ in the tile of this post as a verb and not a noun.

What does fooling permit?  The short answer is that fooling permits foolishness.  A display of ‘fooling’ produces (negative) consequences beyond the display itself – a ‘fooling’ incident’ can degenerate into a foolish game:

Let’s use the evidence from a recent study to illustrate how ‘fooling’ can lead to foolishness.  For once, ‘tis nobler doesn’t need to go beyond the report’s heading to make the point (emphasis added):

Ironic Effects of Dietary Supplementation

Illusory Invulnerability Created by Taking Dietary Supplements Licenses Health-Risk Behaviors

People who took what they thought were dietary supplements expressed an intention to do less exercise, a greater intention to pursue pleasurable activities and made poorer food choices than control subjects.  The explanatory mechanism was the perceived (but illusory) invulnerability bestowed by the supplements.

Relative to the benefits of a balanced diet, there is always the chance of some ‘fooling’ to support supplements.  But the most worrying aspect of this study is that this ‘fooling’ behaviour promoted foolish behaviour; it’s as though supplements can be seen as validating an unbalanced diet and an unbalanced lifestyle.

Within the borders of the ‘fooling’, (self-) deception can be unhelpful through to upsetting and destructive.  However, ‘fooling’ need not stay within its borders and this is how the original (self-) deception creates more problems.

The question remains – who are you fooling?  Following on from this question, ‘tis nobler can now add – are you being foolish?  ‘Fooling’ does not always produce ‘foolish’ but it may be that ‘foolish’ is always preceded by fooling.  It would be foolish to ignore the effects of ‘fooling’ and it would be foolish to ignore that ‘fooling’ is a cause of foolishness.

Do foolish games come from ‘fooling’ games?

Exactly Like You

November 16th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Who is exactly like you?  While a range of criteria could be used to answer this question, let’s just use one – standards.

As individuals, we have standards.  Some of these standards are personal, others are broadly normative and yet others are societal.  In descending order of importance (from the personal to the societal), these standards help to define us.

As members of a small group, we have standards.  Some of these standards remain personal, others reflect specific group norms.  Broadly normative and societal standards also remain in place.

As members of a larger group, we have standards.  Some of these standards reflect specific group norms, while broadly normative and societal standards remain in place.  Did you notice the change?

In the previous post, the relationship between anonymity and aberration was explored in general terms – with anonymity comes aberration.  But, as groups get larger, our personal standards recede further and further into the distance.  Does this indicate that there are degrees of anonymity?  Is it possible for the personal to disappear completely within the impersonal group?  The evidence supports the notion of disappearance.

Anonymity breeds aberration and the more anonymous you believe you are, the more aberrant your behaviour becomes.  In large groups, you can scan the sea of faces trying to find someone like you:

And realise, perhaps ashamedly, that they are all like you and you are like all of them.  Situations overwhelm standards and inhibitions disappear as your personal standards depart.  Due to the situation and the behaviour of others, you become someone like you and not someone exactly like you.

What does it take to be exactly like you across situations and within groups?  Only you can answer that question.  It is essential to realise, though, that self management doesn’t cease simply because you’re with others!

Anonymously Aberrant

November 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The relationships between an individual and a group can be many and varied.  For a start, we all believe that individuals are ‘better’ than groups:

When I compare myself to a group, I always win.  When you compare yourself to a group, you win.  When each member of the group compares themselves to the rest, the individual usually comes out in front.  On average, we are all above-average.  However, it may be that this effect doesn’t reflect the bias of the rater; rather, it reflects a bias towards individuals at the expense of the group.  So, it’s not that I think I am better, it’s that I think groups are worse.

At the same time, perceived (not actual) group membership can exert a powerful influence on our behaviour, both positive or negative:

There is evidence that, if I think you are similar to me and you are behaving poorly, I am more likely to behave poorly.

And yet we like to think that we retain our individuality within groups – we remain a face within a sea of faces rather than faceless and anonymous.  Does being ‘lost in a crowd’ sometimes equate to losing ourselves?  The evidence indicates the answer to this question is a clear ‘Yes’ for, as part of a group, our individual identities blur or vanish:

With the anonymity afforded to individuals by a group, they say and do things that are an aberration.  Conversely, behavioural control can often be imposed externally through invigilation – if we think or know we are both known and being watched, we behave differently and we behave better.  Of course, external control is neither sustainable nor desirable for the same sorts of reasons that external motivation also eventually falters.  By definition, the responsibility for self management cannot be delegated to outsiders.

In the largest of crowds, the darkest of nights and the most chaotic of situations, you are never completely anonymous.  There is always one person who knows exactly who you are with, where you are and what you are doing.  Do you know who this person is?

It is impossible for you to ‘lose yourself in the crowd’ for you are never faceless to yourself, just to others.  It is thus impossible to use ‘being lost in the crowd’ as an excuse for your behaviour.  Under supervision or beyond supervision are artificial distinctions in learning and behavioural change – should the presence or absence of supervision determine how you behave?

Be yourself when you are by yourself. Be yourself when you are with others.

Around Is Not Forward

October 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Movement does not necessarily signify progress; neither does change necessarily signify improvement.  Deckchairs on the Titanic or chickens parted from their heads represent evidence that around is not forward.  Around poses problems for individuals but it is an almost irresistible temptation for groups.

Around does have particular appeal for it alludes to effort – satisfying a pre-requisite that people must be seen to be doing something – while progress eludes those making such ‘effort’.  The latter satisfies a second pre-requisite for many such activities – retention of the status quo.

Not only is around not forward, around prevents forward.  In a standard twist, forward must not only be prevented, it must NOT be seen to be prevented.  Prevention is better when unclear!

There is significant evidence indicating how this happens within groups but no clear explanations for why this happens.  Possible explanations will be left for another time – perhaps things will move forward if ‘tis nobler hangs around – so let’s just set out the basic problem.

And the basic problem is ‘around’.  Groups are not the sum of the individuals that comprise them; rather, groups are often the parts of each individual that are shared with all other group members.  Instead of bringing all of themselves to the group, each person brings only those things shared with others.  In this sense, while groups comprise more people, group performance can reflect the limited performance of less than one individual.

If you can’t or don’t use all of your abilities to help the group move forward, look what happens:

Expanding numbers can produce shrinking performance, for all reduce to the shared rather than share the unique.  It’s the opposite of synergy – the whole is less rather than greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s a lot of ‘going around’ going around.  Go forward, not around.

Zero Addition

October 14th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

That’s right – zero addition.  If ‘tis nobler stopped writing right now, what would your reaction be?  If there’s nothing to add, that might be a minor concern.  What if ‘tis nobler put things in reverse – add to nothing instead of nothing to add?

‘Add to nothing’ can have much more serious implications for learning and change.  For when things add to nothing, it’s a zero-sum game.

A zero-sum game is one in which the gains and losses cancel each other out – for you to win a little bit, somebody else has to lose a little bit (check out the Prisoner’s Dilemma).  When everything is added up, they sum to nothing, a sum that is something even though it is nothing.  By definition, these are conflict games.

In your experiential learning and behavioural change journeys, it might be helpful to think of yourself as being in a competition and not a contest.  You are a competitor and not a contestant who, by definition, contests things.  If this distinction is too fine, it becomes clearer when you recognise that you are only competing with yourself.  There is no competition with others.

What does competing with yourself, rather than contesting issues with others, mean?  You might conclude that you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it …… and that’s a great example:

Compete with yourself, co-operate with others.  The advantages are clear, so clear in fact that reaching this conclusion is a ‘no contest’.  Be positive, operate beyond zero.

“Operate beyond zero’ has been a theme of this week; “operate beyond zero” is never a theme of the weak!

Starting At The Finish

September 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Where do you begin?

With an experiential learning and behavioural change focus, addressing this question philosophically or biologically doesn’t add much value; in fact, this enquiry has nothing to do with chronology.  It’s an enquiry related to decision making.

As a fundamental form of thinking, analogous reasoning suggests starting at the start, building up relationships and ending at the finish.  It’s one-way traffic, reasoning from start to finish. It’s reasonable to see your involvement as reason-able and reasoned.

But it need not, and often isn’t, this way – We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians; further, we should remember that ….. Life and learning are not exercises in arithmetic in which we operate as disinterested calculators, adding and subtracting neutrally to conclude the best course of action at any point in time.  Foibles, failings, priorities and preferences ensure that reasoning is a two-way street, one in which you can still find yourself going the ‘wrong’ way.

Without being unreason-able, for you are still reasoning, albeit in a motivated rather than objective manner, you can start at the finish and work your way around until you arrive – at the finish (which is where you started!).  After all, starting at the finish and then working backwards to reach the same finish line does ensure that you end up where you wanted to be.  When you start at the finish, it is virtually guaranteed that you finish where you started.

You can take reasoned, reason-able actions that derive the finish from these actions or you can take actions that ensure that you achieve what you wanted.  Think about it – affect aligns with one or more biases and affects thinking effects. In one sense, starting at the finish is like living life backwards:

Where do you begin? It’s a simple question that has dramatic ramifications for the quality and validity of your reasoning.  You can always think of ‘reasons’ to support starting at the finish but they tend to be rationalisations rather than rationales.  And these ‘reasons’ are difficult to detect for people are effective at masking the affective with the apparently objective.

Where do you begin? It’s a reasonable question – is your answer reasoned or known in advance (for you started at the finish)?

Our Problem

August 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler set out this morning to write a post about some new evidence on the value of self-affirmation.  As the thoughts started to coalesce, the post changed into this:

Compile a list like this in your own head: rioting, looting, assault, alienation, exclusion, hopelessness, contempt, criminality.

Compile another list in your head, this time like this: hope, inclusion, effort, respect, morality, achievement, compassion, community.

Compile a list of the (post hoc) contributions of commentators, journalists, academics and politicians, competing to have their own voice heard, as they present their assertions, opinions or dogma in the guise of explanation of recent events.  You can’t measure the gap between the rhetoric and the reality for it is incalculable.  It is an odd fact of modern life that the race to the bottom is won by those who are the shallowest.

Imagine the ways in which you can bring the first two lists closer together, eventually reducing the appearance of the first so much that it all but disappears.  The ‘talking heads’ focus on legal sanctions or constraints on technologies such as social media; a focus on (re-)affirmation of normative behaviours seems to have been barely mentioned and yet this could provide the most constructive, most durable ‘solution’.

But normative behaviours, shared values and re-affirmation are neither simple nor straightforward. In ‘That’s Wrong, I Believe’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

When there is evidence that a belief you hold is incorrect, you generally do not modify the belief; rather, you set out to protect your belief.  You will look for mistakes in the evidence, try to get other information that supports your position, attack the messenger, ignore the evidence or simply and more strongly re-affirm your belief, often with the support of those who share your view.  While there are a number of factors that will mediate your response, the principle of belief protection in the face of correct and contrary evidence is a clear and common practice.  Things may not be as different as chalk and cheese if, for whatever reason, you ‘believe’ that chalk is cheese.  It is difficult to convince you otherwise.

In ‘Able, Yet Unable’, ‘tis nobler noted:

There is evidence that the value of your learning can be sustained by your values or, to be precise, affirmation of your values.  Essentially, if people reinforce the fundamental things that are important to them, this effort can act to strengthen ‘the able’ and push ‘the unable’ away………The important thing to note is that this affirmation must be relevant at a personal level.  There is little point in saying ‘learning is important’, ‘people should have more tolerance’, ‘money is not the only motivation’ or ‘tomorrow will be better than today’.  Such sentiments often last no longer than their utterance and are almost entirely disconnected from the learning and change challenges that you are confronting.

While enormously challenging, strengthening normative behaviours is preferable to the coercive compliance model that underpins most social policies.  ‘Talking heads’ generate a clamour of contentions that may be motivated by a demand for personal attention.  And this focus on the discrete individual downplays the role of the things we have (or should have) in common, the shared norms and values that define our community by transcending the narrow legal and political frameworks.  Individual freedoms flourish within shared responsibilities, enabling you to strive to ‘win every day’:

It might be considered trite to suggest that every day is yours to win.  But we are measured as a community by the extent to which your life is yours to win.

If your life isn’t yours to win, it’s not just your problem. It’s our problem, for we are all diminished if any are left behind.

Vague? Precisely!

July 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you translate this sentence?  To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.

How did you go?  Did it take you long?  Did you make any mistakes?  Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.

Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:

Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase?  Miten kääntää tämän lauseen?  Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση?  इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?

Did you make any headway?  Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French?  Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’  And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’.  Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’.  How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark.  If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’

The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi.  As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’  And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’ 🙂

Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change.  You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate.  Translate, interpret, act.

And this is where there must a real change.  Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice.  In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.

But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support.  ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process.  ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider.  Their role is to facilitate, not force.

‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:

And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection.  Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!

In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions.  Vague?  Precisely!

Looking Elsewhere

June 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Apparently, there are over 300 species of (domesticated) goats.  As far as ‘tis nobler knows, none of these types of goat have much to do with experiential learning or behavioural change.

There is, however, another type of goat that features regularly in learning and change activities.

And this type of goat can always be relied upon to perform poorly.  You won’t necessarily find poor performance in its own eyes but you will always find it reflected in the eyes of others.  It’s a handy type of goat to have around even though you prefer to talk about it rather than to it.

It’s a scapegoat.

It’s standard practice in sporting organisations to hold coaches responsible for team performance, with the sacking of coaches being a regular occurrence.  A very extensive and detailed investigation of this activity within the German soccer league found no evidence to support sacking a coach as a way to improve team performance.  Any apparent improvement can be explained as a return to average levels of performance that are largely independent of coaching influence.

Scapegoating is yet another ‘out’, another excuse for all of the leaks in your learning and behavioural change efforts.  It’s easy to play the ‘blame game’ even when you don’t fully understand what is going on:

As a ‘solution’, scapegoating is one example of the potential for convenience to take precedence over validity.  As a strategy, blaming others is much, much more common than it is effective.  Why is it that being seen to be doing ‘something that is really nothing’ is more favoured than just getting on with the job of doing ‘something that is something’?  Pretending that the problems are ‘elsewhere’ because that is where you prefer to look is never a solution.

Where do you end up when you take the easy way out?

Simple Is Hardly Simple

June 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Mustique is a small island in the Grenadines island group, part of the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Mustique has nothing to do with this post, other than to introduce unnecessary complexity, something that skilled performers at any stage of their learning are wont to do.  Of course, something that is unnecessary for task performance may be highly desirable for the social ‘performance’ that accompanies the task – look at me, look at me!

This post is more about mystique than Mustique.  ‘tis nobler seems to recall that Mystique is the name of a perfume, which is yet again another layer of unnecessary complexity that is designed to throw you off the scent.  Mystique isn’t mystique and mystique isn’t Mystique.  Mystique both is and isn’t Mystique (it isn’t if you could begin a sentence without a capital letter).

This post is getting very complicated, a sure sign that ‘tis nobler must be clever, skilled and (possibly) very handsome in order to handle its demands.  It’s odd that, as you de-mystify performance for yourself through experiential learning, you often try to increase the mystique for others.  Is it because people favour being seen as ‘better’ rather than hard-working?  Is an explanation based on personal qualities preferable to one that proffers effort as the reason?

Continuing to complicate things as they in fact get simpler, whether through jargon, exaggerated effort (the tennis ‘grunt’ for example) or opinion, is creating a rod for your own back.  Think of your learning journey as a search for the simple.

There should be no doubt in our mind that the power of simple is significant and far-reaching.  Simple underpins efficiency and fluency in many aspects of behaviour and skilled performance – there is much evidence that ‘simple’ is seen as more intelligent, more attractive (in commercial and literary senses), more pleasurable, more effortless and less dangerous.  In many of these areas, ‘simple’ can be manufactured; in experiential learning, however, ‘simple’ must be earned.  In this early Katy Perry song, she sings:

…that it could be so simple, Life could be that simple, I wish it were just that simple

But wishing doesn’t get you to ‘simple’, effortful learning does.  And life is never that ‘simple’ but a sustained commitment to experiential learning can, and does, make it simpler.  Just remember what Einstein said:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

‘tis nobler thinks you know what is fundamentally required to make things as simple as possible.  The ongoing challenge is to avoid going straight to simplistic, a destination that is on the other side of ‘too simple’.

Aim to achieve the power of ‘simple’, recognising that getting (and staying) there is hardly simple!

‘Dressed’ For Success

May 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, how do you ‘dress’ for success?  The first clue ‘tis nobler can provide is that the answer to this question has nothing to do with clothes.

The second clue can be found in these Sinead O’Connor lyrics (and the title of the song):

Everyone can see what’s going on

They laugh because they know they’re untouchable

Not because what I said was wrong

Whatever it might bring

I will live with my own policies

I will sleep with a clear conscience

I will sleep in peace

The third clue can be found in some recent research that demonstrates a link between perception and perceptions or how, rightly or wrongly, assessments of ability are affected by appearance.  In assessments of identical (and thus ‘mimed’) performances, musicians who were dressed less appropriately were judged more harshly than their more appropriately attired counterparts – there was a link between apparel and perceived ability.

The fourth clue relates to the catchcry for this site.  It is ‘Effort is essential’ rather than ‘Apparel activates ability’.

In many experiential learning and behavioural change contexts, appearance appears to take precedence over substance.  It is as though looking the part is more important than playing the part, perhaps because playing the part takes more sustained effort than the purchase of the costume.  Appearances can be bought but substance must be earned.

And, if you combine these clues, you realise that you can never ‘dress’ for success; you can, however. ‘dress’ to pretend you’re successful.  Isn’t it better to be tired after effortful practice than be attired as a means of avoiding the effort?


Rites And Responsibilities

March 16th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This post is motivated by a particular event yesterday that demonstrates that learning ‘rites’ collapse when reasonable responsibilities expected to be met by others are absent.  Rites, rituals, ceremonies, procedures, training and education have a number of things in common.  They are often (closed) sets of behaviours.  These sets are established, systematised, prescribed and repeated.  They benefit greatly from practice.  They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood.

Can you see the links with experiential learning?  It might be easier if you replace these various acts with the concept of routines.  Simple sets of behaviours become more complex yet more efficient routines, when bits become bytes and bytes become kilobytes.  Such routines are derived from experience, which allows you to understand and then anticipate the world around your task.  Gaps in this world and/or gaps in your collective routines are offset by expectancies for you have learned through experience that some things are more likely than others.

And this is where the external responsibilities come in, for they support your routines in standardised, predictable ways and set the probability of some features of some gaps at close to 1.  They are consistent, predictable and appreciated, if not always entirely understood.  And here’s the story – if anybody from Microsoft is reading this, please meet this reasonable usability responsibility.  ‘tis nobler will be brief:

To encrypt, ‘tis nobler entered and confirmed 19 character password for a PowerPoint file, then saved and closed it.  To check, ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open ppt file – success!  ’tis nobler entered and confirmed the same 19 character password for a Word file, then saved and closed the file.  ’tis nobler entered the 19 character password to open doc file – error!  What is going on?

Now here are the clues – ‘tis nobler watches the keyboard while setting up passwords to avoid errors and the PC speakers were turned off.  Hhmmm, if ‘tis nobler couldn’t hack the process, the document would be lost forever.  ’tis nobler wondered about the ‘save’ process for .doc(x) files after encrypting – wasn’t it odd that the ‘Save’ dialog box appeared for an already saved file.  ‘tis nobler decided to try the same process on another .doc file in case the ‘problem’ was revealed.  The only difference was that speakers were turned on and after ’tis nobler had entered 16 characters, the PC goes ding, ding, ding.

That’s right, you can enter more than 16 characters for a password  in PPT but no more than 16 in Word.  All this time, ’tis nobler was wondering why the password wasn’t working ….. when it was three characters too long.  No error messages – Word can only accept passwords of 16 characters or less – so, unless you watch and count the circles and/or have speakers turned on for the auditory warning, you’re left in the dark.  Stupid, stupid Microsoft!!!

My rites will only work if you meet your reasonable responsibilities.  Don’t forego responsibilities and leave me wondering  – “I made you suffer, I caused you pain, I played a secret game ….”

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A Patient Heart

March 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The very first line in the song ‘Patient Heart’  by Sean Flinn and the Royal We is:

The long road makes for a patient heart.

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And the implications of that line are the subject of this post.  What do you think it means?  These few simple words allow you to burrow down in several directions.

Regardless of other issues, the experiential learning or behavioural change road will always be long.  However, it may often be the case that the traveller on this road does not have a patient heart.  ’tis nobler suggests there are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, the road is not seen as long and therefore the traveller presumes that the journey will soon be over.  Why should you be patient until you arrive when you will arrive before you need to be patient?

Secondly, patience is seen as simply not required for it is presumed to be more important to travel with passion than it is to travel with patience.  But it is incorrect to assume that passion and patience are mutually exclusive; one must not preclude the other.

A recent study made the useful distinction between harmonious and obsessive passion.  The former led to a stronger focus on mastery goals, goals that are associated with deeper engagement and perseverance, and a greater commitment to deliberate practice.  When passion became obsessive, passion rather than practice became the end; avoiding failure overrode striving for mastery.  As a consequence, task performance suffered.

Excellence is never achieved through exhortation.

You may have noticed another line in ‘Patient Heart’:

You get far enough away, you’ll be back to the start.

This echoes the T S Eliot quote presented in the ‘About’ section.  Harmonious passion and patience are both required to ‘know something for the first time’.  Be passionate in the right way and be patient in many ways.  Be passionate about having a patient heart.

You Are Such A …….

February 9th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

What are the differences between names and labels?  A person usually has the one name and yet they are assigned many labels by others.  Names could be described as traditional or exotic, they might be straightforward, interesting or intriguing.  Names may have historical derivations or they may be without precedent, created by a novel combination of letters.

If you were to describe the perceived qualities of labels, what words would you use?  Labels may be convenient, perhaps inductive, and, or so it seems to ‘tis nobler, invariably negative.  We name people and objects without prejudice while pre-judging them with labels.

Issues are always more complex than labels indicate, so why do we persist with the use of labels?  Labels have as much to do with experiential learning as the legal system has to do with justice.  Little or nothing!  This is not to deny that there is inappropriate or unsuitable behaviour or people behaving like ‘jackasses’.  No age group, no gender, no suburbs or towns are immune; doesn’t the problem begin when you or ‘they’ start to believe that this type of (infrequent) behaviour is the only problem?

Describing something in a general way, like all of the sound bites you get on the news, is light years away from explaining or understanding it.  You are not a label.  You are not a category.  Life would be very different if everybody fitted into a small number of pigeonholes.

You are certainly not a problem.  Sure, you are different but, if just being different was a problem, then ……. hang on, sometimes, some people unfortunately think it is.  But, in these circumstances, it is their problem, not yours.

Recognise the differences. 

Manage the differences. 

Handle the differences your way.  Find your own way.

By your actions, show the labellers they are wrong.  Reject stereotypes, not just by words but also by deeds and thoughts – it’s time to put your best foot forward:

Make your own decisions – don’t just grab at labels.  Don’t do things just because others want you to.  Do your own thing.  Find your own way.  Be strong, be safe.  Stand for something or fall for everything.  Put your best foot forward!  If you decide not to, do you have a reason, or just an excuse?


January 28th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

If you have any interest in public policy, what sort of interest is it?  Is it the sort that means you are interested, even if you don’t find it interesting?  Or is it the sort that means you are disinterested? 

Is it possible to be both interested and disinterested in an issue at the same time?  In a semantic sense, it is possible for curiosity or concern and impartiality can co-exist.  And yet, in a practical sense, an interest in something is so closely aligned with self-interest that co-existence is rendered nigh on impossible.  How often do you hear people say, “I don’t care what’s in it for me”?  And, when you do, how often do you think they truly mean it?

It seems that it is not possible to be interested in something without being interested in how this interest can work to your advantage.  If there is no probable advantage, interest disappears rapidly.  Of course, this alignment of interest with self-interest distorts the issue, some would say strategically while others would describe this distortion as expediency or duplicity.  Or is this too cynical?  How do you balance interest and disinterest, and how much of your interest is actually self-interest?

For this question can produce harmonious, inclusive solutions or discordant, exclusive reactions.  There are always choices and, as a society, we are defined by our choices.  More accurately, we are defined by the choices made on our behalf.

It is important for interest and disinterest to co-exist in experiential learning, for curiosity and objectivity extend learning and understanding.  Self-interest is not the pariah you might imagine, for positive self-interest need not operate at the expense of others.  Commit to positive self-interest at the beginning and then put it away in the bottom drawer for it is a cause and not a consequence of sustained learning and sustainable behavioural change.

Where interest, disinterest and self-interest are concerned, it seems that we still have a lot to learn:

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*  this post is in response to the disgraceful notion that, rather than contributing equitably to flood reconstruction ourselves through a temporary levy, we should pay for it by reducing foreign aid.

Be A Breeze

January 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s Australia Day today.

There are celebrations and ceremonies, flag waving and hoopla.  At the risk of being labelled un-Australian, for there really is no such thing, this collective national exuberance can seem a bit forced, as though it’s more important to be seen to be celebrating than to celebrate.

And this excessive outpouring of national pride (on one day of the year) links to ways of helping others.  Traditionally, the preferred helping approach is to be explicit and obvious, to be right there when needed, to be unambiguously supportive by making the support so apparent that nobody could fail to notice it.  It’s like shouting, “I AM HERE FOR YOU” from the rooftops, with possibly the best of intentions and probably the least useful of outcomes.

Some recent research has indicated that the value of social support is maximised when it is invisible, although perhaps less visible is more apt.  It’s the difference between performing a service and serving up a performance.  The former helps the recipient, the latter helps you.  And helping is about the other.

Experiential learning and behavioural change are full of opportunities to help and receive help; as these opportunities become performances, an end in themselves, they become a distraction and an irrelevance.

To give help, be invisible.  Make the help about the other, not about yourself.  Have an effect, affect their affect, and be there for them without being on stage, act without performing.  Have an influence much like the wind:

But even the wind can sometimes take centre stage, so perhaps the metaphor should be reconsidered.

Be a breeze.

Don’t Crave Denial, Imagine Craving!

December 15th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Imagine a person who is struggling with their weight, smoking or exercise regime.  They are often told to stop thinking about chocolate, the next cigarette or the attraction of just sitting on the couch watching TV.  Despite the evidence for the failure of suppression, either at the cognitive or behavioural levels, many behavioural change programs remain based on denial.  ‘Don’t’ is a much more common feature than ‘do’.  While it doesn’t work, putting it out of your mind is still considered equivalent to putting it out of your life.

Now imagine an experienced performer – an athlete, artist, courtroom lawyer or writer.  They often tell themselves to visualise their success, to imagine clearing every hurdle with minimum clearance and immaculate stride pattern, to picture their performance and imagine being in control, producing great work or impeccable arguments.  Thinking that you can and imagining that you can leads to demonstrating that you can.  Putting it in your mind is an integral part of putting it in place in the real world.

Why should we unsuccessfully but frequently pursue denial on the one hand and embrace positive possibilities on the other?  Is this simply the difference between good and bad, between positive and negative?  Should we simply deny what’s bad and imagine what’s good?  Some recent research has illuminated these issues in a very interesting way.  And it’s a way that has significant implications for experiential learners and those attempting behavioural change.

The shortest summary of the findings is that we should crave imagination of our cravings rather than try to deny the existence of these cravings.  In this way, suppression or denial is replaced with visualisation and, guess what, this leads to less frequent ‘craving’ behaviour.  Imagining eating donuts or chocolate leads to less actual eating of donuts or chocolate!  Interestingly, just imagining donuts or chocolate didn’t produce these reductions, suggesting that what is imagined must be closely aligned with what is done.

Perhaps the imagination of an experience is closer to the actual experience than previously thought.  Can you think through the implications for experiential learning and behavioural change?

Just imagine:

Becoming True

December 13th, 2010 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Clichés are so hackneyed and so trite that we tend to be very dismissive of them.

Just take it one day at a time.  Ho-hum.  Time flies.  Yawn.  Tomorrow never comes.  Hrrumph.

But many clichés are true, something that is conveniently overlooked to avoid their real meaning in the here-and-now.  In the current circumstances, what does ‘just take it one day at a time’ really mean for me, right here, right now?

It’s a cliché to say that things can change in an instant.  But they can and they do.

Today, for ’tis nobler, they did and then, eventually, normal service was thankfully resumed.  Sometimes, unfortunately, normal service is not resumed; things have changed forever.

Please realise that clichés do become true, eventually but unpredictably:

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And live your life accordingly.  It’s up to you. Yeah, you.


October 28th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

I think you should be happier when you’re learning.

I think you need to concentrate on what is happening around you when you’re learning.

I feel that you don’t pay enough attention to the task.

I feel that you should be happier when you’re learning.

Two of these sentences are aligned, two not so.  Alignment assists with their persuasive impact.  Which two sentences would you select as being aligned?  If they were to be aligned on the basis of ‘target’, perhaps the two happiness sentences go together.  There is a strong similarity between the remaining two – concentration and attention.  Does this classification make sense to you?

However, ‘target’ is not necessarily a determinant of persuasive impact.  As a process, persuasion is enhanced by alignment between cognitive appeals or emotional appeals and is degraded when the two types of appeal are combined.  Look again at the four sentences.  Can you see another pattern now?

The evidence indicates that the persuasive power of a cognitive target (concentration, attention etc) is enhanced by framing the appeal in terms of ‘thinking’.  Similarly, the power of an emotional appeal is enhanced by framing it in terms of ‘feeling’.  In the song “Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out”, Mayer Hawthorne  sings lines like these:

I know you think we can make it all work out ……… I don’t want to see your tears ……….. I know you’ll understand my ways one day …….. you just don’t understand ……….  I know you were hearing wedding bells ……….

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Given the alignment principle, how persuasive were these statements?  The reality of every experiential learning journey is that it does involve much negotiation, persuasion and compromise.  It’s essential that you understand how best to do these things, balancing reasonableness with the needs of your journey.

‘tis nobler thinks you can develop these skills if you persevere.  ‘tis nobler feels you’ll be happier as an experiential learner when you make things work out.  ‘tis nobler doesn’t set out to persuade you of anything – that’s left up to you.