Yet another blow in the search for the next Hemingway

Yesterday it was announced that the College Board would drop the essay requirement for the SAT college entrance test. This along with free access to pre-test preparation material is hailed by many as a good thing, the change that will level the playing field for low-income and disadvantaged students. I view it as subversive tactic to rid American schools of writing in lue of irrelevant facts, figures and Common Core nonsense. After all David Coleman, the man behind the Common Core standards, is also the president of College Board.

When my daughter was in high school, our living situation was not ideal. Now we lived in a great area, Manhattan Beach, California. We had the beach, the weather, crime was virtually nonexistent and the neighborhoods were clean and friendly.

Our physical abode, was little different story. Well actually, we didn’t have one – at least in the traditional sense. We had motel rooms and tent, a very good tent … but a tent none-the-less. However, we made it though and I believe we’re both better off because of our precarious living situation those years. Alex, my daughter, had one thing she could always fall back on. Alex wrote. Writing was her own personal therapy. She wrote about the good times … and she wrote about, well – the not so good times.

Writing

But writing was more than therapy for Alex. It was a source of pride. She writes well, very well – and she knows it. Being a good writer give a student a ‘leg-up’ in not just English class but in any other venture that involves communicating – and that’s most everything. And not being able to write effectively can set an otherwise good student back a step.

Writing enables you to form thoughts in a way that requires you to think before you talk – which all too often happens in discussion. This thought process fine-tunes articulation. By altering just one word, meaning can take on a whole different twist. From this thoughtful articulation, synaptic connections are built. And we all know we need more synaptic connections.

Writing also has an archiving function. You can always go back and read what you wrote a month ago, or year ago and reflect. You can build on past ideas, thoughts and revelations. It’s not so easy to reflect on a conversation you had with someone six months ago. Chances are it’s gone the way of burnt out memory cells.

You would think our schools would make it a point to incorporate writing into the curriculum wherever they could. Don’t sequester it to English class. Every class, every subject requires communication, and writing is high level communication. And every class and every subject need our students to further develop their abstract thinking abilities. And that’s where writing comes in … it’s perfect for that.

Well that’s what you’d think. But … NOOOOO! That just makes too much sense. Here’s a technique that would systematically improve our student’s prospects now and when they leave school. But … NOOOOO! We can’t do that – we have standardized tests, and we have our ‘fill in the right oval or be damned’ philosophy. After all we have to keep up with Jones (oh! I mean the Chinese).

I’m fifty-five years old. I didn’t really start writing until five years ago when I started this blog. Before then I didn’t write. I don’t think I wrote 5000 words total in my life. I didn’t write in high school and I didn’t in college. But I didn’t need to. Because even back even we had the ovals – and I knew how to play the oval game.

But I’ve found out something over these last two years and 200 blog posts. Even being ‘old,’ I’m thinking better. My comprehension of issues is better. My articulation of these issues is better. And the breadth of my understanding on diverse subjects, subjects I’ve had little exposure to – is better. And this is happening now at age fifty-fifty. Imagine the effect it would have on the formative brains of teenagers!

But … NOOOOO! Writing proficiency is too subjective. How are the teachers going to grade writing? Where’s time for them to go through all those words? “Just give me multiple choice … and give me my ovals.” Now I see the point in periodic testing. If you don’t test students on progress, how are you going to know if  someone is following behind to the ‘point of no return.’ But does that mean we have to kick writing to the curb because it involves more effort and can’t be tested with ovals?

Our public education situation in the United States is unfortunate at best and more accurately, pathetic. This vaulted institution which reigned king has dropped precariously in world comparisons. And this free fall shows no sign of letting up. Writing would help … help a lot. But we have no time or no patience for writing in our schools. We have ovals. And in the age of ubiquitous technology and social connectivity where’s so much information to devour and write about, this situation is ironic.

The internet 2.0 is based on communication – back and forth. I say something, you respond … and so on. Constructive dialogue using writing is what it’s made for. Some would say term papers are writing. I suppose, in the broadest interpretation of the word. But outside of a grade and a few notes in the margins (mainly grammar corrections), there’s no dialogue.

Personally I write about things that interest me. While I’m twice as old as the average college student and three times that of someone in high school, I don’t consider myself a better, or worse writer – just one with more real world context. My 25-year-old daughter writes better than I do. But what if writing could be that bridge that connects school to the real world for these students? What if writing made all those irrelevant ‘facts’ relevant? And what if writing provided that “spark” that ignited an interest in school … and a want to be there, and a desire to learn when they’re there.

They way we can do this is through blogs, blogs that students write. I’m a firm believer in students creating a blog that can travel with them, even after they graduate. The content can be personal or it can be incorporated with class material. Students can determine relevance on their own terms – not just on the teacher’s. In other words … they would be thinking.

I believe the purpose of school is prepare a student of a life-long habit of learning, a yearning, an addiction. You can learn a trade or a profession. But what happens if that trade changes, or worse yet – becomes obsolete and goes away.

The skill of learning prepares one to adapt to the changes that loom as inevitable as the rising of the morning sun. And the sun is going to keep rising until we’re all dead and gone.

And writing is the vehicle that can deliver that skill.

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Come and join me on Twitter at @clayforsberg or on Google+.

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Now you’ve ‘Raised your flag’ … what’s next?

The events in the Ukraine, and specifically Kiev, over the last couple weeks have been extraordinary. A group of determined protesters overthrew a government with heavy backing from Russia. And most amazing is that the protesters were not driven by irrational religious zeal, but rather by a desire for economic reform. They’ve ‘Raised their flag’ in pursuit of having lives dictated by their of own doing … not according to decades of old ideas hatched in the former Soviet Union. And if the rebellion in the Ukraine isn’t enough, it appears a similar situation may be unfolding in Venezuela.

Ukraine Protest

About twenty years ago I coined a phrase. “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” It was used mainly in the context of my recruiting business. It’s premise was that life is a journey, not a destination. Thus the “Road” moniker. I told my candidates to view a job as step to where they wanted to go. And if the job they had or the one they were considering didn’t go down the path they wanted to go … then find one that did.

Well the “Road” and “the Perfect World” has taken me a whole lot of places I would have never envisioned back in 1995. But that’s a whole different story and the concept itself has evolved. “The Road to Your Perfect World” is now about more than just work and career. “The Perfect World” is my way of looking at life. It’s about breaking from the way you’re supposed to do things and the being on the road you’re supposed to travel according to societal norms (or what others think ). Everything is in question – even the our whole system of how we value ourselves and our place in this world. I got into this a couple of weeks ago in my post,Can we ever stop the march of the Neanderthals.

Greg Rader over the years has also articulated a lot of the same issues in his blog. Two years ago he posted a piece on making the jump to this alternative way of thinking and breaking from convention. I commented on this post about what happens after one makes this break. Below is my comment:

“Well here we are. We’ve done it. We’ve waged war on the status quo for control of ourselves. We’ve thrown out conventional wisdom concerning education and the value of a traditional institutions. We’ve decided that the accepted professional ladder climbing is no longer acceptable. We’ve even redefined our system of value – with the ‘undying sole pursuit of material goods’ being a casualty. The welfare of all is to be held above our own personal desires and wants. Our knuckles are bloodied, our will tested … but we’re here.

Now what’s next. We’ve deconstructed every norm we can find. We’ve sought them out in the classroom, in the boardroom and even the bedroom. No room was left untouched.

But now … what’s next!

It’s easy to tear down, to point out the faults of convention and the “one model fits all” thinking. But it’s harder to actually break loose, to endure the ostracism of the masses, the lemmings on the crusade to the cliff.

But again I ask  … what’s next. It’s not enough just to declare victory. One can only look at Egypt. They won the battle for freedom from tyranny – to be replaced by what? Have we, us fellow “sociopaths” relegated ourselves to a similar fate? What will fill the void of conformity and a life not unlike the one Donald Sutherland so valiantly tried to escape in the ’70s classic, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers?”

Reminiscent of post World War II, now is time for us to develop our own person Marshal Plan. How are we going to succeed in this new world we’ve thrust upon ourselves? It won’t have a timetable of months or even years. It is a plan we will need to follow, to implement, over the course of our lives. And our plan must take into account not just ourselves, but all who we have a vested interest in, and  those who have a vested interest in us; including the generations who will follow. For all them are stakeholders and will be effected.

We’ll lose some of them. Some just won’t be able resist the pressure to conform and step back into the old societal comfort. We’ll have to accept that. We’ll just have to make it so that those that matter most remain in our fray, and realize their own “Perfect World” – even if it’s not in lockstep with ours. All we can hope for is understanding and empathy. Because to succeed in this rebuilding effort, we’ll need them.

We’ve raised our flag, assessed the damage – envisioned the possibilities. Now it’s time to go to work!”

This very well could be a mantra for the heroic of Kiev and the other nations who have sought and will seek to break from the convention of physical and societal tyranny. Or it could just be your own. Discarding the status quo is only the first step. It’s only the first of many battles that will have to be fought. The hardest ones will be ones of choice, of what to do next. Deciding the goal to ‘tear down’ is an easy one to make. The decision of what to build in its place and how to do it … not so much so.

I’m not going to tell you what your “Perfect World” should be. And I’m not going tell how you should travel your road. That’s up to you. All I’m saying is it’s alright to map your own journey. Moses didn’t have an eleven commandment saying you have to blindly join the crusade to the cliff.

But once you have ‘Raised your flag’ and you ask yourself what’s next … you better have your own Marshall Plan.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Can we ever stop the march of the Neanderthals?

Update January 19, 2013: I wrote this post three years ago. And just, if not more appriopriate today than then. Naively so I thought that maybe by 2014 things might be different. Maybe in some respects they are. A new generation is gaining more of a foothold in the world (For the better I believe). But at the same time, the old guard of attitudes, those resident in the ‘ivory towers’ of materialism are digging in deeper … reminiscent of siege of the Civil War battle Vicksburg.

Yesterday (February 21, 2011) I commented on a provocative blog post by my friend Greg Rader, “The Future of Status – Conspicuous Production.”

Imagine if there was no money and no things to buy. How would you show the world your worth? How would you show yourself?

Would your value lie in the number of friends you have – physical or electronic? Would it lie in the quality and depth or your relationships with these friends (kind of an esoteric three-dimensional assessment)? Maybe it would lie in the number pieces of art you produced, or books and articles you’ve written.

Or better yet … what about the number of nebulous karma points you’ve accumulated by doing random acts of good? Haven’t we reached a point on Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ where we can at least flirt with self actualization?

Over your last couple posts, I think you’ve been us leading to this. It’s obvious, the standard societal measurement of wealth and worth just isn’t cutting it for you. I join you brother.

Maybe this is the first step – discontent. Only then we can find our own “store of value.” and from there truly maximize it’s worth. Maybe this is what I mean when I talk about “On the Road to Your Perfect World.” Thanks for pointing me the way.

I viewed the focus of Greg’s piece as: “Isn’t there a way of presenting our value to world other than just through the money we make and our consumption habits?” As you can tell from my comment above – it’s a topic that’s been on my mind also.

Recently, in light of the sky-high valuations of several dotcom 2.0 stocks, such as Facebook, Groupon and Twitter, this matter seems to be especially relevant. Recent investments have Facebook worth $52 billion and Twitter at $10 billion, while Groupon recently turned down a $6 billion offer from Google.

But I ask you … on what are the values based. In the first two it’s their ability to act as advertising platforms, and Groupon is worth what it can take as a cut of the pie. Isn’t there more though … more than just advertising, more than just a vehicle to accommodate more and more consumption. God I hope so.

Let’s put Groupon aside, they are what they are – a group buying coupon service … nothing more, nothing less. Eventually they will fall prey to another ‘new and improved’ version of the same.

But Facebook and Twitter are different. To label then as just advertising platforms is to vastly understate what they really are – what they’re really worth. One needs to look no further back than one month. Only thirty days ago the political environment in the Middle East was much the same as it’s been for the last thirty years. No longer. Tunisia is liberated. Egypt is liberated (well kinda). Libya will be in a matter a days, and whoever is next is anyone’s guess.

While Facebook and Twitter didn’t overthrow these dictatorships … they played an integral role. They facilitated strategic and tactical communication that was on the level of a sophisticated military sorte, only performed primarily by young civilians. These social networks provided something that wasn’t there before … coordination. The results to this point have been the liberation tens of billions of dollars and ten millions of people, people who now have the prospect of governing themselves and having a say in their future.

What’s that worth?

Have you evolved?

How can you put a monetary value on person’s freedom? How can you say in dollars and cents what it’s worth to know you have something to get up for in the morning, to know that just maybe your children might just have a better life than you … a life you could only dream of.

Why does everything have to be based on money and what we spend it on. Just because you drive a Mercedes 450SL and I drive a Ford Taurus – does that make you worth more than me. I could make a case on the contrary. We focus so much on our children making sure they go to college and get a job that pays a lot of money. How many us even discuss any other options – any other means of worth? This valuation system seems Neanderthal in the light of what’s happening in the world these days.

I have been there and done it. I’ve had the nice car, the apartment on the water, the original art on walls. But it sure wasn’t “the be all end all.” The car’s gone (well,not a Mercedes – didn’t have one of those), the apartment gone and my daughter has the art. The memories are good, but now it time to move on.

It’s like the pursuit of possessions had put me in a cloud. I had other pursuits, but the almighty dollar seemed to reign supreme. No longer.

My valuation lies not in my financial net worth, but rather in what Greg says, “my conspicuous production” and what results from it. Production can be anything. It could this blog post. It could be the comments that result from it. And as I said in my comment above, it could be in the karma points I accumulate by doing good things. So here it is, here is my new definition of “my value:”

My value is the sum total of all positive synaptic connections I have a role in creating, both in myself and in others. In other words, the more I can get people thinking in ways they wouldn’t otherwise think in – and correspondingly, act in ways that benefit themselves and others … the more I’m worth.

There you have it.

Now it’s time to pick up my hands … my knuckles are bloody.

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And if you like this … please Tweet it and follow me on Twitter @clayforsberg

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“The Art of Empathy”

Over the years I’ve been involved in many projects, professionally and personally. Some have been successful and some … not so much. A friend of mine, Yvette Dubel, posed a question to me in reference to an eBook she’s writing. What piece of advice would I share to current and future business leaders? What’s the one thing I could take from my experiences, my successes and failures, that would benefit others.

Empathy

After thinking about it, one thing keeps surfacing, actually one word – empathy. Put yourself in their head or your feet in their shoes. It doesn’t matter if that person is your business partner, a potential client or a homeless man collecting bottles and cans. Try to understand their plight –  and if you’re trying to help them … really help them.

Normally we look at a situation from our perspective, which is only natural. Our experiences, views and biases provide us with our own personal perspective. But how relevant is that perspective to the person we’re trying to convey a message to?

Most companies can’t get their head around the concept of empathy either. They seem to be locked into this myopic view of what they think we should want. They resort to features and gimmicks, ‘bells and whistles.’ The auto industry is a perfect example of this. How many people really want a driverless car? They all seem to have jumped on this bandwagon and rationalize their seat by touting the potential safety aspects. But isn’t it just a gimmick?

Politicians are another example. How many of them know what’s it’s like to live paycheck-to-paycheck, or spend a year looking for job that’s fast becoming obsolete.

Empathy isn’t just listening and taking everything at face value. It’s actually hearing what someone says. It’s looking past the words or the actions. It’s the art of ‘pulling back the curtain’ as Dorothy did in The Wizard of OzWhat are the whys?

Empathy will be the physical fitness of the future.

I call this ‘the search for the whys,”\’ ‘looking behind the curtain’ … ‘The Art of Empathy.’ This isn’t about truth or deception. Much of the time, the person you’re talking with doesn’t even realize there’s a disconnect between what they’re saying and what’s deep down inside them. But when it’s time to act, they will act on what’s inside … not what they say. 

Unless you live on a mountain top or spend your life in solitary confinement, you’re going to have to communicate with people. And this communication requires understand what the other person is saying … really understanding. This is empathy at its core.

And one can never fully master the ‘Art of Empathy’ anymore than you can master any other art. It’s a life long pursuit. You can always find a new and better way of interacting, of delving into the true meaning behind the action. 

And that’s not a bad thing.

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P.S. ~ Special thanks to Yvette Dubel for providing the genesis for this post.

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You can find at Twitter @clayforsberg and on Google+

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“A Society Within Itself”

With the unprecedented level of government dysfunction in Washington D.C. as of late, everyone is trying to find a solution to our broken system. Much blame has primarily been placed at the foot of the Republicans, specifically the Tea Party movement led by Ted Cruz. However the Democrats and the president have not escaped the wrath either.

“How do we fix government! How do we fix government so we can get back on with our lives! How do we fix government so we can get on with our lives and live like we’re supposed to in America. After all, aren’t we supposed to be exceptional? At least that’s what our politicians tell us.”

There are a lot of ideas on how to fix the dysfunction, or should I say just “awfulness” of Washington. Some want to take the Occupy movement’s lead and protest … like going back to the ’60s thing. It worked then (kind of), so it has to work now … right? Except it’s not working now. While Occupy’s message is wonderful, outside of making the word “occupy” part of our political lexicon – it really hasn’t accomplished much. Raising awareness to issues like “income disparity” is great. But doesn’t this awareness need to evolve into action and results at some point? To date … it hasn’t.

Some of the ideas I’ve come across propose new variations of government – everything from straight participatory democracy, to communal tribalism. Some of them make sense. In fact some of them make a lot of sense. But they’re not going to happen. Aside from an exercise in synaptic gymnastics, pondering these governmental alternatives accomplish little or nothing. All of them involve the tearing down of the status quo. “We have to blow it up and start fresh.”

Occupy WS arrest

The problem with “blowing something up” is that those who are getting blown up aren’t going to be too happy and probably, as Dylan Thomas famously said, “Do not go gentle into that good night!” Occupy Wall Street found this out the hard way. Even though they demonstrated peacefully; they were rousted, time and time again by Bloomberg’s RoboCop peacekeepers. Those in the “ivory towers” like their ivory towers and don’t want anyone messing with them. And they will do whatever they deem necessary to retaliate. And it’s naive to believe any other frontal assault on the status quo will be met with anything less.

I agree that government needs an overall, and those in power should be packed up in their clown cars, with their soap boxes and a full tank of gas and sent home to the hinterlands to pontificate in front of their fellow ideologues . But I think we’re all missing the point here. Where is it that says our happiness and wellbeing is dependent on a fully functioning government that oversees our every move and alleged misstep? Where is it said that this “game” of politics,  played out on television and in the newspapers every day, has to hold the same addictive qualities as “crack?”

I understand government is needed. I don’t think we can live in anarchy. There is definitely a role it plays. But the question is – how much of role does it need to? Do we need it as the only resort? Does it have to be the only “safety net?” Should its importance take precedent over help gotten from family or from community?

I’m not a libertarian, or at least not full-fledged. I don’t propose scaling government back, and cutting taxes and services to austerity levels like Ted Cruz and the lunatic fringe. The government can keep on doing what the government does, doesn’t do, supposed do to or not supposed to do. I’m not interested in “blowing the whole thing up” and starting new.

“It is not necessary to tear down the old system … but rather to create a second system to which to flourish in.” ~ Nelson Mandela

I read an interesting piece on the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. Deleuze deciphered the Hippie movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s in the United States. Contrary to popular perception, these “hippies” weren’t really trying to change the government. But rather they just wanted to start a separate society where they could co-exist with the status quo. Unfortunately their idea didn’t really take hold (except in a few isolated enclaves like Berkley or the Haight in San Francisco). Maybe it was their unconventional clothing, or their recreational drug use or their communal preferences. Or maybe it was these outliers were just … too different. And after all, aren’t we supposed to be leery of people who tread outside of the “bounds of conformity.”

Burning Man

But maybe things are changing. It’s obvious that the traditional institutions our parents and grandparents depended on are but skeletons of what they used to be. Political and institutional greed and sel-interest have replaced the interest of the common folk (fast becoming the serfs).

Attitude are changing though. And acceptance of alternative societal existences is nowhere more evident than the annual Burning Man Festival in the desert of Black Rock, Nevada. Twenty-seven years running, Burning Man offers the nearly 70,000 in attendance the opportunity to experience a technological, art driven culture of benevolence, inclusion and most of all … celebration!

My vision follows that of Nelson Mandela, “Create a society that flourishes within a larger society.” While not as extreme as the hippie movement or Burning Man, … I pull inspiration from them. A society’s wellbeing and the happiness of its occupants should not be dependent on its elected officials anymore more than our personal happiness should be dependent on our friends.

I call this new society, Community 3.0™Community 3.0™ is a network of community members, people like you who want to make change. These are people who want to take back control of their towns and neighborhoods by doing the things that need to be done … and doing it themselves. Community 3.0™ is about NOT relying government or other arthritic institutions.

Movements that spread organically, not through force or edict have staying power. You can’t force something down someone’s throat and expect it to stick. It’ll come back up. It has to be the people’s idea and they’ll embrace it when they’re ready. It’ll spread gradually and if it works it’ll take off exponentially. This organic neighborhood, community based self-sufficiency is my vision for Community 3.0™. Make it yours too.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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There is Hope …

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This photo was taken on September 3th, 2011 by my friend, L. Sean Key. It was a few months after the “once in a century” devastating flood in my hometown of Minot, North Dakota. You can see where the water marks death on the evergreens.

What Sean and I saw throughout our travels in Minot that weekend wasn’t death though … it was optimism. Whether you’re religious or not (which I’m not), this image says something. 
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Whatever the circumstances …
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There is hope!
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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+
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“Resource Maximization” … and The Art of MacGyver

Apollo 13 was the seventh manned mission in the American Apollo space program and the third intended to land on the Moon. The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the service module upon which the Command Module depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.

The astronauts of Apollo 13 had to do what they had to with limited resources, none of which were designed for the task at hand. But all the same, they made it work and gave us one of the great examples American ingenuity. It’s now time for this ingenuity to come home … home to our communities.

During my time on this planet, I have never seen a more appropriate occasion for this metaphor. Our government, whether it be in Washington D.C. or at the state levels, has never been more dysfunctional. And with the increasing polarization of the country’s electorate, I can’t see it getting any better. America’s leading pollster, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, has said only fifteen to twenty of the 428 Congressional districts are open for party electorial change. Because of gerrymandering and hardened ideological views – over ninety percent of the districts will remain in the same party hands well into the future. The only contests will be in the primaries, not the general elections.

Through the checks and balances of the three branches of government the constitution created, our founders prevented the takeover of government by a single faction or ideology. They also assumed that elected officials would act as representatives of the people who elected them and govern on their behalf. What they did not see is the takeover of government, not by a single party, but rather by the phenomenon of narcissism and self-interest fueled by outside corporations and special interests. And this phenomenon is not one that can just be voted out of office and replaced by a different candidate. It has thoroughly infected both parties.

And government is not the only institution that has failed us. Public education is pathetic. After decades of “flavor of day” reforms, whether it be “Outcome Education,” “No Child Left Behind,” or “Race to the Top” our world standing has stagnated in the middle of the pack amongst developed nations. Now we’re getting ready for the “Common Core Standards” implemented by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, whose claim to fame was a shepherding a failed, dismal Chicago Public School system.

I could continue on and talk about higher education and its skyrocketing costs, or a host of other alarming institutional failings – but it’s safe to say they are not what they were … and sure should not be depended on for our wellbeing and future success.

macgyver

I read an interesting piece last week by Heather Fleming, CEO of Catapult Design. Catapult Design are designers, engineers, and educators working with forward-thinking organizations using technology as a means to drive social change. Their process involves; product and service design consulting, and training and design education of teams and individuals who want to know more about employing a human-centered approach to social challenges.

In other words, they’re doing some pretty lofty, cool stuff. The piece I read follows the same train of thought as the Apollo 13 example I used above, but only its metaphor is based on the ’80s TV show MacGyver. Below, according to Ms. Fleming, are MacGyver’s “four enablers of creativity” or as I call it “Resource Maximization,” utilizing what you have to its fullest and not worrying about what you don’t have.

  • He is a do-er. It’s easy for teams to sidestep creativity when taking on a new endeavor by quibbling over objectives. Ambiguity is uncomfortable. MacGyver uses action to work through the ambiguity. He could sit and have a discussion about his options, or create a tradeoff matrix, but he chooses to learn by doing.
  • His resources are defined. One of the first things he does at the start of a design project is figure out what he knows and what he doesn’t know. He makes constraints. It’s a contrast to what we associate with creativity—which is blue-sky, free-thinking, no rules. But the lack of constraints, or lack of a creative process, is in fact a deterrent to producing innovative results.
  • His goal is clear and a deadline is imminent. For MacGyver, the bomb is always ticking down. He has a defined amount of time. Failure is not an option. It’s similar to that feeling you get the night before a deadline, when the creative adrenaline rushes in at 2 a.m. The pressure is necessary to drive action.
  • He doesn’t have to ask for permission. Imagine if MacGyver had to stop with 15 seconds left on the bomb ticker to get clearance to use a set of pliers. Creating an enabling environment—tools on hand, creative ‘places,’ ‘time’ for creativity, diversity in thought—is what helps him get the job done.

You can read the entire piece by Catapult Design here.

Every community has an abundance of resources. To identify, uncover and “maximize” these resources, is the trick. A top-notch web designer could be sitting in a high school English class. An unemployed electrician could be at home just be waiting for an opportunity to help his community rather spend another day sitting on the couch watching home improvement shows. A neighborhood card club might want to deliver homemade food to a shut-in rather play that hundredth hand of pinochle.

These days, times are difficult for a lot people and in turn, a lot of communities. Unemployment is high and underemployment is even higher. Local municipalities are strapped and it’s only going to get worse. Anything not deemed as critical services have – or will be, cut to the bone. The community safety net is torn and the proverbial seamstress has been sent packing and is in line at the food bank.

Now is the time to take examples from MacGyver and the heroes of Apollo 13 – take what we have … and “maximize” it.

Now is time for your community to come together – and instead waiting for help … HELP ITSELF!

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+

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