First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Start – Stop – Keep (Continue) – A Valuable Leadership Team Meeting Exercise

There are a lot of meetings that waste a lot of time.  And they feel like a waste of time.  And, maybe they are, because little is accomplished in far too many meetings.

But, the evidence is clear – effective meetings can really lead to progress.

So… what to do?

There are a lot of “approaches” to reach the goal.   That goal:

for a team to have an effective meeting, a meeting that moves the group, and the organization, forward.

And what is an effective meeting? How about this?

An effective meeting is a meeting that identifies the “what’s next?” very effectively, and then provides clear marching orders to accomplish that “what’s next?”.

Those “what’s next?” conversations are critical. And, there are a number of ways to arrive at the “what’s next?” that a group needs. Here’s one approach. Frequently, the “what’s next?” is the idea that:

We need to START DOING something we are not yet doing.
We need to STOP DOING something that we are doing.
We need to CONTINUE (KEEP) DOING what we are doing, (but, maybe, with some improvements – or, maybe, among more people and groups throughout the organization.).

START – STOP – KEEP (CONTINUE).keep-start-stop-and-carry-on1

(Here’s a Gazelles work sheet to help you work through this leadership team meeting exercise).

Whatever your situation, I suspect that well-run, purposeful meetings will help you make progress.

How are your meetings going?

Monday, September 29, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 1 Comment

The Power of Noticing: A book review by Bob Morris

Power of NoticingThe Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See
Max H. Bazerman
Simon & Schuster (2014)

How and why a wider perspective (System 2 thinking) will guide you toward more effective decisions and fewer disappointments

I agree with Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot by just watching.”

However, as Max Bazerman explains in this brilliant book, more than watching is necessary: we must also notice and then, of perhaps even greater importance, we need to have developed a mind-set that enables us to recognize what is especially significant. This is what Isaac Asimov has in mind when observing, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…'” Hence the importance of anomalies. It is impossible to connect the dots to reveal patterns, trends, causal relationships, etc. unless you know what the right “dots” are and connect them in the right way. The same is true of accumulating disparate data (viewed as pieces of a puzzle) and know how to assemble them in proper order.

As Bazerman explains, “The Power of Noticing challenges leaders to also be noticing architects. Leaders too often fail to notice that they have designed systems that encourage a misspecified goal (booked sales) rather than a more appropriate one (actual profit to the organization). I encourage all leaders to become better noticing architects and to design systems that encourage employees to notice what is truly important.” All of the great leaders throughout history were great noticers. With rare exception, they helped others to become great (or at least competent) noticers.

In the second chapter, Bazerman suggests that inattentional blindness “is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our failure to notice. Much worse — and well-documented — is the common tendency to willfully ignore inconvenient evidence of others’ unethical behavior. In Dante’s Inferno, the last and worst ring in hell is reserved for those who, in a moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. Inattentional blindness has been a problem for several centuries. Consider this observation by Thucydides: “When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason.”

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Bazerman’s coverage.

o The Broader Argument: Our Failure to Notice (Pages xix-xxi)
o From Bounded Awareness to Removing the Blinders (13-15)
o Jerry Sandusky Scandal (16-25)
o Broad Oversight (36-42)
o Implicit Blindness (50-61)
o Negotiating the Wrong Deal (78-82)
o Not Noticing on a Slippery Slope (88-92)
o Sherlock Holmes in “Silver Blaze”: The Dog That Didn’t Bark (101-109)
o Not Noticing the Ingredients of a Financial Collapse, and, It IS Too Good to Be True (126-132)
o The Market for Lemons (139-145)
o Cynicism: The Dark Side of Thinking One Step Ahead (146-150)
o Walking the Customer: “We Reward Results!”(159-162)
o Failing to Notice Predictable Surprises (171-172)
o The Power of Noticing Predictable Surprises (178-180)
o A Noticing Mind-Set (182-185)
o Nothing Is Easier for Outsiders (187-191)

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine can possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of information, insights, and counsel that Max Bazerman provides in abundance. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of his book. He concludes: “As I hope you have learned by now, focusing is important, but sometimes noticing is better — at least when you are making critical decisions. In hope that this book has provided useful guidance to help you, as a focuser, also become a first-class noticer.” I presume to add a few points of my own. First, we tend to see what we expect to see and notice little else. Also, as Thucydides suggests, we tend to embrace that with which we agree and reject that withwhich we don’t. Finally, it is extremely difficult but nonetheless possible — and perhaps imperative — to establish a culture within which noticing is not only a core competency but an embedded value.

Sunday, September 28, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Naomi Klein’s Provocative Best-Seller on Capitalism and Climate

Last week, Simon and Schuster published a provocative new business book that flew to the # 3 spot in the best-seller list revealed in the 9/27/2014 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. Climate, written by Naomi Klein, is a certain selection for one of us at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.  Watch our web site for the exact month we will present this one.

Naomi Klein pictureWho is Naomi Klein?  She was educated at the University of Toronto, and is known as a social activist due to her criticism of corporate globalization and her candid political analyses.  She is only 44 years old, and became well known in business circles with her 2007 New York Times best-seller, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York:  Picador).  In that book, she argued that those who wish to implement unpopular free market policies do so by taking advantage of particular societal segments following major disasters, including political, economic, military, or natural varieties.  Her analysis was that when a society experiences a major ‘shock,’ a widespread desire for a rapid and decisive response to correct the situation follows. In the light of that desire for swift action, unethical and unscrupulous individuals have opportunities to implement policies that are self-serving and illegitimate.  The shock doctrine allows such responses, including manufactured policy changes, to go into immediate effect.

You can read an interview published on September 25, 2014, on, about her new book, by clicking here.  Note that the bottom of the interview contains two important corrections.

In This Changes Everything, Klein argues that the climate crisis provides a challenge for us to abandon free-market thinking, restructure the global economy, and rethink current political systems.

This descriptive paragraph about the book comes from  “Climate change isn’t just another issue to be neatly filed between taxes and health care. It’s an alarm that calls us to fix an economic system that is already failing us in many ways. Klein meticulously builds the case for how massively reducing our greenhouse emissions is our best chance to simultaneously reduce gaping inequalities, re-imagine our broken democracies, and rebuild our gutted local economies. She exposes the ideological desperation of the climate-change deniers, the messianic delusions of the would-be geoengineers, and the tragic defeatism of too many mainstream green initiatives. And she demonstrates precisely why the market has not—and cannot—fix the climate crisis but will instead make things worse, with ever more extreme and ecologically damaging extraction methods, accompanied by rampant disaster capitalism.This Changes Everything Cover

And, later on the same site, “Klein argues that the changes to our relationship with nature and one another that are required to respond to the climate crisis humanely should not be viewed as grim penance, but rather as a kind of gift—a catalyst to transform broken economic and cultural priorities and to heal long-festering historical wounds. And she documents the inspiring movements that have already begun this process: communities that are not just refusing to be sites of further fossil fuel extraction but are building the next, regeneration-based economies right now.

You can bet this book will produce many stimulating conversations.  Watch the major editorial pages of national business magazines and newspaper sections.  I am sure that some will include personal attacks on her own credibility.  Time will tell what is actually true.

Remember that we do not select books to present at the First Friday Book Synopsis that we agree with.  And, we don’t try to get you to agree with the books we select.  We are merely reporters – transferring the information in an objective manner from the author to our audience.

But, when we do this one, I would sure like to stand in the hallway to listen to our attendees talk about it.

Saturday, September 27, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting too Long Can Be Tardy, Traumatic, and Expensive – Be Ready Before the Crisis!

Here’s the lesson for this blog post.

When a problem is threatening to get out of hand, we should act earlier than we do – much, much earlier!

When we wait, waiting can have very bad consequences. (Even, in the case of Ebola, very deadly consequences).

Consider these three items:

#1 – In The Organized Mind, Daniel Levitin describes the practice of musicians to carry “extra” supplies (think guitarists, with extra Organized Mindguitar strings). Here’s the key quote:

All these people spend a great deal of time trying to think about all the ways that something might go wrong, how they might prevent it, and how they would recover if it does.

Sounds like wise counsel and advice to me.

#2 – In What Matters Now, Gary Hamel includes this stark warning:

Problem is, deep change is almost always crisis-driven; it’s tardy, traumatic and expensive.

So, when we wait for the crisis, and then act, we pretty much blow it… This usually is, as Mr Hamel put it, “tardy, traumatic, and expensive.”

#3 – Consider the Ebola crisis. In the Business Insider article We Screwed Up On Ebola, And Now The Crisis Is Getting Much Worse by Lauren Friedman, we read:

Back in April, when the Ebola outbreak in West Africa had killed less than 100 people, Doctors Without Borders urged the world to mobilize a significant response, warning that failure to act could result in an “unprecedented epidemic.”

Instead, the world responded with what Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times called “a global shrug.” Over the summer, as residents of the developed world comforted themselves with the knowledge that an outbreak on our home turf was highly unlikely, the death toll in one of the poorest corners of the world climbed sharply.

Now, take a look at this chart (from the Business Insider article).

Click on chart for full view

Click on chart for full view

So… the lesson. Start looking at everything you do much more closely. What is set up to go wrong? What warning signs are you missing? What crisis might be (sometimes, almost certainly will be) coming “‘round the bend?”

Identify early; act quickly. Don’t wait. Don’t wait to see if things will get worse.  Chances are, they will…

Waiting is “tardy, traumatic, expensive” – and can be pretty devastating.

Saturday, September 27, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

John Dean’s Unfamiliar Account of a Familiar Story

NixonDefenseCoverI am in the process of reading John Dean’s newest book about Richard Nixon and Watergate.  The book is entitled The Nixon Defense:  What He Knew and When He Knew It (New York:  Viking, 2014).  I am about 4/5 done, as I write today’s post.

Dean, who was chief counsel during the Nixon era, arranged for transcription of all of the audio recorded tapes, and has painstakingly listened to and interpreted them to write this book.   Some tapes were of very poor quality and Dean professes to have spent hours trying to decipher them with the most sophisticated equipment available.  The book is a well-written, although not always well-proofed (there are typos), account of the major events and players in this infamous era.  His first, and most famous book, was Blind Ambition (New York:  Simon and Schuster), written in 1976, which Dean frequently cites in this book.

I listened to some of these tapes before they were made available to general public.  Once on a trip to D.C., in the early ’90’s, I spent most of a day at the National Archives selecting sessions of interest to me.  At the time I did this, many of the tapes that are available today on the Internet were still classified.  This book reinforces the startling reality that we had an American president who stumbled and rambled in an inarticulate manner, presenting himself in front of others as confused, disorganized, and uninformed.  He adapted well to whom he was speaking, but in a manipulative and unethical manner.  What I did not know until I read this book was that he was also horribly sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic.  The tapes reveal that he was no fan of women, African-Americans, or Jews, in spite of any presidential appointments that he awarded them.

The most interesting portions in the book to me are the reflections that Dean includes from a perspective 40 years later.  He frequently explains what he was thinking then, and what he thinks now.  He provides corrections and updates to what he heard on the tapes.  This is not a book that simply includes transcriptions, but rather, that weaves in information and accounts from multiple sources that correspond with those transcriptions.  JohnDeanPicture

People criticize Jimmy Carter as president for surrounding himself with the wrong people.  They were no match for “all the president’s men.”  I always thought that Nixon’s chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, was machiavellian and controlling.  I never believed Charles Colson back then, or when he found Jesus Christ in jail and wrote books for personal profit, or now as I read what he said in these transcriptions.* Until I read this book, I never thought that John Ehrlichman, the counsel and Assistant to for Domestic Affairs, was so stupid.  The tapes reveal how often he spoke before thinking, how limited his knowledge of civil and criminal law was, and how dismissive he was of alternative positions that were not aligned with his own.  Without doubt, the great unraveling of the Watergate cover-up as well as the Nixon presidency was the gradual interest each person had in protecting himself by twisting facts and spinning tales to fit individual concerns.  At one point, Ehrlichman, in a meeting with Haldeman and Nixon, actually provides word-for-word false testimony that he wanted Dean to recite under oath.  At another, with the same audience, he assumes a broadcaster’s voice, and provides the content of a potential news story that he thought could play out in the media.  In so many conversations, all of these men provided Nixon partial information about damaging circumstances, omitting any content that could implicate themselves.  That is even true when they spoke about each other with Nixon while one or more were not present.  Dean was brave for bolting the scene and baring himself to prosecutors, but why did it take him so long to do so?

But the president himself was the problem.  If you read this book, you may be amazed how much time Nixon devoted to Watergate-related business.  He devoted entire days and weekends to gathering facts about it, creating scenarios, providing instructions, and examining options.  How many times he asks the same questions and gets the same answers from the same people – again and again.  He forgets, or pretends to forget, facts received from the same person, sometimes in the same conversation.  I wonder how the rest of our national affairs could possibly have progressed with this much attention paid to Watergate in the Oval Office.  His subordinates purportedly were trying to distance the president from their own involvement, but they could not do that, due to his own.  Ultimately, I believe it was not John Sirica, or Sam Ervin, or Leon Jaworski, or any other characters who brought down Nixon.  I think it was the American people.  They could not tolerate, nor trust, a man in this office who once implored the country to put Watergate behind them.  Nixon’s picture on the cover of Dean’s book is extremely sinister.

I find myself constantly returning to two sections in this book.  First, I find the footnotes informative.  These are both print sources and recording references.  I occasionally will listen to a tape after reading about it in the book.  Maybe that is why I have not finished this yet.  Second, I like to go back to the list of the cast of characters.  There are many, and I always want to refresh myself on a person’s exact title.  Interestingly, there are no photographs, and I presume Dean knows they are readily available to readers elsewhere.

The two appendices are also revealing.  Appendix A is an account of the Watergate break-in.  Appendix B focuses upon the missing 18 1/2 minute gap in a recording, supposedly created by Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods.  You will be surprised about the actual account published here about what happened, especially from expert testimony.

I will post final reflections about this book when I finish.  I am interested to see how I feel about this when I can reflect about the entire book.

But, for now, this is an amazing work-in-progress.   Why did I not wait until I finish to post this?  Because, like many biographies which are careers-in-progress, so is this account for me.


* – I am in a definitive minority about my feelings concerning Colson.  Almost everyone I have spoken to thinks Colson genuinely found the Lord in jail, and that his books indicate a sincere revelation of a changed personality.  I wish I could also feel that way, but I just don’t.  I simply believe he wrote them for profit, knowing that a public hungry for good news from such turnabouts would buy them.  I will say, however, that I think Colson’s non-profit agencies and organizations have helped many people, and that overall, he provided a legacy with more good in the last years of his life than he did with the bad during the Watergate years.   But, I just can’t shake my opinion that he wrote these books for the wrong reason.  



Saturday, September 27, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thor’s Thriller is at the Top of the List

Brad Thor’s newest novel, Act of War (New York:  Atria, 2014) was one of the best-selling novels in the summer and early fall, topping the fiction lists for awhile.BradThorPicture

Thor, has written numerous thrillers, one of which, The Lions of Lucerne (New York:  Pocket Books, 2002) will be adapted for the big screen in 2015.  You can read more about him at his web site by clicking here.

There are only a few books that I can honestly describe as not being able to put down.  This is one of them.

I believe that one reason Thor is a great writer is that his books focus.  There are not too many characters and not too many scenes, but just enough to keep the reader moving.

The key character is Scot Harvath, a former Navy SEAL and presidential secret service veteran, who returns from Thor’s previous books.  He finds his hands full with the CIA, FBI, and local law enforcement when a critical quest for a terrorist provides startling information.  The novel revolves around a top-secret operation developed by high-level individuals in the Chinese government.  They have the objective of bringing the United States to its knees through multiple terrorist activities.  At every level, their plan seems to have a strong chance to succeed in a swift and devastating manner.  Harvath is pressured by the American president who stays on top of all the activities.  He approves two missions that if Harvath cannot keep secret would end his career, and even his life.  One of these Harvath controls, and the other is a chilling attempt to send a group secretly into North Korea.  Time remains prominent and of the essence at every point in the story.

ActofWarCoverReaders will tell that this is a well-researched book.  Thor provides a long list of acknowledgements, indicating the extensive scope of historians, military and law enforcement officials, and various other contributors who make this book believable.

I won’t tell you more so you can read this yourself.   Since this is fiction, it does not qualify for the kinds of books we present, so you won’t be able to hear this at the First Friday Book Synopsis.

However, maybe in a few years, you will watch an adaptation of this at a theatre.  I think it’s that good.



Saturday, September 27, 2014 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Marathon. It’s a Sprint. – It’s a Marathon AND a Sprint! – It’s A Keeping At It Over the Long Haul In a Fast and Faster Pace Era

Take a good hard look at this quote from President Obama, which I heard on this Morning Edition segment: Promised Help To Fight Ebola Arriving At ‘Speed Of A Turtle’:

“There is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be,” Obama said. “We know from experience that the response to an outbreak of this magnitude has to be fast, and it has to be sustained. It’s a marathon, but you have to run it like a sprint.”

There it is – “it’s a marathon, but you have to run it like a sprint.”

Though he was referring to the fight against Ebola (what a scary fight), it applies to nearly all endeavors these days.

The days of slow and leisurely seem to be pretty much over. We are now in an era of “get it done, fast…faster than that! – even over the long haul” work challenges.

This is 2014; 7 years into the iPhone era. And we are now up to the iPhone 6 version. Constantly updating! The next, next version has to be far along before they even unveil the current new version.  A marathon — a sprint.

Here’s one of Gary Hamel’s five things that matter now (from the book, What Matters Now):

successful products and strategies are quickly copied. Without relentless innovation, success is fleeting. …there’s What Mattersnot one company in a hundred that has made innovation everyone’s job, every day. 
In most organizations, innovation still happens “despite the system” rather than because of it.
…innovation is the only sustainable strategy for creating long-term value.

Sounds like a marathon and a sprint all rolled up into one.

Every company, every organization feels it. A marathon, to stay viable. A sprint, to not fall behind the competition.

It’s a marathon AND a sprint. No wonder we all feel out of breath.

Friday, September 26, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

What Is It You Are Trying To Communicate? – This One Sentence Is Critical

unclearLet’s do this again…

What is it you are trying to communicate?

If you are giving a speech, a business presentation, sending an e-mail, writing a report, then you have something to communicate.

What is it you are trying to communicate?

Whatever that “it” is that you are trying to communicate, say “it” clearly, succinctly, in one clear sentence.

Here’s my one sentence for this blog post:

Be able to summarize your key message in one short, easy-to-grasp sentence.

In my speech classes, I require my students to give me an outline. I then follow the outlines as they speak. More times than I care to think about, I have this reaction – I can’t figure out what they are trying to communicate. And it drives me crazy.

And then, some of those students may become presenters later in their professional life. I’ve heard more than my share of presentations that, at the end, I think – “I could not figure out what they were trying to communicate.”

This is not good!

Clear communication is essential. And for that to happen, a clear one-sentence summary of a whole message is critical. Call this what you like – a “topic sentence” works fine. But it needs to be clear, simple – almost boring.

Don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. The speech or presentation should not be boring. You must start your presentation with some kind of “hook,” some “let me gain your interest” beginning that indicates “this will be worth my time to listen” to the audience members.

But then, that one key sentence should follow. That one clear “this is what I am communicating” sentence needs to be so simple that it is almost boring. So simple, so clear…

Tomorrow, I will present my synopsis of Gary Hamel’s book What Matters Now to a leadership team for a major organization. I have a multi-page, comprehensive handout that each participant will have – with many quotes and excerpts from his excellent book, an outline of key content, and my lessons and takeaways..

But, in the book, Mr. Hamel clearly states that there are five things that matter now.

So, I will say this, pretty early:

Gary Hamel identifies five things that matter now; let me explain them to you.

This tells the audience what I will be communicating. Does that sentence identify the five things? No. But it says what is coming in the overall presentation.   (Here’s my blog post that lists the five).

Every communicator is in constant competition with other messengers and messages for the time and attention of the audience. They don’t have to listen to you. They have so many things to listen to, to read, to think about. As communicators, we have to say, clearly, compellingly,

“My message is worth listening to.”

So, the audience will say, back,

“Ok – just what is this message you want me to listen to?”

We’d better have a good answer. If we can’t answer that question clearly, simply, we’re lost before we even get started.

So, always remember — Be clear! Know what you are trying to communicate. And state it clearly, state it simply.

Here’s your test. When the session is over, and someone asks a participant, “what did he talk about?,” they will have an answer. If they don’t – if they say, “I couldn’t quite figure it out” – then you’ve got some real work to do!

Thursday, September 25, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | Leave a comment

Why not multitask to get more work done?

NassResearch conducted by Clifford Nass and his associates at Stanford University was based on two assumptions:

o That multitaskers are superhumans, capable peak performance, while completing several tasks simultaneously

o That multitaskers have a highly developed ability to switch attention from one task to another in an orderly way

What in fact did the research reveal?

“We all bet that multitaskers were going to be stars at something, We were absolutely shocked. We lost all our bets. It turns out that multitaskers are terrible at every aspect of multitasking. They’re terrible at ignoring irrelevant information; they’re terrible at keeping information in their head nicely and neatly organized; and they’re terrible at switching from one task to another.”

In The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, Daniel J. Levitin has this to say:

“We all want to believe that we can do many things at once and that our attention is infinite, but this is a persistent myth. What we really do is shift our attention rapidly from task to task. Two bad things happen as a result: We don’t devote enough attention to any one thing, and we decease the quality of attention applied to any task. When we do one thing — uni-task — there are beneficial changes in the brain’s daydreaming network and increased connectivity…You’d think people would realize that they’re bad at multitasking and would quit. But a cognitive illusion sets in, fueled in part by a dopamine-adrenaline feedback loop, which multitaskers [begin italics] think [end italics] they are doing great.”

When multitasking, we don’t get more work done. We get less work done and of a much lower quality. Now you know.

* * *

To read the complete report, Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers, please click here.

Tragically, Clifford Nass died November 2, 2013, at Stanford Sierra Camp near South Lake Tahoe, after collapsing at the end of a hike. He was only 55.

Clifford Nass earned a B.A. cum laude in mathematics (1981) and a Ph.D. in sociology (1986), both from Princeton University. Before attending graduate school, Nass worked as a computer scientist at Intel Corporation. Nass focused on experimental studies of social-psychological aspects of human-computer interaction. He directed the Communication between Humans and Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab. The four foci of the CHIMe Lab are: 1) Communication in and between Automobiles: Research on Safety, Information Technology, and Enjoyment (CARSITE); 2) Social and Psychological Aspects of Computing Environments (SPACE), which focuses on mobile and ubiquitous technology; 3) Abilities of People: Personalization, Emotion, Embodiment, Adaptation, Language, and Speech (APPEEALS); and 4) human-robot interaction. He is also co-Director of the Kozmetsky Global Collaboratory, which focuses on developing countries. To learn more about him and his important work, please click here.

LevitinDaniel J. Levitin is the James McGill Professor of Psychology and Music at McGill University, Montreal, where he also holds appointments in the Program in Behavioural Neuroscience, The School of Computer Science, and the Faculty of Education. An award-winning teacher, he now adds best-selling author to his list of accomplishments as “This Is Your Brain on Music” and “The World in Six Songs” were both Top 10 best-sellers, and have been translated into 16 languages. Before becoming a neuroscientist, he worked as a session musician, sound engineer, and record producer working with artists such as Stevie Wonder and Blue Oyster Cult. He has published extensively in scientific journals as well as music magazines such as Grammy and Billboard. Recent musical performances include playing guitar and saxophone with Sting, Bobby McFerrin, Rosanne Cash, David Byrne, and Rodney Crowell.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Teachable? Not Teachable? – Which is Better?

"learn" written on blackboard with apple, booksteach·able adjective
• able and willing to learn : capable of being taught
• allowing something to be taught or learned easily
• eager to learn


I teach Speech to community college students. Freshman and sophomore level students, and occasionally upper level students taking speech for the required credit.

I am ready to state an obvious “truth.” There are people who are serious about learning (teachable) – and people who aren’t serious about learning.

I lead sessions for executive and leadership teams, and professional people in companies and organizations.

Let me repeat: I am ready to state an obvious “truth.” There are people who are serious about learning (teachable) – and people who aren’t serious about learning.

It does not matter. Whether you are talking about college students, or professional development participants, there are those who take it seriously, and show up to learn – and there are those who don’t.

Why do they even attend these sessions? Maybe a boss or supervisor or manager makes them; maybe they want to want to learn, but then…they really don’t actually want to learn. Maybe they go to be seen, or to network, or to have the class or the college degree or the training sessions on their resumes. (By the way, all of these are good reasons to attend… good reasons, but not “enough”).

But, ultimately, the people who are wanting and ready and willing to learn are the better learners. By far.

If I had my choice, every student, every participant, would be fully teachable – eager to learn, fully engaged in every session.

But… No matter what I hope, that simply does not happen.

And here are a couple of types of participants that come really close to driving a teacher/trainer like me crazy.

#1 – the tuned-out participant. This is the person who is in the room, but simply is not present. Constantly checking the phone or tablet, staring out the window, not paying attention to much of anything. And this level of non-participation is distracting to the speaker/teacher, and to all others.

#2 – the arrogant participant. This is the person who “knows more” than the presenter or teacher, and/or everyone else. (Maybe that should be “thinks they know more”). Let’s say they actually do know more. Their arrogance is still noticeable to all, and they can drag down the morale of the teacher and the other participants.

And, by the way, people who are that arrogant seemingly never acknowledge that they are arrogant, or that they hurt the learning experience of others. (Willful blindness…).

So, assuming that you have a teacher (trainer; presenter) who knows something worth sharing, it seems to me that your role as a participant should be the role of willing, enthusiastic learner.

If you are the eager learner, good for you. My guess is you have much more to learn, you can’t wait to learn it, and you will continue an upward trajectory in your life, and in your career.

If you are the “not teachable participant,” well… it’s time to change, isn’t it?

There is so much to learn. Take advantage – become a serious learner. It will do you, and all around you, some serious good.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 Posted by | Randy's blog entries | 3 Comments


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