Slight Modification

I removed a word from this quotation to make it more generally applicable.

[Philosophers] share the general human weakness for explanations of what is incomprehensible in terms suited for what is familiar and well understood, though entirely different. This has led to the acceptance of implausible accounts of the _________ largely because they would permit familiar kinds of reduction.

Source: What Is It Like to be a Bat?

I admit that, in the context of the paper in which it can be found, my modification — to make the quotation more applicable and familiar — presents a fair amount of irony. But I’m not a philosopher; I’m a teacher and idea spreader. So let’s use the concept to get somewhere new. Or leave it where we found it.

The Next Right Thing

Over Father’s Day weekend, I was drawn to — and read all of — Erin Lee Carr’s memoir, which was also a story about her father, David Carr. Here’s a quotation about journalism from one of David Carr’s speeches. It applies to so much:

Journalism is like housekeeping. It’s a series of small, discrete acts performed over and over. It’s really the little things that make it better. So don’t think about the broad sweep of your journalism. Just do a good job on what’s in front of you. Working on your next grand plan is like shoveling snow that hasn’t fallen yet. Just do the next right thing.

[Source: All that You Leave Behind: A Memoir by Erin Lee Carr]

And David Carr aside, oh what a book… It really floored me and I would say immediately made me a better parent. I’m still not sure exactly why, but I’m going to keep thinking about it.

Immediacy in the Wild

In Make Yourself Clear, Reshan and I devote an entire section to immediacy. In short, immediacy occurs when information is communicated at a time that is optimal for both the communicator and the recipient.

While researching the book, we became mildly fascinated with receipts — the way in which a transaction is or is not documented. We liked restaurant receipts, for example, that calculated and shared different tip ranges. As you sign these receipts and note the final total, they assist you in quickly adding the appropriate tip amount. The restaurant management’s use of such receipts indicates a commitment to immediacy — they share information at the precisely right time, benefitting their servers and their customers by reducing friction in the tipping process.

Here’s another nice example of immediacy in the wild (and via receipt). It’s a receipt from a CVS that breaks out the amount of the bill that can be reimbursed through a flexible spending account.

A receipt like this is immediate in that it helps CVS to communicate information at a time that is optimal for them (they have the numbers and an attentive audience), helpful for me, the customer (I understand on-the-spot how much I can submit for reimbursement), and helpful for the company managing my FSA (when I submit the receipt, they can quickly see what CVS has categorized as appropriate expenses and then compare it to their own calculation). Further, this kind of receipt helps the FSA program more generally because it serves as a reminder that such a program exists, that it can be applied to even a casual CVS run, and that it can be this simple.

From the Cutting Room Floor

A few weeks ago, Reshan and I spoke with writer and artist Austin Kleon about the ways in which learning and studying fuel his creative practice. I’m in the process of editing the interview for publication, but this quote, from Reshan (a) won’t be included in the final version of the interview and (b) is completely worth noting / pondering. So here it is, dusted off and ready to inspire:

Almost every interaction is a learning experience. It’s just a matter of whether it’s institutional, i.e., in some kind of school or training context, or informal. If you accept that as true, then you can look at almost every element of life and ask, am I experiencing [blank] in a way that I want to learn about it? Or, on the flip-side, am I helping others, for whom I’m responsible, experience [blank] in a way that they want to learn about it?

In our recent book, we encourage business and salespeople to approach their work like good teachers — to really start to think about how the people with whom they interact can be moved to learn and become curious and enthusiastic. Because, really, to close the deal, whether it’s a lesson in a classroom or a massive contract, that’s where you need people to arrive. Are the people involved, who need to be converted, interested in this? Are they curious? Do they intrinsically want to engage with whatever I’m saying or selling?

So I have a seven, five, and three year old, and my wife and I are both educators. Our perspective on school is that it’s only going to be able to do so much. But are our kids happy? Are they safe?  Do they have friends? Do they have people they can talk to and puzzle through things with? As long as those things are covered, everything should work out, educationally speaking. Of course, as parents, we have to do some work, too. We have to give them experiences and take them on adventures. The learning goal of school and parenting and partnerships between the two is to ensure that curiosity builds in young people.

Public Benefit Companies

I’ve been hearing more and more about companies formed as PBCs (Public Benefit Companies). I finally took the time today to read a light legal explanation of the model.

In contrast with other for-profit entities, which by law must focus exclusively on increasing investor returns, a PBC is required to consider other factors. A PBC’s charter identifies a public benefit, namely a positive effect or reduction of negative effects flowing to stakeholders, that is “artistic, charitable, cultural, economic, educational, environmental, literary, medical, religious, scientific, or technological” in character. When making business decisions, in addition to considering the value to shareholders, PBCs also must consider other stakeholder interests, which may include employees, customers, certain communities, or the environment.

full text:

I like designs and models that ensure the right kinds of perpetual tension, the right kinds of ongoing and repeating questions.

What Makes Something Better

I’m in a workshop about empathy and technology, and the idea I most want to remember came from Brené Brown.

Rarely can a response make something better. What makes something better is connection.

That’s an especially important insight for people who see their ability to be rational and logical and measured as the ultimate gift in times of emotion or crisis. Sometimes, it’s not.

Outreach, Partnerships, School

I’ve been away from this blog for a while because I had to focus on a few important professional and personal tasks. With those things in the rearview mirror, and accomplished, I can start to hack around again — and share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing (or, since it’s summer, not doing).

One of the projects I’m most excited about is the launch of part of a strategic plan at my school. I’ll be working with three small teams, over the next 1 – 5 years, to envision, and execute, this goal:

[Montclair Kimberley Academy] will cultivate a distinctly outward looking relationship with our alumni and institutions with a relevant or educational mission such as universities, service organizations, medical centers and innovative enterprises in technology, research and business in order to provide our students with unique learning opportunities beyond the boundaries of the school and to offer a human benefit to those partner organizations.

Montclair Kimberley Academy: Strategic Plan

I’m sharing this information two reasons:

First, I’m foreshadowing at least part of the direction of Refreshing Wednesday for the foreseeable future. I’m going to be researching — and posting about — networks, partnerships, the future of education, and things like that.

Second, and ever meta, I’m hoping to activate my own network in service of this goal (about networks). If you feel like you can help or have a perspective on the work described above, please let me know. Thank you!