A Feeling for Learning

Today, during In-Service, my school heard from and met with Dr. Mary Helen Immodino-Yang. Wow . . . she’s an incredible presenter and capable of explaining deeply complicated ideas in simple and memorable ways. I wrote down a few big ideas.

  • Emotion is the rudder behind the boat that makes cognition go.
  • Young people show us what they need to grow.
  • We only know how to grow and become human through cultural learning.
  • Our biology does not know how to grow outside of human relations.
  • Emotions are the substrate of learning.
  • Kids need space and time to make things their own.
  • Kids will push themselves to do things that matter to them.
  • When you get good at a skill, you are shaping your brain . . . and this always has a tradeoff.
  • “Emotions may be automatic responses to a situation . . . but we need to lean how to feel emotions.”
  • Experts know how to feel about the work that they do. For example, a mathematician can explain why an equation is beautiful.
  • You only remember the thing about which you’ve had emotion. If, for example, students doing math only feel emotion about what they think their teachers think about them (e.g., “my teacher thinks I’m dumb”) or the result of the grade (e.g., “I’m going to fail and then I won’t get into college”), then they will remember those things, not the math itself.
  • “Meaningful learning always involves emotion.”

Approximately November

Over Thanksgiving, I’ll most likely wind down my spare time literary activities, so here’s a summary of November, approximately.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Seeing and Time*

I’m always on the lookout for productivity tips, but I find that many of them are mere retreads of classic works or ideas. Here’s one that felt slightly new to me.

Challenge yourself to figure out what meetings could be replaced by async communication or more transparent project management.**

Most people with whom I work are pretty good at “async communication,” though I feel that we could all improve in the area of “transparent project management.” It’s interesting to think that one way for me to reduce my time in meetings — and increase my time in really focused and concentrated work — could be to change the project management culture in my organization. I have control over this situation to the extent that I can model TPM in groups, committees, and teams for which I am responsible. Strategically, or in the long-run, I can make time by making certain information more visible to key stakeholders.

*Pardon the philosophy pun!

**Source: Postlight Business Insights

**H/T: Why is this Interesting newsletter from 11/22/19

Holes vs. Wholes

This article from the Financial Times, which may or may not be behind a paywall depending on your browser, cites some recent research from Bob Sutton and his oft-partner Huggy Rao. Here are the gems — quotations from Sutton or Rao — that are worth keeping and turning over a few times:

  • Leaders are “trustees of . . . employees’ time.”
  • “Gunk people” add friction to organizations, making it difficult for people to produce or extract value from those organizations.
  • “Grease people” do the opposite.

Last, according to Rao, leaders:

  • “Make the bad things difficult to do and the good things easy,” ultimately ensuring that employees go “back home whole.”

I have also understood and processed these ideas using an “actor / agent” lens, but no matter what we call them, they are worth our most effortful aspirations and our most aspirational efforts . . . especially the bit about sending employees “back home whole.”

Strategic Pauses

I enjoy reading the semi-regular newsletter from Triangle Associates. (Though, after a quick scan of their website, I can’t figure out how to help you subscribe.) Here’s what they recently wrote about strategy:

[S]trategy-making is about planting trees today that will bear fruit years in the future . . . The guiding question behind strategy is, “What should we be doing to ensure the long-term viability of ________?” (Leading Trends newsletter, November 2019)

The blank [“________”] above is mine, and it’s symbolic of the way I am currently thinking about strategic action and planning on a personal level. Where are the blanks in my schedule? Did they arrive there intentionally or haphazardly? More specifically, the questions I’m carrying around are: When am I using strategic pauses? And, am I being strategic about when, where, how, and why I pause?

In some ways, all pauses are strategic in that they allow a person or organization to rest and reset before further action. (Resets are trees that bear fruit.)

In other ways, though, pauses can and should be intentional — and pursued with discipline — because some pauses are more valuable than others. Also, some pauses are decisions that can be made once and then forgotten, because they will continue to happen until someone makes a different decision.

For example, I just learned that I can set a delay on every email I send. This action allows me to send an email and then update it, change it, or call it back before it arrives in someone else’s inbox. It’s a pause that is strategic because I programmed it — once — in order to make a positive difference in — all of — my future email communication.

Another strategic pause I’ve planned — albeit a weird one — is to schedule time to read through the owner’s manuals of the last few large purchases I have made. I’m assuming there are maintenance schedules to which I should be paying attention or gray flags (rather than red flags, which are obvious) that I might be missing. Baking in some time to read such manuals could save me time — and money — in the long run.

Blogging, for me, is a strategic pause — a time in the day when I write down things that I have learned and want to remember or ideas that are jumbled up in my mind and, if given the space, will become synthesized and usable bits of knowledge.

Skipping every other page in your notebook (if you take notes by hand) plants the seed for a strategic pause because it reminds you that you should go back and recopy your notes, from the full page to the blank page. This pause — and redo — promotes learning.

Having coffee every morning with a loved one (and no agenda) is a strategic pause.

John Cage’s 4’33” stands as a testament to the strategic pause in musical composition.

Adding buffers around meetings is a strategic pause in that, if the meeting ends early, you’re not butting right up against your next task. You have time to breath or process or just allow the conversation to move off the agenda.

(Planning a sabbatical is a major strategic pause, though one that few can afford.)

Sleep, quite literally, is a strategic pause.

I’m realizing as I’m writing this, that one way to test the value of a planned strategic pause is to imagine what would happen if you stuck with it, on a regular basis, for a decade. If you paused and paused and paused again at a regular cadence. Would your life be better? Would your business be better? Would your family be better?

I invite you now to plan your own pauses, to write them down, to test them, and to really commit to them as they appear in your planners and your calendars and your Apple Watches and your inboxes. A lot of reminder systems offer mere distractions; you can use these systems for good, though, reminding yourself, from time to time, to be purely and blissfully distracted.

The One with the Best Feedback Loop Usually Wins

A few posts ago, I poked some fun at GMail’s Predictive Text feature. Writing an email today, I accidentally clicked part of the screen that I don’t often click, and I launched a window that invited me to provide feedback about the available predictive text.

Now I’m rethinking my joke . . . or realizing that maybe the joke’s on me, a human writer with a fairly non existent feedback loop.

California Notebook: Wabi-sabi Edition

Wabi-sabi, to oversimplify, is a view of things — art included — that allows for impermanence and imperfection.

In that spirit, and certainly without fully earning it, I’m declaring the California Notebook Blog Series to be complete . . . or, rather, incomplete, imperfect, and therefore just fine.

If you’re interested in some weekend reading, here are all the entries in one place:

Entry 1: Intro + Stanford Design School Notes

Entry 2: Synapse School Notes

Entry 3: 18 California Scented Questions

Entry 4: Scott Barry Kaufman on the Mic