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!

To Surprise and Invigorate

The group that looks after our neighborhood park — Friends of Anderson Park — recently won a Historical Preservation Award. (My kids are “acorn members.”) The last line in the award description seems particularly relevant to a variety of endeavors. It could stand as a description of any good business, school, or community organization (though I’m going to make you read the whole citation to get to it).

Anderson Park is an oasis of greenery and tranquility adjoining the Upper Montclair Historic Business District, the Boonton-Greenwood Lake commuter train line and the residential areas of Oakcroft and North Mountain Ave. An Olmsted Brothers designed landscape gives Anderson Park a naturalistic setting with informal plantings and winding pathways. Scott Kevelson, president and founder of the Friends of Anderson Park, a non-profit conservancy, has worked tirelessly to promote the natural, cultural, historic and educational qualities of the site. Their stewardship includes maintenance and replenishment of the original Olmsted plantings. Since 2006, they have planted 160 trees and 60 shrubs, including a rose bed, in cooperation with the Essex County Parks. They host an annual “Music Under the June Moon” event, plus numerous educational incentives such as the short-story contest and art projects. Nominated to the State and National registers in 2009, through the efforts of Lisanne Renner, Anderson Park with Scott Kevelson at the helm, continues to surprise and invigorate the current residents of Montclair.

Offense or Defense?

A question, utterly out of context, that I like to ask people is: “do you prefer offense or defense?”

Here’s a quote from investor and author Morgan Housel, subtly in praise of defense.

The importance of every endeavor is its potential multiplied by the odds of it working and how long it will work for. Conservation and efficiency don’t rank high on the first part, but they’re so strong on the second two that over time their impact exceeds what’s been done in more exciting parts of the industry.