Byron's Babbles

Seeking Opportunities To Observe & Update Our 🌎Worldview🌍

We create our own beliefs, they don’t happen to us. We choose what and how we believe. As we grow up, we see the world and ourselves in a particular way. This “way” is based on environmental influences, our parents/families, and our peers. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for developing our own belief system.

“To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.”

One of my favorite quotes by an unknown author is, “To argue with someone else’s experience is futile. To add their experience to your own is possibly useful.” To me this is what empathy is about – understanding how another person’s experiences have shaped them. If we take time to truly study the experiences of others, those experiences can help give us information free of confirmation bias.

One Machiavelli principle I prescribe to is that we should always “declare” what we believe. This does not, however, mean that those beliefs can’t evolve and change. Thus, why declaring is important. In fact, sometimes we must grapple with contradictory evidence. As our society becomes more and more global, we have more and more of our own experiences and the experiences of others to process. This contemplation of dealing with opposing views and possibly believing parts of both has always intrigued me. F. Scott Fitzgerald taught us, “The rest of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” I see this as an ability of great empathy, openness, humility, and leadership.

“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” ~ Mark Twain

This trait of openness was reinforced in an awesome book I’m reading right now, Creative Confidence: Unleashing The Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. In the book we are taught that building on the ideas of others requires humility. We must first acknowledge to ourselves the we don’t have all the answers. The upside to this is that it takes the pressure off of us to know we don’t have to generate all the ideas on our own.

Mark Twain taught us that, “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.” We need to be diligent to not be fooled by what we “know for sure” about ourselves, our customers, our students, those we serve, our communities, or the world. We must seek out opportunities to observe and update our worldview.

What Are Your Muses?

Posted in Anthropologie, Anthropology, Creativity, Educational Leadership, Leadership, Muse by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on August 29, 2020

I am reading the great book on creativity by Tom and David Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing The Creative Confidence Within Us All. It is an awesome book and anthropology is referenced a lot in the book. In fact, in the book the authors wrote, “Cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken says, ‘Anthropology is too important to be left to the anthropologists.’ Everyone can improve their empathy skills with a little practice. You may find you’ll get some of your best ideas by doing so” (Kelley, 2013)

Wikipedia tells us that, “Anthropology is the scientific study of humans, human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology studies patterns of behaviour and cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life” (Anthropology). So what does this have to do with creativity? Using an Anthropologists mindset can help us to gain empathy, which empowers our creativity: An anthropological mindset can help us shift our thinking to a variety of perspectives and enables us to navigate a variety of cross-cultural and intersectional situations for us to develop new, or specially tailored ideas, products, and solutions.

Immediately my mind went to a store that I have always been fascinated with: Anthropologie. I first experienced this store on Harvard Square while at the Harvard Graduate School Of Education. I have always been fascinated by the store and always go in and look around and observe; and usually buy a little something for my wife while I am there. The clothes and other items are always different than you find anywhere else. The people working there are awesome and are always willing to show me the newest creative lines.

“Our customer is a creative-minded woman, who wants to look like herself, not the masses.” ~ Anthropologie

So how does the study of anthropology relate to the store Anthropologie? Founder, Dick Hayne, opened the first store in 1992 and named it after his college major of Anthropology. The “ie” ending in the stores name, as I understand it, is a French twist to the spelling. Click here to read the whole Anthropologie story.

Anthropologie uses five muses to put together their product offerings:

  1. Soft and delicate
  2. Boho chic
  3. Easy cool
  4. Elegant classic
  5. Modern sporty

These muses, which are sources of inspiration for a creative artist, help Anthropologie use Anthropology to understand and have the empathy to create new and exciting clothing and products for their customers. If we are going to be creative and have the ideas for those next big innovations society needs, we must all become Anthropologists and find our muses.

Messy Creativity

On Monday I was doing a professional development gathering for Cardinal Charter Academy in Cary, North Carolina entitled “Flat Stanley Goes Virtual: Let’s Be Engaging, Not Flat.” Of course, I used a through line: Flat Stanley’s and Flat Sarah’s. We were discussing achieving high student engagement. Participants made their very own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented their journey during the, then 156 day, journey they had spent during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic.

The participants were super creative and it is always interesting to hear the share out stories. One really caught my attention (see picture in this post) when the participant pointed out she had put a paint splatter on Flat Stanley’s right knee to represent the messiness of our lives right now during the COVID-19 Global Pandemic – the mixing of colors without a set plan or vision of a final piece of art. While it is true, there seems to be a lot of messiness and paint slinging, it got me to thinking that we should try to treat our current situation more like an artist.

In education we have always relied on our function being to provide clear standards and the facilitation and tools needed for student success. This function has been, and continues for the most part, done in a very rigid and standardized way. While reform attempts have been made there is still much work to be done to disrupt the status quo.

All of our lives have become messy during the now 158 days of the pandemic. Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated the messiness of leading learning in education right now. To address an issue standing between a problematic status quo and student success, we must travel into an uncomfortable unknown territory with no signposts pointing toward the destination. Right now, in these times, we are on a quest not knowing our destination before arriving. We must recognize and accept the scariness and messiness of the unknown.

We need to find ways to let loose and let the paint splatter, like on the knee of our participants Flat Stanley, into beautiful art. This makes me think of the paint splatter rooms that are popping up in many cities. Basically, you go, suit up in protective clothing, and sling paint (🎨 6+ colors) at each other and a canvas. What fun! Upon completion of your 30-45 minute “splattering” you have a beautiful piece of art. I really want to go do this! Leadership is so messy, and this splatter room concept makes such a great metaphor.

These splatter rooms have been used for therapy and team building because of the feeling of freedom achieved by just slinging the paint and the random mixing of colors. A messy process where the splatter artist doesn’t exactly know how the canvas will look in the end, but has created a beautiful product. There is so much we can’t predict, much less understand and control, especially right now. We need to keep leaping into an exploration of the possibilities with unscripted questions and activities – the splattering of paint.

We need to embrace the messiness and discover previously unimagined possibilities. Leadership is not about finding one’s courage. Rather, leadership is accepting the messiness and fear that goes with the new and unknown, and then finding the courage to surface its possibilities and beauty.

“Getting It Right” Before “Being Right”

Screen Shot 2020-07-28 at 8.33.08 PM“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). A good daily growth exercise to read a chapter of Proverbs every day each month. There is a lot of wisdom to be gained from King Solomon. The difference between “getting it right” and “being right” with this statement, is not to suggest that we are more often than not wrong in our thinking. Despite the religious origin, people use this nowadays without religious overtones. People can say this simply as a warning not to be too arrogant.

To me “getting it right” before “being right” means having humility and an ability to consider all sides of an issue or question. Being humble does not mean that you diminish your value or take a subordinate position in terms of presenting your ideas or perceptions. It does, however, as a leader, mean than we should listen to others’ ideas before always presenting our own. And acknowledging when those ideas are better than our own. True humility is a sign of wisdom, knowledge, confidence, and strength.

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Getting it right” is a core value I practice to remind myself that making a contribution as part of a bigger team means that you have the humility to accept that others also have something worthwhile to contribute. I truly believe there is no such thing as an “expert.” But, I do talk about the “collective expertise” in the room all the time. We should all strive to be an important part of a “collective vision.” When we give up the need to always be right, we communicate and listen on a deeper level, with more understanding and acceptance, and with less judgment and resistance.

“I Get To Go Be Creative”

Today I was in Nashville, Tennessee doing what I love to do: work with teachers. We were putting on Impact Nashville; an action packed day of professional development. While I was working to inspire teachers and help them improve their craft and the craft I love, I was inspired by the photographer who was chronicling the day. As I was welcoming the participants and handing out name badges this morning I dubbed her “girl with the camera (GWC).” She really does have a name: Lisa.

I love watching great photographers as they move about working for the best shot. Probably because I’m not very talented at taking pictures. I usually need to have someone take a selfie of me. I could tell she loved her craft from watching her. During one of my sessions I was driving home the point that we must teach in a way that has our students believing they “get to” to experience great educational activities, not “have to.”

So, of course, I included GWC Lisa in the discussion. I asked her what she said to herself as she was leaving home this morning to come to our event. She said, “I get to go be creative.” I couldn’t have scripted better – which I had not. How awesome was that response? We should all strive to create environments where we, and those we serve, “get to” and not “have to.”

I was using the game Angry Birds as a through line for my professional development. The point was using eight principles used by Rovio in the development of Angry Birds that has caused the game to become a phenomenon that people love to spend time playing and seek to improve their skills. In fact, I always say, “Everything you need to know about teaching you can learn from Angry Birds.” Here are the eight principles:

  1. Make it easy to start the task.
  2. Show, don’t tell.
  3. Give useful and immediate feedback.
  4. Make it easy to recover from feedback.
  5. Complicate the task gradually.
  6. Accessibility/Mobility: how could we leverage the cell phone for our students?
  7. No single answer: players explore and try different techniques. We can experiment.
  8. Incentives to do better: leader boards, achievement badges, certifications, et cetera.

What are you doing to encourage a “get to” mindset in your organization. What would the world be like if we all could say “I get to go be creative” every morning?

Bringing The Smithsonian to You!

During the COVID-19 Pandemic and the many webinars we have been doing to support teachers as they facilitate learning virtually, I keep commenting that the Smithsonian Institution is a tremendous resource. Or, should I say, plethoras of resources and services. Then I got to thinking that if I was going to keep saying that educators needed to check out the Smithsonian, we needed to do a little “show and experience” for them. As a former Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador, I really value all the resources available for educators. So, I decided to reach out to Ashley Naranjo, Manager of Educator Engagement at the Smithsonian Learning Lab, and ask if she would be interested in doing a webinar together. She was quick and enthusiastic to respond in the affirmative. Needless to say, I was excited.

Ashley and I had a great planning session where she had great ideas for engaging webinar participants in actually navigating and using resources. In fact, she and I will be modeling an activity at the beginning – I can’t wait! As I mentioned earlier in the post, I was a Smithsonian Teacher Ambassador back in 2010 and 2011. During that ambassadorship I was talking to groups of educators and organizations about the over 1,600 Smithsonian resources available. I told Ashley this asked how many there were now; she laughed and said, “Over 5,000,000.” Boy did I feel outdated.

Bottom-line: educators won’t want to miss this free webinar. This interactive and engaging webinar will include an overview of the Smithsonian Learning Lab and how teachers can curate their own digital collections of resources across subject areas and grade levels. The great part is that educators will learn, by doing, how to use Smithsonian Education museum resources in their own teaching and learning contexts. Please join us for this journey of bringing the Smithsonian to you!

Influencer, Inspiring, & Impactful

At yesterday’s Indiana 3D Leadership gathering I was inspired to do some deeper studying, which is usually the case, because of discussion that took place. I usually say the discussion inspired me, but for this post I’m contemplating what to call it. More on why I say that, later in the post. Last night we did an activity that I call Rushmorean Leadership which was then followed up by an activity called extending the influence. The activity calls for teacher leaders to bring pictures to identify four great leaders to put on their own personal Mount Rushmore. Then they bring six additional pictures to extend the influence.

As with everything this Indiana group does, I was blown away. What struck me last night, however, was that one participant talked about the persons on their board as influencers. Then the next referred to the leaders as inspiring and yet another referred to the her chosen leaders as impactful. For some reason I just had to ask the question of the group: What’s the difference, if any, in these descriptors? A great discussion ensued, which then led to me studying deeper this morning.

We all know that leadership is not about a title or a designation. We also know, and I’m glad we discussed this in depth last night that ambition is not a favorable characteristic of great leaders. For ambition will take over purpose. Influencers, we decided, spread passion for work, causes, innovation, or change. Those that inspire evoke a sense of energy. Finally, impact involves getting results. Impact is ultimately the measuring stick of the influence or inspiration.

Influencers cause us to think about things differently. They help us to shape our purpose, passion, and core values. Interestingly several participants had parents on their boards and referred to how they had influenced their lives.

In contrast, those that inspire help us gain motivation. This inspiration may be in the form of receptivity, positivity, or motivation. There is research that links inspiration to motivation. This inspiration causes us to actively engage in environments that lead toward self growth and fulfillment of needs.

The more I studied and reflected on all this I formed the opinion that most, if not all, of the leaders chosen by the group were influencers who were creating an impact. These individuals were all helping to create constructive cultures, whether in organizations, nations, or globally. In their five star book, Creating Constructive Cultures: Leading People and Organizations to Effectively Solve Problems and Achieve Goals, Janet Szumal and Robert Cooke of Human Synergistics International ask the question: “As a leader, how can you both directly and indirectly influence your organization to ensure that members can independently and interactively solve problems and achieve the organization’s goals more readily and effectively?” I love the question because it has both directly and indirectly. Of the ten leaders each participant brought pictures of, some influenced directly, eg. parents. Others influenced indirectly, eg. Michelle Obama.

One thing is for sure; in all cases the individuals chosen embodied the necessary styles to create constructive cultures. All strove to create the cultural norms necessary for creating constructive cultural styles. See the constructive styles below:

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that influencing, being inspiring, and being impactful are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand when being a model of personal growth for us and creating constructive cultures.

A Twist Of The Kaleidoscope

Posted in Creativity, Deep Innovation, Innovation, Kaleidoscope, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 1, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a group of college interns using kaleidoscopes as the through line. I gave all the participants a small kaleidoscope and had them get into groups, look through their toys, and relate the view to their journeys as interns and becoming leaders. As the graphic I drew during the presentation shows, I titled our time together Kaleidoscopic Adventure. I encourage you to take a moment and check out the points made by the groups reflected on the graphic.

The interns quickly got the point that looking through a kaleidoscope is all about perspective. Perspective is the strongest power of the mind. Give the scope a twist one way and you see a set of images, and turn it the other way and you see another set of images. The different views represent our lives. We just need to find the angle we want to look through.

Our lives are complex, random, and structured; all at the same time. Much like looking through a kaleidoscope, we look from the simple to the complex. Sometimes we need to remember to look back through the kaleidoscope the opposite way, taking the complex back to a simple focus. This reflection brings us back to a simple neutral.

View through the kaleidoscope given to the interns

One thing is for sure, we need to enjoy the beauty of the journey. Just like the kaleidoscope, we all have different views and experiences. We also need to remember that the world we live in is ever changing and quickly changing just like the view as we twist the kaleidoscope. A kaleidoscope is such a great metaphor because it symbolizes ever-changing and endless possibilities. The kaleidoscope also reminds us of our endless possibilities powered only by the limits of our own creativity and innovative prowess.