Byron's Babbles

Living Full-Out

Posted in Dreams, DTK, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Development, Mindset Mondays, Vision, Visionary, Visionary Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on July 13, 2021

There was a lot to digest in the four pages of Chapter 46, “Don’t Wait to Live” in Mindset Mondays with DTKby David Taylor-Klaus (DTK). If I was forced to rank the weekly chapter lessons thus far, this would be one of my favorites. DTK told us that “People regretted dying with their songs still inside them” (p. 318). He went on to say, “…the only thing keeping us from living full-out is stuff we make up” (p. 319). I’m hoping both of those comments make you ponder and reflect as much as they did me. The ideas of happiness and regret are things I blog about often and discuss in leadership development workshops. In fact, I just dug into “anticipatory regret” and “existential regret” in What Will You Regret When You Are 80 Years Old? And, one of my favorite posts on happiness is Finding Happiness Right Where We Are.

After I read chapter 46 yesterday, I was reading about and watching video of Richard Branson taking his ride into suborbital space aboard a rocket he helped fund. He was the first to do this. On LinkedIn he said, “There are no words to describe the feeling. This is space travel. This is a dream turned reality.” As a student of the ultimate role model dreamer and innovator, Richard Branson, I am pretty sure the only song that will be left in him when he dies is whatever wild and crazy idea(s) he is working on at the time. I’m pretty sure there will be no regrets – except maybe to have done even more. He is the role model for showing us how to turn dreams into reality. This first fully crewed flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane was a major milestone in the commercial space industry.

Yesterday, I tweeted, “Congratulations @richardbranson and @virgingalactic! Thanks for always modeling being a trailblazer for us.” This flight was such a huge example of “living full-out.” The stuff we do on a daily basis may not be as huge as going to outer space, but just as important to those we serve and ourselves. I’ll close with this drop the mic moment and quote from Branson while in outer space that says it all, “I was once a child with a dream looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship looking down to our beautiful Earth. To the next generation of dreamers: if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.” 🎤

What Will You Regret When You Are 80 Years Old?

I finished the great book, Alien Thinking: The Unconventional Path To Breakthrough Ideas, this past week. In the book, authors Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade presented an incredible framework for innovation and creativity. The framework is based on five strategies that do NOT need to be accomplished in any linear fashion:

  • A – Attention – look with fresh eyes to observe problems that need to be solved, opportunities worth addressing, and solutions that can be dramatically improved or revised
  • L – Levitation – step back from the creative process to gain perspective and enrich your understanding
  • I – Imagination – recognize hard-to-see patterns and to connect seemingly disparate dots to imagine unorthodox combinations
  • E – Experimentation – test ideas quickly and smartly, with the goal of improving – not just proving – your idea
  • N – Navigation – deal with potentially hostile environments and adjust to the forces that can make or break your solution

At the end of the book, the authors helped the reader work through some important hindrances to innovation like human emotions and personality traits. I was struck by the discussion of “regret” that can easily derail even the most ALIEN of thinkers. In Alien Thinking we are taught that “When setting off on a journey of innovation or discovery, you will have to overcome your fears about what might happen.” These fears come in the form of “anticipatory regret” and “existential regret”. Having just founded my own business and making the decision to go out on my own, this discussion in the book really resonated with me.

In addition to overcoming fears of what might happen, most of us, when innovating or trail blazing, will have to deal with “anticipatory regret.” This is the regret we imagine ourselves feeling if the decision we make or don’t make ends up being a mistake. This is pretty powerful stuff. Science can help us with this, however, because the science says that we tend to regret actions not taken far more than we regret failed attempts.

This is where Bouquet et al. explained that “existential regret” can be used as a tool. Existential regret is the regret of how we will later feel if we don’t try; or play it safe. While doing some further studying in this I found the stories of Jeff Bezos when he was trying to decide if he would quit his great job to start what is now the Amazon empire. He used a framework he called “regret minimization.” He projected himself out to the age of 80 and imagined what he would regret. He found that he would deeply regret not having tried to make big on that thing called the internet. Now that is Alien Thinking. Now that is “levitation”- all the way to the age of 80.

We must learn to channel our fears and thoughts of regret to be a positive driver and help us work out the kinks in our wild and alien ideas. Using existential regret can help us sift through our own personal goals and core values to make a weighty call.

Learning At The Intersection

This morning as a I was going through my notes of ideas for blog posts, another I made while reading Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom For Breakthrough Performance by Sara Canaday jumped out at me. I already blogged once from inspiration gained from this great book in Unconventionality, but the comment she made saying, “Innovation happens at the intersection of different perspectives” made me reflect on one of my own core values of learning forward from different perspectives. Innovative ideas are not just about adding another feature or an
adjacent market. If we want to keep breaking new ground we must make it a priority to seek out the intersection of multiple fields, disciplines, and cultures. This is a place, Sara argued, we can create in our organizations, teams, and mind. All those different perspectives are far more potent than any incremental extension of what you are already working on using a single perspective. This kind of thinking will lead us to someplace completely different.

“You must go where these very changes are occurring – at all the intersections of industries, cultures, fields and disciplines.”

~Frans Johansson

I love spending time with folks in other disciplines. Most of my reading is outside of the field I do most of my work in of education. I love intersectional learning. I want to learn about things I know nothing about and work with people in fields outside of my own and that will, in turn, stretch my learning and give me new ideas. At these intersections I am outside my comfort zone – or maybe I’m in a zone where I just love to learn. I believe we must surround ourselves with diverse cultures, upbringing, backgrounds, and abilities. Someone recently called me a multipotentialite. When I looked it up, because I had no idea what that was (see, I was learning something new), I saw things like “strong artistic curiosity” and “interest spanning multiple fields.” Guilty as charged! But, I really believe this wide interest and curiosity brings value to those I serve. I love it when I am in a planning meeting with a client and they say things like, “Byron, what are things you’ve seen out there that might apply to this, or might make this better?” Solving today’s complex and wicked issues needs a community of diverse thinkers. In a world where more specialization seems to be the conventional trend, I’m glad Sara Canaday reminded us that we need to defy that conventional wisdom and form communities of diverse thinkers.

The Ocean Awaits Us

🏖 Miramar Beach, Gulf of Mexico 🏝

“Even the upper end of the river believes in the ocean.” ~ William Stafford from his poem, Climbing Along The River.

Reading this line in this poem by William Stafford made me think back to standing at Point State Park in Pittsburgh which is situated in Pennsylvania where the Allegheny River and Monongahela River come together resulting in the formation of the Ohio River. The Ohio River is a tributary to the Mississippi River and drains into the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois. is I remember thinking how cool it was that the water I was looking at would be traveling 981 miles to the Mississippi River at Cairo and then another 954 miles until spilling into the Gulf of Mexico. No different than when I travel south from Indiana to the Gulf I expect it to be there.

Stafford was conveying the meaning that you should believe in something, even if you have no proof that it exists. As a human who has that “crazy gene” for coming up with wild and crazy ideas I’m good with this. Isn’t it, by the way, what the scientific process is all about: proving a hypothesis? Also, isn’t it great that we have a whole history of people who believed with no proof. Edison believed there could be an electric light bulb until he proved it could exist after more than 10,000 tries.

So, don’t be afraid to believe in your own ideas, or even crazy ideas, even if there is no proof they’ll work. There may just be an ocean of success on the other end. And, it might just be an idea to alter the world for the better forever.

Imagining The Unimaginable

Last night I had the pleasure of recording a professional growth video focused on student engagement with five National FFA Teacher Ambassadors from Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The goal of our recording was to provide teachers from around the country with ideas on how to keep students engaged right now whether it be in the classroom or in FFA activities. The recording turned out awesome and I really got to thinking about how the teachers were excited about the fixes their FFA chapters had developed for keeping students/members engaged during the global pandemic. We are on day 254, by the way. And, I loved the fact that several times it was the students who came up with the solution or idea for engagement. Make no mistake, though, they are still looking for ideas for upping their engagement game.

We also discussed things that we want to continue post-pandemic, like having members who can’t attend an event in person, for whatever reason, be able to join virtually. We weren’t thinking in that mindset 254 days ago. Things like pandemics, wars, and other social crises often create new attitudes, needs, and behaviors, which need nurturing. I believe in the power of imagination and creativity. Right now there are very few things that are absolute and for sure. We live in a very complex and ever changing environment right now – the future never releases hard data.

What we were really saying in the video was that we must keep imagining every possible scenario. In other words, letting our imaginations go wild. We must be imagining the unimaginable. Think about it; what is happening right now during the pandemic to our society has no precedent, or data behind it. No matter what industry we are in right now we need to continue to be creative and use our imaginations to open the path forward.

There is a silver lining, however. As I pointed out, these five teachers gave us numerous ideas and opportunities the pandemic have made imaginable. All kinds of new ways of staying engaged and connected have been implemented that will continue after this pandemic has passed. Because we will probably never return to our familiar pre-pandemic realities, we need to keep imagining an even better future.

Do Ideas Cause Change Or Does Change Cause Ideas?

Posted in change, Global Leadership, Ideas, Innovation, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on November 15, 2020

In the great book, The Upswing: How America Came Together A Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, Robert D. Putnam and Shaylyn Romney Garrett posed the question of, “Do ideas cause change or does change cause ideas?” I am loving reading the research and work of Putnam and Garrett. I am only about 80% through the book and I love how he always points out when there cannot be any correlation, causality, or answers gained from leading or lagging indicators. I see this a lot in education; people want to jump immediately to causation. Putnam is a brilliant political scientist and Shaylyn has had a brilliant career as a change-maker and social entrepreneur. The two of them together have put together this award winning literary analysis of economic, education, civil rights, political, and other social trends for over a century. The book posits we have gone from an “I” to “We” and back to “I” society and gives us hope and ways to get back to we.

Change is defined as to simply make something or someone different, unlike the way it was before. Change can also be defined as moving from one thing to another. Synonyms for the word change consist of transform, alter, and modify. A lot of people have ideas about changing the world and making it a better place for people to live. This desire to change the world sounds very noble and heroic.

Now, back to the question prompting this post: do ideas cause change or does change cause ideas? I believe it is both. For example the idea of us carrying a source for listening to music in our pocket caused an entire chain of events (changes) leading ultimately to the SMART phone. Conversely, Coronavirus has hit the world in 2020. This has drastically changed our world from open and social to closed and locked down. This change has affected people’s lives, finances, relationships, and even their children. New ideas because of this change are being thought of every day.

Therefore, we need to keep being creative and having ideas about how to change the world. Additionally, we need to be paying attention to changes happening around us and let them prompt ideas for positive change.

Out of Kilter

We had a gathering of our Carolina’s 3D Leadership Program today and, as is always the case, I was inspired and learned a lot from the group. Last week I blogged about the activity where I showed the group the picture of a spider web that I had taken in the barn that morning to the group to prompt a discussion. You can read about Leaders Weaving The Web here. Today I switched up the prompt just a little. Here it is: On Day 247 of the Global Pandemic, relate the  journey you are on to the picture. The picture was the photo featured in this post minus the target and dart. After having some time to discuss in small breakout groups, they came back with some very insightful points for discussion. This post includes all of their points except one: the picture looks as though we are looking through a filter. I will address that point in a separate post.

Looks Like a Target

It was commented that the web looks like a target. I loved a comment that was made that even though the world has been thrown “out of kilter” (this, from one of our participants, is so much better than saying unprecedented times), we still have much to accomplish for our students. We must still be meeting our educational targets for our students and developing them as a whole person. In other words we need to be very careful about what things we have paused that turn into permanent pauses. Some pauses need to be made permanent, but we really need to match what decisions we make to the targets that need to be achieved for our students.

Looks Like Broken Glass

One group of participants said the web looked like broken glass. This was a reminder that we must keep going. This reminded us that there has been a great deal of positive innovation brought by the pandemic. Also, we discussed that the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to lower expectations. Our kids deserve effective instruction and like was said earlier we must continue to lead them to their learning targets.

Looks Fragile

The group pointed out that everyone is very fragile right now, but there is strength in the web. We need to make sure we are serving like the silk of the spider web connecting all the small, important pieces together for our students, families, and those we serve. We need to continue connecting ideas, which in-turn creates the beautiful masterpiece. Even though the web looks fragile, we need to remember that much of the strength of the spider web comes from its elasticity.

It turns out that a key property of the silk in the spider web that helps make it so robust is something previously considered a weakness: the way it can stretch and soften at first when pulled, and then stiffen again as the force of the pulling increases. Now that is a great metaphor for during this time of being out of kilter. We are being pulled and we need to soften and allow for being stretched, which will then allow us to stiffen and become strong for those we serve. Markus Buehler, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, has done extensive research on spider webs says this about the web: “It’s a very flaw-tolerant system.” We need to also assume this “flaw-tolerant” position when dealing with students or those be serve.

Hopefully this being out of kilter is preparing us for a new phase of greatness in education, business, and our lives. With each day of the pandemic my hope is that we are assuming an attitude of preparation. I know I am very different today that I was 247 days ago. I’d like to think that most of those differences land in the positive column. Let’s keep moving forward – onward and upward!

Don’t Overlook The Brilliance Of Our Students

I’m still getting caught up on my reflection of the lessons from Kevin Eikenberry’s Virtual LeaderCon last week. This post is about Chip Bell’s response to my question about where education and the students we serve fall into the realm of the work he has put together in his latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets For Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions. The first thing he said was, “We must treat students like customers, not consumers.” There is brilliance in our students that so many times gets overlooked.

I asked Chip to go into a little more detail about treating students like customers and not consumers. To this he stated that we have board meetings and where are the students (I’m excited that many states have put students on their state boards of education – I’m still working on Indiana)? But, local school boards should think about student members in some capacity, too. He also asked us to think about where the student was when we were having planning meetings. Chip explained that everything we do should “have our customer’s fingerprints all over it.” He used the example of when we coach little league baseball we tell the kids to “be the ball.” We need to be telling our students to “be the customer.” And, then letting them be the customer. Chip believes our students should be partners along with our students’ families. He promotes student-staff partnership initiatives.

Chip Bell reminds us that customers can give us our best next idea. We should be asking the question, “What is something no-one else has ever thought of?” This discussion reminded me that the words “customer” and “consumers” are often interchangeably used and are easily confused with one another. While students are consumers and the ultimate user of the product, we need to treat them like customers – the person buying the product. We need to think of our students as a final customer– these are the customers who buy the product for their own need or desire. This kind of thinking will help us to better individualize education for every student.

We must innovate. Listening to our students will help us to do this. We can’t keep offering the same thing over and over and over again. We owe it to our students to be authentic. As Chip told us during Virtual LeaderCon, “Authenticity wins every time.”

Angry Fishing

Posted in Angry Birds, Education, Global Education, Global Leadership, Innovation, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 5, 2020

I just tweeted that having your son in Murray, Kentucky at Murray State University had its advantages; one of which is getting to spend the day on Kentucky Lake fishing for Crappie. Heath picked such a beautiful place in the world for college. We had a great day that started at 5:30am. It’s always great to spend the day doing anything together with the boy. We have been blessed to make so many memories doing a variety of things together. I’ve always said that raising this kid has been the single most important and rewarding thing I am doing.

Today, we had the opportunity to use some of the latest computer vision technology for fishing. Thus the title for this post: Angry Fishing. It was truly like a video game, at times, that I would call Angry Fishing (referring to Angry Birds). As always, I was fascinated with the technology and learning how to use it. I was also amazed at how being able to use the technology, in much the same way a video game does, enabled me to improve my fishing skills.

We were fishing for Crappie today and they require a very patient technique, but you must be quick to set the hook at the right time. With the video technology we could literally watch the fish going for the bait. I’m not going to lie, I missed several today because I got caught up watching fish going for Heath’s hook and him catching them. We were able to, in real-time, just like when playing Angry Birds, know what adjustments to make in our techniques. And the great part about Angry Fishing (real life fishing like we were doing) is you get to do it over and over, just like you can when playing Angry Birds. It was fascinating!

This was a reminder of how we need to always employ ways to give students, or anyone we are teaching for that matter, immediate and usable feedback. Today, I was even able to begin to self diagnose areas for improvement and make those changes immediately. Another reason we need to always be teaching using real-world and relevant contexts. We all, no matter what our age learn best when we are using adaptation. We need to be applying across disciplines, thus why I am right now applying this day of fishing to doing a better job of teaching and professional development. This also gives us the opportunity to apply the learning to real-world predictable and unpredictable situations. I talk about these same things when using Angry Birds as a throughline for discussing high impact teaching strategies.

It is also my hope, and I believe they are, that these technologies can be a catalyst for transformation of fishing and fishery policy. Under a sustainable approach, where we satisfy the needs of the present without compromising the resources of future generations, technological innovations like my son and I used today offer an opportunity to improve the fishery and seafood industries; as well as protect the environment. Electronic monitoring systems and computer vision technologies combined with artificial intelligence machine learning is being used to improve the cod fishery and preventing overfishing of halibut in the Pacific.

I continue to be amazed and hungry to keep learning the technological innovations that can help us all learn more effectively and continue to make the world a better place. The possibilities are as vast as the great bodies of water we love to fish on. Join me in continuing to explore and learn!

Where Is The “Twin”?

Today I had the opportunity to moderate a great global webinar entitled “Creation of a Digital Twin.” The webinar was put on by GIA SMART Factory League. I am always honored to have the opportunity to work with this organization and it was incredible to be in the [virtual] room with industry representatives from over 36 different countries. And…now that we have learned we can hold these events effectively virtually and learn together apart, we can get together more often and not have the huge travel expense. Talk about holding the whole world in your hands!

I value the opportunity to spend time learning from those in business/industry and manufacturing. It saddens me that many leaders in education talk a big game about wanting to hear from business stakeholders, but most of what happens is lip service. We need more walking the talk. Those in education must stop thinking we know more than those that hire the students we educate. It must be a partnership. There must be a true dialogue of listening to understand.

That’s why I love events like the one today where we can learn together and learn each other’s industry specific languages. Today we were learning about the “digital twin.” The creation of a digital twin enables us to simulate and assess decisions:

  • Before actual assets are built and deployed
  • Before maintenance
  • Before a design change
  • Before complex tasks

A number of industries are creating digital twins, digital replicas of products, and many other things including body parts. Today we saw a digital twin of the heart done by Philips Innovation Services. The heart digital twin performs patient specific adaptation. It was amazing. Imagine the testing of procedures and products for heart repair. Also, think of the possibilities for training and education. Endless!

The digital twin mirrors what it is twinning in bits keeping the bit replica synchronized with the real one. I learned today that just certain parts of an asset can be selected to twin. Thus making it easier to focus in on specific functions or parts. It was pointed out that this could be of incredible use in education and training. In this sense digital twins are a new tool for education: rather than studying on the real thing you can study on its digital representation. Even though in a polling question I asked during my introductory statement today, there were only 7% of participants using digital twin technology for training/development and education, and 27% just starting too, technologies like virtual reality provide new tools for education.

Imagine if we had a digital twin of ourselves. We would still have all the flaws, but some some smart technician might find ways to help us improve. Far fetched? I think not!