Byron's Babbles

The Critical Need for Relevant Learning

IMG_3066This past Friday I had the opportunity to attend and keynote a tremendous event put on by the Horizon Education Alliance. The event was called “Pathway Showcase” and was held in the Crystal Ballroom at the Lerner Theatre, which by the way is an awesome facility in Elkhart, Indiana.  More than 200 local educators, business and state government leaders were there to see project based learning (PBL) projects that were created in partnerships between students, teachers, and business leaders. These projects were created in order to teach our students in a relevant context – a subject near and dear to my heart. There were more than 40 of these projects that took place this past year. I continue to be so impressed with the work of Horizon Education Alliance to bring the Elkhart County community together to collaborate for the betterment of education for our students.

During my keynote I talked about how we need to connect school work to real life. I told attendees that education exists in the larger context of society. Students need to know why they are learning what we are teaching and how the learning fits into his/her real world context. When society changes, so too must education, if it is to remain viable. We need to be teaching our students to use adaptation to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate to apply the learning to real world predictable and unpredictable situations. If we can achieve this level of relevant learning our students will be motivated and have the ability to creatively innovate and problem solve.

I was so inspired to spend time talking with the students, teachers, and industry leaders about their projects. What I found were students working in teams to experience and explore relevant, real-world problems, questions, issues, and challenges; then creating presentations and products to share what they have learned. What I found were engaged students who were great communicators and very passionate about the projects created for their learning.

IMG_3039All the projects were awesome, but a couple really spoke to me. Chamberlain Elementary School students walked me through how they had learned to create by developing a first draft, multiple revisions, practicing and receiving feedback, and then finishing the final draft. These Chamberlain Explorers were learning to iterate. The students would not let me leave without sharing the Chamberlain Habits of Scholarship. See photo below for the habits:

IMG_3038I also had the opportunity to meet students from Elkhart Memorial High School who had been doing real world/real time research on soybean phytopathology with scientists from Agdia, Inc. As a former Agriculture Science teacher I could not have been prouder of these students. We cannot make it much more relevant for our students than having them do actual research on real problems with actual scientists. This adult interaction is also a very important part of facilitating relevant learning.

IMG_3033At the end of the event I really got emotional and realized that the world is going to be o.k. as long as we continue to teach our students relevant skills in engaging ways. Here are my final thoughts on how to make learning relevant and meaningful for our students:

To learn collaboration  work in teams

To learn critical thinking – take on complex problems

To learn oral communication – present

To learn written communications – write

Thank you to all the schools in Elkhart County and to Horizon Education Alliance for inspiring me and what you are doing for students!

 

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Excavating Lifelong & Engaged Learners

Today’s world absolutely requires collaborative and critical thinkers, creative and courageous innovators, and true lifelong learners. Then comes the question – how do we achieve having our students become all these things? First of all, I believe we must do a better job of providing career exploration opportunities for our students at a much younger age. This means so much more than just hearing about jobs or walking by a booth at a job fair and getting a piece of candy. It means really digging in (no pun intended) and learning about what career paths fit the interests and passions of the student. It also means facilitating the creation of a plan of how to get there. We need to be thinking about internships and pre-apprenticeship programs. If we get this right, I believe it brings relevancy to the students’ education and will improve student engagement. We do a pretty good job of mapping out the courses and plans for four year colleges (mainly because there is a list of courses needed to get accepted). But, when it comes to helping our students into other paths, we need to improve.

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William E. Dugan Training Center

I was reminded of this recently when spending some time with Mark Kara, Assistant Apprenticeship Coordinator for the International Union Of Operating Engineers Local 150. While at the Apprenticeship and Skill Improvement Program‘s William E. Dugan training site, he made the comment that he would go to a school job fair and “…when I leave I suck everything that I told the kids or that they learned about us out of the room as soon as I walk out.” This really resonated with me because as I toured and learned more about this amazing training program and facility, I realized how we need to have our students realize these opportunities exist. We need both our students and parents understand the career opportunities that exist outside the normal four year degree track. The jobs associated with the apprenticeship programs I was witnessing were high wage/high demand and highly skilled. We owe it to our students to get better at this!

img_2920While at the training facility I had the opportunity to run a Caterpillar Excavator Simulator. Wow, what an experience! Apprentices start out on the simulators for so many hours before moving to the real machines. I’m not going to lie, the farm kid in me was coming out and they had to pull me off the thing. The cool part is that the Cat Simulator you see me on in the picture, for example, has hand controls that can be switched out for different CAT machines. In other words, the same simulator can be used to simulate all of the heavy CAT machinery. And, as new models come out, the new controls can be purchased and put on with software updates. The controls are the actual control panels from the machines. Bottom-line, however, is we need to be using real world experiences like this in some type of pre-apprenticeship programs to get students interested and then teach our courses in a real life context. These are just the kind of things I researched and discuss in my book, The Hand In The Back Of The Room.

In my opinion, a rather clear pattern of practices has emerged as to what works for engaging students and certain “best practices” are recommended and should be put in place. Exploration and relevancy are at the top of this list. You can’t do much more exploring or be more relevant than actually sitting in the same seat using the exact same controls as the real equipment I would be using if I wanted to be an excavator operator – let me tell you, I could get my mind wrapped around that!

excavator-slew-ring-also-5230-caterpillar-excavator-with-excavator-for-sale-together-with-cat-390-excavator-bucket-sizes-plus-yanmar-b-50-mini-excavatorsOne common prerequisite for engaging learners is “relevancy.” Today’s learners ask that their learning apply to real-life scenarios whenever possible as opposed to being theoretical and text-based. Working with authentic problems or community issues engages students and builds a sense of purpose to the learning experience. Students, themselves, clearly want their work to be intellectually engaging and relevant to their lives.

Additionally, today’s learners ask for the opportunity to explore and to find solutions and answers for themselves. We need to be giving our students the opportunity to explore different careers by actually living them; just like I lived while running an excavator. Here’s the deal: Our students want to turn the thing on, get in there, mess around, and see what works; and, what does not work.

As we enter a time where we are making Graduation Pathways available to our students, we must increase and improve the opportunities for our students to explore different careers first hand and facilitate their learning by connecting school work to real life.

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

This guest post originally appeared on the Conversations Worth Having Blog

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

By Cheri Torres

Adopt an attitude of curiosity about life. When we are genuinely curious, we naturally ask generative questions. Such questions:

• Make room for diverse and different perspectives. How do you see it?

• Surface new information and knowledge. How did they manage this process at your previous place of work?

• Stimulate creativity and innovation. What might be possible if we . . .?

When dealing with any issue, even difficult issues, generative questions make unseen information visible and result in conversations that create trust, positive energy, and the transformative power to move the system forward in a desired direction. The result: new ways for solving complex problems and compelling images for collective action.  Here is a table from our book, Conversations Worth Having.

Here’s an example that parents of teenagers will easily relate to. Monica, mother of a teenage boy, uses generative questions to change the conversational dynamic with her son. Monica had been in the midst of a recurring argument with her son, Aiden. She was tired of the same old interaction that never produced a way forward. Aiden wanted to borrow the car over the weekend to go ‘do things’ with his friends, and Monica didn’t like the idea of him joyriding with the possibility of getting into trouble. Their critical conversations had created a rift between them, which saddened Monica, but she didn’t know what else to do. Suddenly, in mid-conversation, it occurred to her she could use the practice she’s learned at work for shifting the tone and direction of a conversation. When Aiden started to reiterate the argument, Monica held up her hand, paused and said, “I really do understand why you want the car, and I hope you understand why I’m worried for your safety and well-being. So, how can we have a more productive conversation? How can we come to some agreement that allows you to get the car and me to feel comfortable that you’ll make good decisions, even if your friends are pressuring you?”

Aiden was stopped in his tracks. This time it was his turn to pause, and then they began a brand new conversation that promised to be worthwhile . . . and it was. Monica’s question allowed Aiden to let his mom know he did understand. He shared that sometimes he was glad he hadn’t been allowed to have the car because of where his friends ended up. But other times, he’d missed out on experiences he wanted to have and at those times, he felt she was being over protective. Upon hearing that, she realized she hadn’t even considered that part of the stalemate might be her own refusal to let go. They eventually arrived at an agreement to start small and keep expanding car privileges as trust and confidence grew between them.

Monica shifted the conversation out of critical debate and into a conversation worth having by reframing the situation and asking a generative question. This simple action shifted the tone and direction of the conversation. It allowed both of them to step back, reflect for a moment, and be more open and honest, and this shifted the outcome of their interaction.  [To read more stories like this, order Conversations Worth Having today.]

This is one of the most valuable practices you can develop for building strong relationships, expanding the potential of a group, surfacing possibilities in the face of challenges, and rapidly moving towards desired goals.

Generative questions often arise naturally when we frame a conversation around what we want but don’t currently have. For example, “I don’t have the money to buy a new car” to “I do have the money to buy a new car.” It’s as if the second statement primes our question generator automatically:

• “Where did the money come from?”

• “What did I do to earn, find, or save it?”

• “What miracle might occur to support that?”

• “I wonder how I could ask for a raise, it’s been six years, and they tell me I’m a real asset.” What if I frame it as an adjustment in pay?

• “What if I offered a workshop and had just enough people coming to pay for the car?”

Take the opportunity now to try this little miracle maker with your own problems or “don’t wants”.  Flip it, and then let the generative questions flow. Let your curiosity and imagination help you turn the flip into your future reality. You can download the Executive Summary for an overview of the practices and principles.

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About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

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Bern Switzerland

Because my job now involves talent identification, training, retention and helping educators discover, develop, and distribute skills in leadership and their craft (what we at Noble Education Initiative call 3D Leadership™), I have been thinking about this a great deal the past few days while in Germany and Switzerland. While our Indiana delegation organized by Horizon Education Alliance has been focusing on educating students in the 10-18 year old space (high school for Indiana), many of the principles apply to any age or experience group. The application to any age group is important because of the number of incumbent workers, those adults already in the workforce who need training or retraining, in Indiana (I am sure this is the same for many other states, industries, or countries). I really like the idea of a dual track approach to learning in Switzerland. Students are in class one to two days per week, depending on their program of study and then three to four days per week in meaningful employment (apprenticeship).

IMG_1537 Yesterday, our Indiana delegation spent time with CSL Behring in Bern Switzerland studying their talent development. Talent development for this great company includes upskilling current and new employees, soft skill development training, leadership training, and apprenticeships. It impresses me that this company takes a holistic approach to being a talent magnet.

CSL Behring‘s vision for talent development says it all:

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The pillars are the most important part here in my view:

  • Pioneering
  • Reliability
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Passion

CSL Behring is committed to working on these pillars with not only young apprentices, but with all employees. Let me dig a little deeper and give you my take on the four pillars.

Pioneering

Pioneering leaders are adventurous — driven to keep seeking bigger and better roles, products, and experiences. They inspire a team to venture into uncharted territory. We get caught up in their passion to grow, expand, and explore. Pioneers have a high need for freedom and see opportunities where others don’t. The pioneering leader reminds us that innovation doesn’t happen without active exploration.

Reliability

Reliability means that you do what you promised to do and that others can count on you. It is a positive social character trait. People don’t like to deal with those who are unreliable. They’d rather give their business and rewards to someone they can count on. Being considered reliable means that you are conscientious and keep your promises. A reliable person does not make excuses. A reliable worker will be trusted to do the job as promised and can reap the rewards of raises and promotions. A business that has a reputation of being reliable or making reliable products will get repeat and new business, as well as reducing costs of rework or repair.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

This is about employees thinking like owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is really an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It really boils down to taking ownership and pride in one’s organization.

Passion

Passion, without compromise, is the fuel behind all great leaders. If we want outstanding employee engagement, then we must help those in our organizations find their passion. This is particularly true with young apprentices. I don’t think we are even scratching the service on what needs to be done to help our young scholars find their passion. Leadership is the passion toward each team member, pushing them toward a higher level of accomplishment. Leadership is the passion for continuous and deliberate self-improvement.

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Noble Education Initiative’s 3D Leadership™ Approach

Here’s what I’ve learned, we must be providing practical know-how and the skills needed for all occupation. Incumbent workers and young apprentice scholars need to have an active part in the production process of the industry he or she is studying to be a part of. In the classroom we must be developing technical, methodological and social skills, theoretical, and general principles. I have been calling these the core competencies and transferable skills. We also need to figure out how to leverage our third party providers of technical skills and knowledge for our students. We owe it to all our learners to provide high quality training that is delivered through state-of-the-art teaching and efficient transfer into practice™.

Learning 4.0

IMG_2531Yesterday I had an incredible experience at the Benteler Education and Training Center in Paderborn Germany. We had the opportunity to learn Smart Manufacturing first hand by working in the Benteler Industry 4.0 Learning Factory. This factory was built by the students and used to teach Industry 4.0 smart manufacturing practices and techniques. This learning factory also affords students the opportunity to use equipment and use 4.0 practices. There are three choices of products to build in the learning factory: speed boat, semi tractor; or sports car. The cool part was that all of the parts for the products except for the the grill ornament (made by 3D printer) were Lego™. I had the honor of working with Representative Bob Behning on this project.

The line starts with the selection of which product and what color the product will be built. For this part of the factory SMART glasses are used in order to give the student the opportunity to use and navigate this 4.0 technology. I am really glad I had the opportunity to do this. We had been hearing about SMART glasses and having the opportunity to actually use them on the production line was awesome. Then after the selection of the color and product the line gave us a tray of parts to get started.

IMG_2532After assembling the frame of our truck it was then moved down the assembly line and the RFID chip (I could relate to this because it is like the RFID tags we use for data and identification of our dairy cows) read what product we were building and gave us the next set of instructions digitally. As we waved our hand over the screen the proper bin for the next part would light up and then the screen told us where to put the parts. Even though we were doing some human labor on this it was evident to see all the skilled labor that was needed to program the line to give us the right parts on time during the assembly. Finally, we installed the Benteler emblem made in the 3D Printer to the grill of the truck.

One of the coolest things was at the end of the assembly line when our completed truck went into the sensors to tell us if we had made it correctly. We either got a green light or a red light. The green light meant we had it perfect, the red meant we had a flaw. Sadly, we got a read light. We went back and studied, but could not find the issue. We found there was an error and we were not given the instruction or part to put some covers on the clearance lights on the front of the truck. But, how cool is that to have sensors that could tell us if the product was perfect. Here is a picture of our final product:

IMG_2530I am so glad I had this experience. It also really drove home the fact that, as the research tells us, as adults we like to learn like our young students. We want the education to be relevant and we want to be engaged in the process. Let me tell you, Representative Behning and I were very engaged. We were excited as the truck came together and went down the line. Then we were screaming when the truck did not pass inspection. We were ultimately proud of our product. Bottom-line – This Industry 4.0 Learning Factory made school work into real work. We were using real life digital tools to make a real product in real time. How much more engaging can you get?

IMG_2534The factories of the future will be very different from the workplaces of today – in 2016 alone nearly 200,000 robots were deployed in automotive factories and a further 85,000 were installed in factories making electrical and electronic goods, so automation will liberate people from the drudgery of production lines. Now with Artificial Intelligence (AI), the robots will be able to interact with the human. These “cobots” will take robotics to a new level. This past week we have also learned that at work or at home, the Internet of Things (IoT) will completely change the way in which most of us carry out our basic daily tasks, eliminating the drudgery of shopping, banking and even cooking.

I am so glad I have had the opportunity to learn about Industry 4.0 this past week. One thing is for sure: this will completely change the dynamics of manufacturing and will mean that we will be able to make products that are tailored exactly to our wishes in every way we could want. The very same technology is already being used to produce motor vehicles and even to “print” buildings, so the possibilities are almost endless! We need to make a commitment to making sure we have our students ready for this workforce. That means we must start and continue to have the conversations between all sectors about how to do what is best for our students. This involves bringing business/industry, k-12 education, higher education, education advocate organizations, business/industry organizations, state officials, families, and students together to partner how to make this happen. I appreciate all the work that organizations like Horizon Education Alliance are already doing to make the conversations happen – thus why we are learning in Germany and Switzerland. It is the right thing to do for our scholars!

 

Leading Work 4.0

IMG_2515Today, our Indiana delegation in Germany spent the morning in Paderborn at the Benteler Vocational Training Center and then the afternoon touring the Benteler Automotive Plant. Because Benteler is 30,000 employees strong at 144 locations in 39 countries, they believe a company is the sum of all its employees. In other words, Benteler has 30,000 “guaranteers of success.” As a side note, 5,000 of those employees are in Indiana.IMG_2491

While visiting with Benteler officials and students, we learned more about five new and emerging areas in manufacturing and industry:

  1. Smart glasses
  2. Digital maintenance
  3. Predictive maintenance
  4. Smart production
  5. Work 4.0

These are all areas that both the manufacturing sector and education sector need to be area of and talking about together. This all further drove home the point about why we, in Indiana (and I am sure all over the U.S and Europe) to continue to replicate the great work that Horizon Education Alliance is doing to facilitate bringing together all the stakeholders to develop solutions for educating our young people to be ready for the workforce of tomorrow.

IMG_2514Smart Glasses

Smart glasses can collect information from internal or external sensors. It may control or retrieve data from other instruments or computers.

 

Digital Maintenance

Digital solutions applied to maintenance can considerably improve asset reliability and reduce operating expenditure by predicting equipment failures, streamlining supply chain, reducing unplanned and planned maintenance and increasing production efficiency. Equipment can be set up with a digital inspection plan, run-to-failure, condition based maintenance, preventive maintenance or predictive maintenance strategy.

Predictive Maintenance

In a predictive system, employees and systems can anticipate and act before issues or challenges arise, rather than simply reacting to them after they occur. This feature can include identifying anomalies, restocking and replenishing inventory, identifying and predictably addressing quality issues, and monitoring safety and maintenance concerns. The ability of the smart factory to predict future outcomes based on historical and real-time data can improve up-time, yield, and quality, and prevent safety issues. Artificial intelligence can also be used to predict when something will fail or need to be replaced.

Smart Production

Smart Production or Manufacturing and the Smart Factory enables all information about the manufacturing process to be available when and where it is needed across entire manufacturing supply chains and product life-cycles. This Smart manufacturing, or Industry 4.0 as it is also referred to, is the process that employs computer controls, modeling, big data and other automation to improve manufacturing efficiencies.

Work 4.0

Work 4.0 was the most intriguing topic of the day as it is really about the interaction of humans and machines (eg. robots). The use of pulleys in early antiquity or the Babylonians’ use of pumps to irrigate fields can be regarded as early examples of human-machine interaction. Now we have reached a whole new level of connectedness and interaction. Industry 4.0 has brought humans and machines to an almost human-like connection with emotions and feelings. The digital interconnection of all workers, tools and work-pieces in the production process and across company boundaries is generating an “Internet of Things (IoT).” This means we are going to need to be educating and training on new things. We will also need to educate on the benefits. We will need to answer the question for those we are educating: “How will this make my life easier?” It won’t just work to outline the financial benefits or improvements to the bottom line.

I’ve heard it said on this trip that technology is not the issue, it is the enabler. We will need to be teaching our students how to use the data and the technology. All of this is going to allow us to move from reactive to predictive and preventative (artificial intelligence). Human-machine interaction is taking on a new dimension due to developments in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Because of AI there are now robots capable of interacting with humans. These are call “cobots.” No longer does the robot replace the human, but actually works along-side the human.

Are you ready to lead and educate in a Work 4.0 environment? 4.0 is here and we need to be having the conversations about how to have our workforce ready. You ready to have the conversation?

 

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

IMG_2367Today, I had the honor of being in attendance at the 2nd Annual Global Smart Manufacturing Summit in Berlin, Germany. One of the topics we grappled with was of what does Industry 4.0 mean? Ron Zahavi, Chief Strategist for IoT Standards and Consortia, Microsoft Corporation did a great job of walking us through some history.

Industry 1.0

This is the first industrial revolution:

  • Technology such as wheels and engines replaced artisans
  • Child labor laws had to be introduced to prevent abuse

Industry 2.0

  • Assembly lines allowed workers to be turned into consumers

Industry 3.0

  • Lean Processes improved the quality of products
  • Advent of computer use
  • Robots reduced mistakes and improved productivity and safety, but began replacing people

Industry 4.0

  • Big data and analytics
  • Autonomous robots
  • Simulation
  • Horizontal and vertical system integration
  • The industrial Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Cybersecurity
  • Additive Manufacturing/Advanced Manufacturing
  • Augmented Reality

Interestingly, in all these cases technology and mechanization are involved, but in the revolutions of Industry 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, I wonder if we forgot how important people are. We must remember as we navigate Industry 4.0 that people are more important that the devices and technology.

In my world of educating young scholars and creating education policy, we have a responsibility to make sure as we move to Industry 4.0 to put people at the forefront. We do not want to make the same human mistakes with 4.0 that we made with the first three revolutions.

I really believe more than ever that we must make sure that we create space for industry to do as much of the training of our students as possible. Industry is in a good position to do this. What we have to do, though, is identify the transferable skills students need and institutionalize those skills in the framework of the internship learning being done in partnership with industry. This is crucial because of the mobility of our students.

We must be educating our students on the new things being done with Industry 4.0, but must also be educating them on the benefits. In other words, answering the question: How does this make life easier? Not just always pointing to financial improvement and the bottom line. We must begin to develop a workforce made up of the right quantity and right quality of workers. The skills we are preparing students with must match the needs of the workplace.

Industry 4.0 will require new skill sets, and manufacturers will need to attract the right talent. This may involve partnering with k-12 schools to train students. Existing training programs may need to be expanded to include new technologies that are introduced to the marketplace. Manufacturers also need to recruit for Industry 4.0, which may differ from how they have done it in the past. Both business and industry and education will need to stop all focus being on qualifications determined by degrees and certificates, companies should recruit for capabilities to succeed. These capabilities will include specialized skills.

For us to compete during Industry 4.0, it will require us to conduct constant iteration and be flexible. It’s not about buying software or purchasing a curriculum and then watching it all play out. To compete in Industry 4.0, the education sector and manufacturers must be flexible and agile in the face of change, and, most importantly, partner together.

 

Focus On The Wider World

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.20.17 PMLast week I did a 3D Leadership Program™ session on focusing as a leader. It was about focusing on three things:

  1. Self
  2. Others
  3. Wider World

Clearly if we want to be effective leaders we must focus on ourselves. This focus does not mean being self-centered, but self-caring. We must take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Additionally, we must take ownership of our own professional growth. If we are taking care of ourselves then we can begin to focus on others using our empathy, caring, and relationships.

Another important focus area and focus of this post is to focus on the wider world. To do this I believe it is important for us to not only take a worldview look at our own part of the world, but also look literally at the rest of the world. I will be doing this for the next 12 days in Germany and Switzerland. I am on the plane flying to Berlin, Germany as I write this post. I am very honored to have been asked to go on this trip that was organized by Horizon Education Alliance. There are representatives from schools and business/industry in Elkhart County, Indiana as well as State Representatives, Governor’s Office officials, colleges and universities, and me as a member of the Indiana State Board of Education taking part in this experience and serving as ambassadors of our state and country. Again, what an honor!

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.25.16 PMI am hoping to add a post to my blog each day as our journey progresses. So, stay tuned to Byron’s Babbles each day to see where we have been and what we have learned. It is going to be fast and action packed learning. Tomorrow we will be attending the 2nd Annual Global SMART Summit in Berlin, Germany. This will be a chance to learn more about Manufacturing 4.0 and I am excited to learn how we can better prepare Indiana’s students to work in this environment upon completion of high school. I am super pumped about all the businesses and industries that will be represented. See the photo here to see who the players are who will be in Berlin:

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Surely you recognize a few on the list. This will be the who’s who of business and industry. SMART, or 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing applies information and manufacturing intelligence to integrate the voice, demands and intelligence of the ‘customer’ throughout the entire manufacturing supply chain. It marries information, technology and human ingenuity to bring about a rapid revolution in the development and application of manufacturing intelligence to every aspect of business. It changes how products are invented, manufactured, shipped and sold. We will be gaining insights on what it takes to thrive in this new paradigm shift in manufacturing through the use of advanced technology. Our Indiana delegation will be part of the 200+ delegates from the top leading companies from around the world sharing their management strategies on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead in the Digital Economy.

Back to the point of this post – focusing on the wider world. This is so important because we must practice exploratory strategic thinking and creative thinking. Leaders with a strong outward focus are able to exercise these two skills. These leaders tend to be visionaries who sense the far-flung consequences of local decisions and imagine how the choices they make today will play out in the future.Take Bill Gates: On 60 Minutes, Melinda Gates remarked that Bill was the type of person who would read an entire book on fertilizer. “Why fertilizer?” Charlie Rose wanted to know. The connection was obvious to Bill Gates, who is constantly looking for technological advances that can save lives on a massive scale: “A few billion people would have to die if we hadn’t come up with fertilizer.”

Any business school course on strategy will give you the two main elements: exploiting your current advantage and exploring for new ones. It’s not surprising to find that exploitation requires concentration on the job at hand, whereas exploration demands open awareness to recognize new possibilities. But exploitation is connected to the brain’s reward circuitry—in other words, it feels good to coast along in a familiar routine. So when you switch to exploration to roam widely and pursue fresh paths, you have to make a deliberate cognitive effort to disengage from that routine and maintain open awareness. We must always be looking to spot new opportunities.

Thinking creatively involves three forms of focus:

  1. Vigilance—remaining alert for relevant information while immersing yourself in all kinds of input
  2. Selective attention—focusing on one thing while filtering out everything else
  3. Open awareness, which we’ve discussed earlier

The classic model of creative thinking shows how you use each of these:

• First you use vigilance to gather a wide variety of pertinent information.
• Then you alternate between intense concentration on the problem at hand (selective attention) and letting your mind wander freely, as you might in the shower or going out for a run (open awareness).

Being a focused leader doesn’t merely mean concentrating on the biggest priorities of the year or being in tune with corporate culture. It means commanding the full range of your own attention. With diligence, you can cultivate focus on yourself, on others, and on the wider world. As a result, you’ll be able to direct your attention—and others’ attention—where you need it.

For the next few days I am going to focus on a wider world view. I want to know how the best of the best are leading our industries. I want to learn how the best of the best in Germany and Switzerland are educating young scholars to be ready for post-secondary success. Let me be clear; I do not want the United States to become Germany or Switzerland. What I want is for us to learn the best of what others are doing find ways for us to get better at educating our students. In saying that it does not mean that I do not think we are doing a good job. It means that if better is possible than good is not enough. We need to be pursuing fresh paths by spotting new opportunities with open awareness. I hope you will tune into my blog over the next several days and check out the wider world global learning taking place with a group of us from Indiana, USA.

Improving To Great

In Gem #17 entitled, “Good IsThe Enemy Of Great” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart we are reminded that we need to adopt a culture where every aspect of the organization can be improved. “Good is the enemy of great” are the opening words of “Good to Great,” the best-selling iconic book by preeminent leadership and management thought leader Jim Collins.

In order to do this we must surround ourselves with the right people. Collins taught us to have the right people in the right seats on the bus.

Additionally, we need to remember that the journey to great is just that, a journey. This journey should not end. Once you think you are great, you have nowhere to go but down. Very few organizations ever achieve greatness, even though at times leaders and those who they lead may use that term to describe their organizations.

Many times we are blinded by the facts. We get lulled into thinking everything is going great. We must be open to looking at all the brutal facts about our organizations. Let’s take a moment and think about our leadership style and the culture of our organizations. Should any changes be made?

We Try Harder!

In 1963 Avis came out with an add that rocked the advertising world. The CEO at the time, Robert Townsend, was running a struggling brand. Hertz was number one in the rental car space and Avis was way behind in number two. To help, Townsend brought in the hottest advertising agency of the time – DDB. The agency took the job on one condition: Townsend agreed to run whatever campaign they suggested no questions asked. With this creative freedom, copywriter Paula Green created the new tagline, the brand ran it and it helped turn the brand around – “We’re #2, and we try harder.”

There are several lessons in this story from Avis I was reminded of in Gem #16 entitled, “Beware The #1 Syndrome” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart . Stewart reminded us it is hard to stay on top as number one in both business and athletics. It’s not only hard to become number one, but even tougher to stay there. Everyone is gunning for you, and the tendency to get complacent is overwhelming. Therefore, Stewart contends we need to take the Avis approach and consider ourselves or organizations number two and always keep trying harder. If we always work like we are number two, we will probably remain number one. Do you try harder?