Byron's Babbles

Making Your Conversations Count!

Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful EngagementConversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone involved in leadership or in education needs to read this book. I love the fact that it has education examples with actual stories from teacher and student interactions. This books helps the reader to better understand how appreciation and inquiry enhance relationships as well as productivity and performance. After reading this book I realize how important it is to bring an appreciative dimension to conversations and add value. We have all been involved in conversations where someone is bringing the depreciative dimension and devaluing the conversation. In this book we are given the guide to be generative in our conversations. Our community, whether an organization, school, classroom, or business is defined by the conversations we have. If we want our conversations to be meaningful in shaping and defining the future of those we serve then we need to use appreciative inquiry and make those conversations generate greatness. Find out how in this book!

Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Conversational Leadership

IMG_2903Guest post by Cheri Torres.

Conversation. It’s what we do almost all-day long. Everything we accomplish in organizations and communities depends upon conversations.

How does your leadership show up in your conversations? Are you adding value in the way you talk and engage others? Are you maximizing your value-add by focusing on possibilities and opportunities? Are you helping to create a culture of positivity and engagement in your interactions?

If not, here are some ways you can begin to do so:

  1. Enter conversations with an open mind, heart, and will.
  2. Ask questions, and make sure they are questions for which you don’t know the answers. The best questions:
  • Generate new knowledge or perspectives
  • Help people connect ideas and possibilities
  • Disrupt old and current ways of thinking and doing
  • Inspire innovation and novelty
  • Help people access their creativity and wisdom
  • Invite engagement
  1. Learn to focus questions, conversations, and problem-solving efforts on desired outcomes. What do you want, instead of what don’t you want.
  2. Create a culture of engagement and possibility by making sure you have conversations worth having 75-80% of the time. A conversation worth having moves towards desired outcomes and energizes people to go with you.
  3. Take your ego by the hand, let it know it will be okay, and then shine the spotlight on others. Your organization is filled with wisdom, creativity, and willingness to make a difference. Make room for that to emerge by leading true collaboration, ensuring full inclusion, and engaging stakeholders in planning, decisions, and innovation.
  4. Realize that culture is created and recreated every day by having the same kinds of conversations with the same assumptions and limitations. If the current culture isn’t serving you, figure out what kind of conversations would happen in the culture you want. Then start having those kinds of conversations.
  5. Realize also that your organizational design and structure was created through conversation. If your systems and structure, policies, and processes no longer support your ability to adapt and innovate in today’s fast-paced environment, have a conversation about redesigning your systems to support the kind of organization you want.

img_2901We don’t think about it often, but we swim in the world our conversations create. As a leader, take responsibility for your conversations and create the organization or community you want.  There is nothing stopping you but your willingness to have a different kind of conversation: a conversation worth having!

***********************************************************************************

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.

 

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.

*******************************

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.

What’s Your Leadership Mantra?

The Oxford Dictionary gives us the late 18th century origin of the word “mantra” as: “Sanskrit, literally ‘a thought, thought behind speech or action’, from man- ‘think’, related to mind.” We all have mantras. When working with groups of up and coming leaders I describe it as how others see us or how we see ourselves. Sometimes I even introduce it as what others say about us when we are not there. Yesterday in our 3D Leadership training for North and South Carolina we did a reflection exercise where participants got to do a graphic representation of their mantra and leadership legacy. I was blown away by the great work they did. Honestly, they speak for themselves, so I am going to post them all as the content of this post. Here they are, enjoy:

Hopefully you found these to be as inspiring as I did. So, if we think of mantra as something that is often repeated and expresses a particular strong belief or action, then we can be assured these up and coming leaders will be walking the walk. What’s your leadership mantra?

What Do You Want To Do With Your Life?

Last week I finished reading an incredible book by our former Vice President Joe Biden. Ever since I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with him and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, back in 2010, I was impressed. As Indiana Teacher of the Year, I spent an afternoon at the residence of Joe and Jill Biden. Number One Observatory Circle is the official residence of the Vice President of the United States. Located on the northeast grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., the house was built in 1893 for its superintendent. I just remember thinking how real and genuine the Vice President and Dr. Biden were. They cared about our country, our kids, and the world.

In the book, Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose. Vice President Biden opens up and allows himself to be vulnerable. The throughline of the book is about his son’s battle with brain cancer. Vice President Biden recounts in vivid, heart-wrenching detail what it was like for him and his family from the time his eldest son, Beau, a rising star in the Democratic Party, was diagnosed with brain cancer, to his death less than two years later and the aftermath. The Vice President spoke of his son being like him but better. He said, “Beau Biden, at age 45, was Joe Biden 2.0,” Biden writes. “He had all the best of me, but with the bugs and flaws engineered out.” What a great reflection to be able to have about one’s son.

The book was also an awesome recount of the history and what was going on in our country and the world at the time. The Vice President opened up about his weekly lunches with President Obama and the tremendous friendship that developed. Having spent time with the President on the same trip I met Vice President Biden I can understand how that friendship could happen. Both are guys that you would want to be friends with and hang out with.

Probably, the story that most resonated with me in the book was when President Obama, at lunch, asked the Vice President, “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” This question really caused me to reflect. I believe that it caused Joe Biden to reflect as well. This wasn’t about success, being President of the United States, or some job; it was about being significant. I thought the Vice President summed it up nicely in the epilogue of the book when he said, “So how do I want to spend the rest of my life? I want to spend as much time with my family, and I want to help change the country and the world for the better. That duty does much more than give me purpose; it gives me something to hope for. It makes me nostalgic for the future.” How can we argue with duty giving us purpose and hope.

“Rules for happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”~ Immanuel Kant

The question of “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” caused such great reflection in me that I decided to use it as the inspiration for a session at our Indiana Cohort training of our Noble Education Initiative 3D Leadership Program. Participants were asked to think about the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” They were to list these things out and then determine what they would like their legacy to be.

This was the catalyst for an incredible discussion. The comment and part of the discussion that most excited me was when one of our very talented young aspiring leaders said, “You know, before you told us not to think in terms of jobs, promotions, or titles, that is where I was headed. This is the first time I’ve really thought in terms of being significant and having a purpose.” Mission accomplished! The graphic recordings each participant made on the tables during this session say it all. Here are a few samples:

So, I leave you with this thought: “What do you want to do with your life?”

Excited About Learning!

img_2534Last week when I was in Germany and Switzerland, I made the comment a few times that adults want to learn in the same way that kids do. What prompted this was some of the learning we were doing while at some of the vocational and apprenticeship centers. As we were touring, there were a few times that I asked our guide (usually an apprenticeship student) if I could try the equipment. At one point I was able to run the robotic welder. This was important to me because I am a very hands on learner. I needed to experience what the students experience.

This is really an extension of Howard Gardner’s Theory Of Multiple Intellienges. That theory does cross over into adult learning as well. One thing I have learned from the Harvard research is that adults really want to learn the same way kids do. And, when I got involved in a hands on way (engaged) I got very excited. Then, when others got involved, they got excited too. I already blogged about building a model truck in the Benteler Industry 4.0 Learning Factory. Click here to read Learning 4.0.

It was important for me to do this post because we need to be reminded occasionally what are important elements to remember when facilitating learning, whether for kids or adults. The big difference for adults is making sure we know our audience and what they are there to learn. Here are five things that need to happen. We must make the learning:

  1. Immediately transferable to their everyday life
  2. Relevant to the learners current context
  3. Welcoming – safe place to ask questions
  4. Engaging – consider the way each person learns
  5. Respectful – understanding every person comes from a different context or knowledge level

Think about it, if all five of those items happen, there will be a good chance that learning will occur. At least a much better chance than if I come in and listen to you talk and point at a PowerPoint.

In other words, the material presented should have immediate usefulness to the learners. Therefore it should have a real world context for the learners and the material should be relevant to adult learners’ lives right now. The material learned should also be able to be used right now as well.

IMG_2531

Two Very Excited Learners!

Furthermore, the learning environment should be welcoming so that all learners feel safe to participate. How the space is arranged is very important in adult learning and engagement. The learning needs to be facilitated in a way that engages the learners. Representative Bob Behning and I became partners and very engaged when we were allowed to build our own truck. We became curious and active participants in the learning. Really, an opportunity for learning was lost when all participants did not have the opportunity to be paired up and go through the whole 4.0 process. We were fortunate that one of the students realized how interested my partner and I were and bought in to us building a truck. The instructors also realized this and bought in. Fortunately, training for this Industry 4.0 training was presented in a respectful and safe manner, where learners have an opportunity to share their experiences. The learning environment needs to also be a place where it is ok to not have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. We need to remember that just like when teaching young students, adults in a group will all be at different places in terms of knowledge. When facilitating Learning we must recognize the unique background and experience of people.

As you can see it is very important to consider how adult learners just as we do our student learners. Really, as adults we want to learn just like children. Let’s strive to make sure we are creating learning environments that allow adults we work with be curious and engaged.

Conversations About Possibilities

IMG_2575As I write this post I am literally about 488 miles into my flight from Dublin, Ireland to Chicago, Illinois – USA. I am returning from an outstanding education research trip that started in Berlin, Germany 12 days ago with stops also in Paderborn, Germany, Bern, Switzerland, and finally Zürich, Switzerland. This was an incredible experience and I was proud and honored to be a part of the Indiana delegation that included Governor’s office officials, state legislators, business/industry leaders, higher education leaders, k-12 school officials, community partners, state government officials (myself as an Indiana State Board of Education member), and organizers from Horizon Education Alliance.

My goal was to write a post each day of the trip and I believe I have accomplished that goal with this post. Including this post, I have posted 11 different posts about my journey of learning on this trip. If you want to follow along with the learning I have put links to all the posts here for your convenience:

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

Application of Practice & Theory

Learning 4.0

Fully Qualified Worker

Leading Work 4.0

Leadership To Tear Down Walls

From Best Practice To Next Practice

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

Learning to Do, Doing to Learn!

Focus On The Wider World

As I continue to write this post, I am now 1,778 miles into the trip home I am reflecting on what the gains were from having had these 12 days together with my colleagues. As I reflected I believe the value of this experience was in the convening of over 20 stakeholders who came together with the intent of making the lives of Hoosiers better and in the process making the economy and education system better in the state of Indiana. This study trip gave us the opportunity to shift our attention from the problems of the community to the possibility of community. To do this, however, we must be willing to trade our problems for possibilities.

There was tremendous value in the apprenticeship and training models we visited and experienced first hand, but the real value was in the conversations we had during this experience. There was value in having a conversation that we’ve not had before, one that has the power to create something new in the world. That is truly what I believe we did on this trip. On this trip, all members of the delegation became citizens. This was a very important shift. A shift in the thinking and actions of citizens is more vital than a shift in the thinking and actions of institutions and formal leaders. We were all learning through the lens of a citizens wanting to make the world a better place for our state’s students and citizens.

Citizenship

Citizenship is a state of being. It is a choice for activism and care. A citizen is one who is willing to do the following:

  • Hold ourselves accountable for the well-being of the larger collective of which we are a part.
  • Own and exercise the power we have rather than delegate it to someone else and expect them to act.
  • Develop a shared community of possibilities – always asking, “What can we create together?”
  • Remember that communities are not built by specialized expertise, great leadership, or more/improved services, but by great citizens.
  • Attend to the gifts of the citizens and bring the gifts of those on the edges to the front and center for the betterment of the community.

One thing I have learned for sure: we cannot legislate the future. We visited countries on this trip who have been doing apprenticeship and vocational training for a long time. In the case of Switzerland, their current Vocational Education and Training (VET) system has been in place since 1932. As our group considers next steps, we need to remember that something shifts on a large scale only after a long period of small steps, organized around small groups patient enough to learn and experiment and learn again. If we want to make meaningful and transformative change to our education system we cannot command speed and scale. If we do that we are created an environment that will work against anything important being any different.

I really believe that a leader’s role is not to develop better models, or even to necessarily drive change. The leader’s role is to create the opportunities that bring the citizens of communities together to identify and solve their own problems. I really believe that is what Horizon Education Alliance has done in Elkhart County, Indiana. That organization has become masterful at focusing on the structure of how we gather and the context in which those convenings take place. The study trip that I am returning from is one such convening. The context was being in schools, training centers, and manufacturing facilities and having the opportunity to keep our own points of view at bay, leave our self-interests at home, and be present in the moment to learn rather than advocate for a certain position.

There will certainly need to be lots more conversations and work following-up from this trip, but I do believe we have all truly thought about the question: “What can we create together?” I believe we all want to be a part of transforming education in Indiana to a place where a student’s education does not define them for life, but prepares them for life. In turn, this should have our students ready to enter the workforce with a growth mindset ready to be engaged employees that are lifelong learners. Even so, the challenge is not to create a shared vision or plan (both important to the process), but the real challenge is to discover and create the means for engaging citizens that brings new possibility into play. We need our citizens to be the authors of this change.

I will close with this, as my plane completes the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and is now over North American soil; transformation is about altering the nature of our relatatedness and changing the nature of our conversations. This study trip experience abroad certainly did that for this group. I believe this journey shifted the context and language to thinking about possibilities. We owe it to our k-12 students and incumbent workforce to get this right!

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

IMG_2592

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:

IMG_2596

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.

IMG_2611

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™.

Application of Practice & Theory

IMG_2588

Valerie and I

As I prepared for dinner last evening in Bern Switzerland, I had no idea what I was in store for. First of all, the views of the Swiss Alps were breathtaking. The meal was absolutely awesome! The restaurant first opened in 1862. But, it was the conversation with our waitress that blew me away.

Here I was in Switzerland with a delegation from Indiana organized by Horizon Education Alliance to learn about vocational education and apprenticeships, and all of the sudden I am in a conversation with our waitress, Valerie, who was in her last year (4th year) of apprenticeship in Service. She was two months away from taking her final exam. She will earn a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training in Service. Valerie was outstanding at serving us and spoke incredible English. Most would say she spoke better English than me.

Check out the video of me introducing Valerie to our delegation and telling her story here:

Valerie really values the apprenticeship program she is a part of. She explained that she really likes the fact that she is learning in a real world context. As the guy who really values teaching in a relevant context, this was amazing to me. In Valerie’s case she went to her vocational school two days per week and then works in the restaurant three days per week learning the business. In addition, every so many weeks she got to what are called “Branch Courses” to learn specific skills. One of the themes that has come out in the Swiss model is the belief that a student should not just “know it,” but “know it and do it.” This is an applied model.

“A Swiss Apprenticeship doesn’t define you for life, but it is designed to prepare you for life.” ~ Ambassador Suzi and Eric Levine

When I asked Valerie what she thought could be improved about the way she was being educated she talked about career exploration/guidance and how students are sometimes “pushed” into different areas. Valerie explained career guidance is very important and believed she needed more. She also discussed that she believes her teachers in compulsory education (k-10) do not know enough about business and industry. This caused a lot of discussion in our study group about needing more teacher externships. We need to really ramp up the number of our teachers we are putting out into actual workplace environments to learn first hand about the places their students will be working.

IMG_2574When we get push back in the policy-making space about how having Graduation Pathways in Indiana and providing more opportunities for students makes more work for counselors, I disagree. As a former teacher, I believe teachers have the closest relationships with students and must take on part of the responsibility of helping guide students to post-secondary paths and choices. Valerie was also concerned that student sometimes get pushed into the wrong area of interest.

IMG_2550In Switzerland 2/3 of the students do vocational/apprenticeship training while a third go on to college. I believe it is great that in Switzerland wanting a vocational education is not the second choice. In the United States we need to really work on making sure students understand the value of vocational education and apprenticeship programs. We need to make sure that students and families understand that it is just as great of education to go the career and technical education and going to a university. It is all about what the student wants to go into and where the high wage, high demand jobs are.

Furthermore, Valerie really has lots of options with her apprenticeship program – what the Swiss call “Permeability.” She can go straight into the workforce, or go to the university, or into professional education. See the chart below:

IMG_2565Make no mistake as you read this post. I do not want us (Indiana) to copy the Swiss model. I do not believe you can just cut and paste or copy another system into our own, But…I do believe there are pieces of the Swiss model that was started in 1932 that we could use in our system to better our apprenticeship programs for our students.

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!