Byron's Babbles

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.

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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

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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™.

Fully Qualified Worker

IMG_2533The past two days in Paderborn Germany have been awesome. Our Horizon Education Alliance education study group had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time at the Benteler Education and Training Center. We have spent a lot of time learning about the German Dual System of Apprenticeship and vocational training. Students in Germany can chose a company/employer apprentice or college training. See pictures here to get an idea of the German system:

IMG_2500IMG_2502IMG_2501The German system is intriguing and I am amazed how much the companies take responsibility for being part of the training. Students have the opportunity to do two week internships to help them sort out what they want to do. Then, if the apprenticeship option is chosen they can then apply to companies. This can either happen after year 10 in school or can be chosen to do after year 12 in conjunction with the university.

IMG_2497We had the chance to spend time with Benteler’s student touring and getting a first hand look at how the final examination/certification process works for the apprenticeship program. This examination is taken in two parts. One part is taken after 1 1/2 years in the apprenticeship and the other part is taken after 3 1/2 (the end) of the apprenticeship. The examination contains a theoretical part and a practicum part where the apprentice is doing an actual project in his/her chosen field of study.

I am amazed at the community that Benteler has formed to educate the students. The students are very engaged and interested in the process. In fact, I had the opportunity to have a student teach me how to use a robot welder. The same welder that would be used and in the same way he was taught in the apprenticeship program. This was a great experience for me to put myself in the shoes of the student. Here is a video clip of part of my robotics certification training:

IMG_2528This was such an awesome experience and it is so incredible that Benteler has made the investment here in Paderborn Germany to educate its workers and these students. Due to Industry 4.0, the BENTELER training program has become very important to having a highly trained workforce and is constantly changing, integrating content and thus adapting it to the needs of the market. I was proud to be award an Industry 4.0 certification while I was there and again was really glad I took the opportunity to interact with the students and experience education from their point of view. Have you ever taken time to visit a school and experience life from the viewpoint of the student? You should!

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?

 

From Best Practice To Next Practice

IMG_2336Today was the final day of the 2nd Annual Global Smart Manufacturing Summit in Berlin, Germany. I really valued the time to get to know business and industry leaders from around the world. I was reminded of what my good friend Kevin Eikenberry and I used to talk about a lot – when we look at the differences between different industries (eg. manufacturing vs. education), we see about 90-95% of our issues being the same and about 5-10% different. What I mean here is that many of the challenges and roads to improvement are the same. Think about it, we all have responsibility in finance, HR, facilities, and customers. If we break that down further, we all have one of the same groups within the customer category – employees. Now, I get it; our employees are our competitive advantage, but employees are still a customer to be taken care of at the highest level.

Organizational Commitment

The first session this morning was about initiatives and organizational commitment. As a believer in learning organizations, I was really enamored by the discussion of organizational commitment. This thinking really fits with a lot of the Gallup® research I have been studying around employee engagement. When we discuss organizational commitment, we are talking about the bond employees experience with their organization. Broadly speaking, we know employees who are committed to their organization generally feel a connection with their organization, feel that they fit in, and believe they understand the goals of their organization.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.25.16 PMNext Practice

One of the session titles this morning was “From Best Practice To Next Practice.” I really appreciated this session because we talk a lot in education about “best practices,” but really it is about making the right choice and implementing the next practice. Good or bad, I tend to be the one looking for the next practices. Really, that is what this entire discussion was about for the global leaders here: what are the next practices.

Convergence

Then, it comes down to convergence. How do we take several sources of independent data and bring them together to develop strong conclusions? In education we call this using “multiple data points.” I don’t think we do the best job of bringing all the data points together. For example, this week I was reading and article about teacher pay and how it was decreasing. I question if we have been properly converging HR, financial planning, and student data in a way that would inform what we have been paying our teachers in Indiana. I’ll let you grapple with my comment here, but you get the point.

Problems

One of the comments that I loved most today was, “We shouldn’t be talking about the problems of today, but the problems of tomorrow.” This is so true! This means in education we need to be looking several years out as to what business and industry needs. We also need to think about what our execution model will be for making sure our students have the skills necessary to meet the needs of the workforce. A few phrases/questions coming from the global manufacturing leaders that jumped out at me were:

  • What data is coming from where?
  • How do you use your data?
  • Appropriate levels of (you fill in the blank here)
  • Move from reactive to predictive and preventative

Outcomes

All of this discussion has made me an hinkeven bigger believer in us (both Indiana and the United States) needing to move to a strictly outcomes based school accountability system. We could then, truly in partnership with business/industry and higher education, determine what transferable skills students need and have coming out of high school. Then we can match those transferable skills to outcomes that the students needs to accomplish. Here are some examples and outcomes:

  • industry certifications
  • 4 year degrees
  • Associate degrees
  • Trade school
  • Joining the military
  • Meaningful employment

At a time when our state has 75,000 jobs per year going unfilled because there are not skilled workers to take those jobs, we need to be thinking about the outcomes for our students. Thus the skills gap of only 42% having any kind of post-secondary preparedness versus the 75% needed.

If we are going to have our students ready for the workforce we will need to:

  • Teach students in a real world and relevant context
  • Enable, encourage, and stimulate students to be curious
  • Teach students how to fail and that it is o.k. to fail
  • Engage students in career exploration activities at a young age
  • Determine the transferable skills needed to have students ready for today’s jobs
  • Teach students to be disruptors
  • Provide pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and work based learning internships

Business and Industry engagement in education programs not only prepares students with the skills they need for careers, but it also contributes to the development of clearly developed career pathways that lead students to careers after graduation.

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.