Showing posts with label coro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label coro. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Monday, August 3, 2009

Surfacing the Solutions: A Critical Discussion of California’s Water Crisis

Upcoming event on California's water crisis, so save the date for those of you in SoCal. It's hosted by Coro's Southern California center, which is the leadership program I went through but in its St. Louis location.

The Water Conservation Luncheon
Surfacing the Solutions: A critical discussion of California’s water crisis

Thursday October 29, 2009 at 11:30am – 2:00pm
Location: TBD

An overview of Coro:

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"D.N.C. Veteran Tribute Video"

Just have to post this video here that played during last night's DNC Convention, and give props to Stephanie Stone. Stephanie had a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy and gave an excellent testimonial (7:03 in the video) in this veteran tribute video, which was produced by Steven Spielberg. Stephanie and I both serve on the Coro National Alumni Board and are alumni of the Coro Fellows Program. She currently is Vice President of Programs and Outreach for Coro Southern California.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Communicating to Connect

In 1996 during my Coro Fellowship, I had the privilege of having a guided tour of the White House by a senior administration official after a visit with President Clinton. As we toured the various rooms, the official told stories of Bill Clinton’s adeptness in communicating and his uncanny ability to connect with people. In one of those anecdotes there were over 100 people in a room and the president had to leave quickly for another event. Within 10 minutes he went through the room and shook everyone’s hand. The amazing thing was that afterward many of those people spoke as if they had a full conversation with the president.

A few months ago I attended a seminar hosted by the Socrates Society of the Aspen Institute and led by Professor Michael Sandel from Harvard University. When he was class president his senior year of high school he invited Governor Ronald Reagan to speak at his school. He didn’t expect Reagan to accept, but surprisingly he did. Sandel, a strong Democrat to this day, explained how he was full of zeal during those days and how he and his classmates were ready to pounce upon Governor Reagan’s conservative agenda. Governor Reagan entered the auditorium of almost 500 students who were hostile to him and his policies. Sandel was on stage with the governor prepared to shoot his hard-hitting questions and statements, but Reagan deflected his questions with ease and created a bond with the student body. By the end of the 30-minute session, Michael Sandel was amazed that his fellow students’ emotions calmed; many of them spoke about liking Reagan afterwards.

While both these politicians may have been naturally gifted at communicating and connecting with people, there are a few elements we can learn from them:

1. Find common ground. Both Clinton and Reagan were skilled at finding common ground to establish a connection with people. In Clinton’s brief interactions, he immediately establishes a common bond through questions. A conversation might go like this:

“Where are you from?”

“Tampa, Florida…”

“My cousin lives in Tampa. One of my favorite places growing up…”

In the story about Ronald Reagan, he probably recognized common ground during the initial stages of the talk and focused on those areas. How he and the audience are similar. What common beliefs and values he and the audience have.

Clinton and Reagan were masters at this skill, which is useful not only in politics but in business. Establishing common ground could happen in the long time-frame of business just as well as in the short time-frame of the campaign trail. This is an important path to building relationships and trust. I believe trust is essential for being an effective leader in business.

2. Have sincere interest. While both these communicators were politicians and their motives can be questioned, I believe there was sincerity in their ability to connect with people. Both Clinton and Reagan wanted to know the people they were talking to, about their happiness and their grief, and about their lives. Genuine interest is hard to fake and people will catch on if it is not sincere.

My father’s close friend was a leading candidate for South Korea’s presidency years ago. My dad told me that one of his Achilles’ heels was that he always looked beyond the person he was talking to. He was looking for the next person to talk with or a more important person to meet. How would you feel if you met this person? Not important enough? Snubbed? He eventually dropped from contention.

3. Listen and ask questions. Beyond the initial stage of connecting, a good end goal is building a relationship. Whether a business or personal relationship, having a sincere interest in the person naturally builds a bond. One suggested path is simply listen to them and ask questions. I’ve met many people who like to talk about themselves or tell stories for 50 minutes out of a 1 hour meeting. Unless they are extremely entertaining, I found most of these people to be uninteresting and a bit self-centered. Self-centered people are red flags in business for me since their personal agendas can disrupt the goals of your company and trust between employees.

If you have this tendency to occupy most of the conversation, try to start asking more questions about the other people. You have to be patient as you work on this especially if the other people are more introverted. If others simply don’t talk much, then after several attempts you can have free rein on the conversation:)

Think about these points as you engage people in your workplace. Whether at industry conferences, meetings, or at the office, building relationships should be your objective. If everything is done through relationships, isn’t how you establish them important?

Originally published at InsideWork

Monday, April 7, 2008

TED BIGVIZ Book and Movie... David Sibbet, Coro and Graphic Facilitation

At TED2008, they had David Sibbet and Kevin Richards spontaneously sketch the conference presentations using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. A few times during the conference they would show Dave and Kevin's work, which was very cool.

Anyway, you can check it out here and read about it:

At this year's TED2008 conference, Autodesk not only participated as a major sponsor, but hosted a lunch on Sustainable Design featuring Autodesk CEO Carl Bass and IDEO CEO Tim Brown as well as demonstrated a technology experiment called the BIGVIZ.

The BIGVIZ is an exploration in visualizing the Big Ideas presented on the TED mainstage. Two visual cartographers, David Sibbet and Kevin Richards, created over 700 spontaneous sketches of the presenters' ideas using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro software running on Wacom Cintiq tablets and rendered on a Perceptive Pixel multi-touch display. These tools illustrate the power of interactive visualization to present the big picture to foster insight and communicate ideas visually, central principles of design innovation.

We’ve compiled these sketches into an interactive pdf book and video that strives to capture the spirit of the TED Big Ideas.

I would recommend at least checking out the BIGVIZ Movie here.

It was also cool to see Dave Sibbet at TED since we are both alumni of the Coro Fellowship. He's one of the venerable alumni along with Senator Dianne Feinstein, Congressman Jerry Lewis, Gene Siskel, and others. Dave went through the Coro Fellows Program in 1965 while I did it in 1995-1996. He's respected because he became a favorite trainer for Coro and during that time pioneered "graphic facilitation."

"Evolution of Graph Facilitation"

"This context map I did for the California ISO at the height of the energy crisis shows how complex the environment is for anyone tring to maintain reliable, inexpensive energy. The environmental factors on the bottom right are all huge AND unpredictable. The circles are all separate bodies that are influentially involved. It was a huge act of public responsibility to keep the lights on during all the political and other gyrations swirling around the ISO in those trying times. I came away with immense respect for these unsung heroes." - David Sibbet

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Is Man Determined or Free?... Freedom? Choice? God?


"Choice. The problem is choice," Neo states.

"The first matrix I designed was quite naturally perfect, it was a work of art, flawless, sublime. A triumph equaled only by its monumental faliure. The inevitability of its doom is as apparent to me now as a consequence of the imperfection inherent in every human being, thus I redesigned it based on your history to more accurately reflect the varying grotesqueries of your nature. However, I was again frustrated by failure. I have since come to understand that the answer was stumbled upon by another, an intuitive program, initially created to investigate certain aspects of the human psyche. If I am the father of the matrix, she would undoubtedly be its mother," said The Architect.

"The Oracle," replies Neo.

"Please. As I was saying she stumbled upon a solution on whereby nearly 99.9% of all test subjects accepted the program, as long as they were given a choice, even if they were only aware of the choice at a near unconscious level. While this answer functioned, it was obviously fundamentally flawed, thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly, that if left unchecked might threaten the system itself. Ergo, those that refused the program while a minority, if unchecked, would constitute an escalating probability of disaster."

This issue of choice is interesting and, as written in my prior blog post, explained well by The Old Oligarch:

St. Augustine's De Libero Arbitrio Voluntatis (often titled in English "On the Free Choice of the Will"). For Augustine, liberum arbitrium (free choice) is different from, but related to voluntas (the will).
Voluntas is what enacts our actions, but voluntas, for the classical mind, includes habits, the motivations of nature, personal history and free choice.
I like to compare the classical conception of voluntas and liberum arbitrium to a boulder-sized stone that is rolling on a playing field and a man who has sole charge of where it rolls. The stone has momentum. So, likewise, our will has its disposition. The environment can draw the stone in one direction more than the other, i.e. external circumstances partially determine appetites. The liberum arbitrium in this example, is the man, who can slow or accelerate the movement of the stone, and alter its course. But the stone is more massive than the man. Individual acts of exertion cannot completely alter the direction of voluntas and send it instantly careening in another direction regardless of past acts. If the stone is rolling in the wrong direction, a forceful push can avert it from its "inevitable" course, but the man cannot instantly stop it, pick it up, bring it back to its rightful place and trajectory, and send it on its correct path as if nothing had happened. He simply doesn't have the strength. Likewise our will when it gets accustomed to, or "disposed" to a certain way of behaving. Liberum arbitrium can prevent the necessity of running headlong into old behaviors, but it takes a long, concerted effort to undo the cumulative effects of the many half-witted, unconscious decisions we've made which created in us bad dispositions. End tangent.
I think the Oracle makes a similar observation about the will. What the will does -- especially in unconscious, unreflective people -- is 90% the product of decisions already made.

"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Matthew 26:41

So what you want (free choice) and what you actually do (will) are two different things. The Old Oligarch actually has a better analogy for you gamers, so read the rest of the entry if you're interested.

This issue of free choice and will can be seen in other arenas of thought. One is General Semantics, which was developed by Alfred Korzybski, a Polish mathematician and engineer, over 50 years ago. "General semantics is the study of the relations between language, ‘thought’ and behavior: between how we talk, therefore how we ‘think’, and therefore how we act."

This system of thinking was a basis of my training with the Coro Fellowship and set out to improve our skills in relationships with people, communications, and critical thinking. It was interesting when I read The Old Oligarch's entry on St. Augustine's De Libero Arbitrio Voluntatis and was thinking about The Matrix: Reloaded because it reminded me of some of my old training materials which contained overlapping viewpoints:

"We were born into, and are immersed in particular environments (cultural, language, home, religious, social, work, etc). Our behaviors are usually automatic responses, generated by our uncritical acceptance and conditioning, by the demands and expectations, from these environments. The "woa of consciousness" (*wedge of awareness. tool to increase our wakefulness) gives us a chance to move from automatic, unwanted, unproductive, stress producing behaviors toward more creative and self-directed and self-managing behaviors." - Milton Dawes

From my perspective and experiences, these philosophical approaches have huge limitations. The boulder in our lives is always heavier and bigger than we actually think. Like Stephen Hawking's limited explanation for whether man is determined or free, the thinkers of the ages cannot close the gap between man's will and free choice without God in the equation. Obviously, I'm biased as a Christian, but He does create a more orderly and logical world. God makes a huge difference on the cosmic scale and on the personal scales of every man seeking to close the gap between will and free choice. The difference between God and the Architect is that God actual loves His creations and the world He built. The Architect oddly enough sounds more like Hawking or some omnipotent being from a sci-fi novel.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Is Man Determined or Free?... Thoughts From "The Matrix: Reloaded"

I recently saw Bruce Almighty which was entertaining at times, but overall a mediocre movie. Anyway, it jarred my thinking to a few months back after I saw The Matrix: Reloaded about the issues of whether man is determined, what is free will, and predestination. Bruce Almighty interestingly provided a simplistic yet smart and concise perspective on the issue of how God can predetermine and control the universe while allowing for man’s free will. Morgan Freeman plays God who bestows upon Jim Carrey’s character all his powers, but he cannot affect a person’s freewill. Later on in the movie, Carrey’s character truly learns about this limitation, but I won’t spoil it for anyone.

Severals weeks before watching this movie and after The Matrix: Reloaded, I was listening to an excerpt by Stephen Hawking on his lecture at Cambridge University on whether man is determined or free.

As you might know, Stephen Hawking is our modern day Einstein. He is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. This is an academic chair first held by Isaac Barrow, and then in 1669 by Sir Isaac Newton. His intellectual capacity and power can be rarely matched. His assistant once told of time when he was dictating volumes of notes and on the 46th page he recognized that there was an error 20 pages before and corrected it. Since the beginning of his academic career, Hawking has researched and studied about the laws which govern the universe.

At the lecture he concluded, ““Is man determined? Yes! But since we do not know what is determined, he may as well not be.”

To explain determinism, the PBS website explains:

“A far-reaching term, which most widely states that all events in the world are the result of some previous event, or events. In this view, all of reality is already in a sense pre-determined or pre-existent and, therefore, nothing new can come into existence. This closed view of the universe sees all events in the world simply as effects of other prior effects, and has particular implications for morality, science, and religion. Ultimately, if determinism is correct, then all events in the future are as unalterable as are all events in the past. Consequently, human freedom is simply an illusion.”

So if you remember from The Matrix: Reloaded, the Merovingian (wine drinking French-wannabe, trafficker of information, and had Monica Bellucci as his wife:) was a determinist in the purest sense. He was preaching causality... everything is cause and effect so human freedom is nonexistent, especially within the matrix.

This is where Bruce Almighty describes determinism in a Christian context better than PBS since they assume determinism is expressed in the "Calvinist doctrine of predestination, wherein those elected to a divine eternity and those condemned to an eternal hell are already established prior to birth" and assume the lack of free will in this Christian doctrine. I believe the PBS definition related to Christianity is incorrect. Foreknowing does not imply forecausing. Calvinist doctrine and mainstream Christian thinking allows for the dual existence of pre-determined salvation and human free will. This doctrine is similar to the Oracle's viewpoint in The Matrix: Reloaded.

"Candy?" asks the Oracle.

"You already know if I'm going to take it," states Neo.

"I wouldn't be much of an oracle if I didn't."

"But if you already know, how can I make a choice?"

"Because you didn't come here to make a choice, you've already made it. You're here to try to to understand why you made it."

(Neo takes the candy)

"I thought you would have figured that out by now," says the Oracle.

"Why are you here?"

"Same reason. I love candy."

So I guess you really shouldn't call the Oracle's perspective determinism. Let's say Calvinist or "Free Choicer" (excellent explanation by The Old Oligarch on May 28, 2003 Matrix Essays blog).

Back to Hawking, he continued by stating his fear for the long-term survival of our species, “My only fear is this. The terror that stalks my mind is that we have arrived on the scene because of evolution. Because of naturalistic selection, and natural selection assumes natural rejection, which means we have arrived here because of our aggression. And my hope is that somehow we can keep from eating each other up for another 100 years. At that point science would have devised a scheme to take all of us into different planets of the universe and no one atrocity would destroy all of us at the same time.”

Ravi Zacharias, a Christian apologist, commented on Hawking’s lecture, “Hawking was unavoidably caught on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, if there is no God he could feel the hold of determinism from which evolutionary theory could not escape—out of flux, nothing but flux. What followed from that deduction was even more troubling. For on the other hand, if evolution held true, he could not further ignore the aggression and violence through which man has evolved. Therefore, Hawking offered mankind’s only hope—that the savior of technology would come riding on the wings of science to rescue us from the clasping teeth of determinism.”

“We have educated ourselves into imbecility.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

Zacharias quoted Muggeridge and went on to explain how even the greatest of minds in the world today should not ignore the logical and rational existence of God. Basically, Zacharias was criticizing determinism and how flawed it is and a more logical explanation is having God govern and control the laws and powers of the universe.

Continued... deeper into the matrix.