Exploring ways to bring excellence to LIFE!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Day Two The Adventure Continues

I am writing the following day, having come back to my room after dinner and doing nothing but watch Borat. I used a free video voucher I got when my TV didn’t work the night before and had to move to another room. Not the kind of movie you want to snuggle up with your family and a bowl of popcorn on the couch…just another benefit of the Baymont Resort, just nanoseconds from I-35 in Austin.

I decided to go in late today and catch up on commitments – including this one.

The day was a full one. The International Alliance for Learning (IAL) embraces Accelerated Learning (AL) as key to our transition from an industrial to knowledge to a creative economy and from a national to a global community. In many ways, AL is just good common sense and while it represents a new way, it reckons back to those principles that are natural and aligned with the way we were built to live. We are all familiar with the notion that a lot of what we know and do as children gets engineered out as we grow away from children into adults. Without being blinded by fancy theories we would naturally grow into excellent human beings – not machines or computers, but people. AL has 11 elements that add insight to our natural ability:

  1. Knowledge about the Human Brain
  2. Emotional State
  3. The Learning Environment
  4. The Role of Music and the Arts
  5. Personal Motivation
  6. Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles
  7. Imagination/Metaphors
  8. Suggestion/De-Suggestion
  9. Team Learning and Cooperation
  10. Improvement and Results

If you haven’t spent time with these elements in your work you can find the details at:


Workshops at this conference address primary education to adult-corporate to seniors. Content covers the entire human body or system from the physical to the emotional to the intellectual. What is stressed most in these workshops is all three are to be given consideration. One excellent point that came out of one of the sessions I attended was,

If you overdevelop one area in the system (that would be you and the rest of the human race) you will imbalance this system and destroy the synergy we are capable of experiencing.

In other words being muscle bound in one area decreases the power of everything. It’s not that you lose 2/3 of your capabilities by over strengthening 1/3, rather there is an exponential negative effect. Very cool.

I attended three sessions:

Opening Session

You probably know the normal things that go on at a conference opening (I will save blog space by not going into detail). What was a complete WOW was a group of children from Central and South America who have come to our country just 3 months ago not knowing a stitch of English. They are as a result of Accelerated Learning practices and are today able to fluently speak English. They demonstrated their abilities by given speeches and performing songs, and talking with the audience after the session. WOW.

Teaching to the Brain's Natural Learning Systems

The first program I attended was given by Barbara Givens, from George Mason University. She presented the five major neurobioloical systems that affect our lives:

  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Cognitive
  • Physical
  • Reflective

She did a great job at framing the value of these systems in making us who we are. Some notable points that I found amazing:

The percentage of Nature versus Nurture as it influences our development is quite different from my knowledge of the past. Barbara told us that Nature comprises 30% and Nurture is 70%. New findings and realizations have made this possible. Most of the nurture influence she described was during the gestation of a baby. Factors such as alcohol and stress can negatively affect the environment from which a baby develops. This is nurture - a controllable, non-genetic circumstance that can be controlled for the benefit of early childhood development - very early. Very cool.

There is a chain of occurences that ultimately result in the release of positive chemicals in our brain, which is the source of our contentment and well-being. As we go through life we try on many masks. This is not the Artist's Way, but rather a journey we all must go through. The purpose is to find our passion - a much maligned term that conjures up all kind of nightmares that tell us, and others who care about us, that eventually we will end up in some cult, drinking kool aid and contemplating our belly buttons. On the contrary, passion, a positive emotional reaction that is unique to the individual, drives positive chemicals in the brain which drive higher productivity - not a crisis that becomes the subject of a "made-for-TV movie."

I am enthralled with the study of the brain and our ability to use and develop it for our use. Her manner of presentation was conversational and inviting. I took alot from the event.

Business Doesn't Mean Boring! Kick Up Your Visuals a Notch

Jenny Maddern, UK, is a dyamic, energetic consultant who uses AL concepts in training and development. Her approach to creating a visual environment is simple and effective. She shared ideas on using visuals to frame a program, ways to create posters with simple methods, using visuals to facilitate an event and collect information. Very practical, very effective - very valuable. When I was a magician the rule of thumb when doing shows where we had to set up nd take down and move to another location and do it again was "packs small and plays big". This is the magic Jenny provided us.

It is very hard to describe visual when using textual. If you want to really see what it is all about check out her website: www.discoverylearning.co.uk.

AL Outside the Classroom: Applications and other Settings

This program is an AL certified session where Sarah Spengler, one of Clevesburg's own, walked us through the various techniques that can be used to collect information, understand other's vantage points, and other concepts that espouse the AL method. We broke into teams to work on an assortment of issues, crafting potential solutions and questions for clarification. We moved again to visit issues we did not originate to fill in gaps in thinking.

This was an excellent program and tied the learning together into a cohesive whole. The only thing that would make it better would be to hold it earlier in the day. I think we were all burned out.

This was the end of my day, though there was more that occurred in the evening. I was beginning to notice my attention lagging having moved from room to room, without other diversions. The spirit is willing - I visuallize being engaged intellectually all day, but the actual ability to do so found me wanting. Just another learning moment.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Day One - Great Learning

(Click on pix for larger view)
My first day was fraught with great learning. I delivered my workshop from 8AM to 12N and was received well by the eight individuals who attended, as well as the 15 or so who popped their head in to see if I was the Win Wenger, PhD. who was delivering “An Endless Reservoir of New Accelerated Techniques”. I consider this a compliment.

I guided the rapt audience through an agenda which included: The 3Cs of Graphic Communication - Characters Containers Connectors:

  • Learning to use the natural functioning of our brains
  • Routine practices to gather information
  • Understanding and utilizilizing the cross function
  • Listening and crafting a graphic message
  • Buildin a graphic language
  • Designing an effective visual using the 3Cs

The method developed can be delivered in three ways:

  • Virtual to an event
  • Blended - a combination of preparation and real time facilitation.
  • Real time – riffing as the event is happening.

We concentrated on the first two modes (virtual and blended) to acclimate people to the concepts in a way that was partially familiar. The goal was to get them to stretch slightly outside their comfort zone but not too far respecting that most people don’t typically draw, let alone draw among other adults. While most childhood practice has resulted in adult competencies, drawing (and painting, and sculpting) typically has not. Having drawn and dreamed in elementary school and not having done it since, it is no wonder most of us still draw like children and refuse to use our dreams as a platform for creating new ways to improve our adult issues. Goofy as this may sound this goofy practice is a key enabler used by many great minds throughout the history.

We spent our last hour creating a visual (poster) to take back home along with feedback on the positive elements used and areas with which to improve. Some examples of their work were:

  • A visual mission statement
  • A unique representation of the elements of graphic communication
  • A metaphorical representation of a key attitude shift that is critical to making change (the organizational kind – not the currency kind).

All evaluations were great, although one person referred to me as “Wim” (kidding). Due to factors I don’t completely understand, there were no other sessions starting in the afternoon so, I joined a small contingent of Clevelanders for lunch and some Austin culture. At 6:30 we found out the cocktail party was actually happening at 8:30 after the day’s keynote speech. Nobody seemed to know who was speaking, so, exhausted, I returned to my Austin homestead (Bayfront Inn) to capture the day’s activity and to stare blankly at the TV.

So where was the day fraught with knowledge? Well beside a day rich with Austin culture and the experience of delivering my workshop (always a learning), I also had an experience at the Baymont Resort which I was saving this for the end. Early this morning while procuring coffee, I got to talking to the desk clerk and the security guard. I explained that I was at a learning conference and was staying at their fine establishment because the Omni was "all that." I also explained that I did work to improve people’s ability to retain and use information. Turns out the desk clerk had dyslexia and both her kids had learning disabilities. She was a strong advocate of alternative learning techniques and described ways she used to overcome her disability. One in particular was her use of a transparent, colored sheet she laid on the page which locked words in place enabling her to read. We had a great conversation - perfect for a guy in Austin at a learning conference. Okay, it’s not the Omni, but who needs a mini bar and chocolates on your pillow. Oh she also told me a great story about her indestructible rottweiler, but I’ll save that for later.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The National Alliance for Learning Conference, Austin Texas

I am here at the Baymont Inn which is off of I-35 in Austin, Texas. In fact if the Baymont Inn were a living thing it would be a conjoined twin with I-35. I am at the Baymont Inn rather than the Omni Hotel where the International Alliance for Learning is being held tomorrow through Sunday, January 14 . Omni, which means "all things and every thing", must think they are "all that and an oyster on the half shell" because their rate for single occupancy is more than a starving entrepreneur, who is not "all that" and is allergic to oysters whether with two shells, one shell or going commando, can afford.

I tried to find a room mate to share the expense at the Omni, but it didn't pan out. So I am about 9 miles from "all that".

My room at the Baymont is just ten leisurely paces from a Denny's and just about twice that from a Gas-n-Go, where they have all the conveniences I could ever want or need including pills that guarantee to increase my stamina. On top of that I get an inexpensive, well appointed room, free breakfast, cable TV, free, wireless internet, and no oysters.

I am delivering my 3Cs of Graphic Communication workshop tomorrow morning. When one gets approved to deliver a program at a conference, it is considered such an honor that one will sacrifice life and all worldly savings to be there. having done so, not to mention depleting a frequent flyer account I will spend the rest of the conference going to sessions and MARKETING.

I think my some of my sarcasm is because this is all new and unknown. Having never been to a conference of this type not to mention delivering a program, the ego, rather than embracing this discomfort views all new things as somehow just not right. At least that is the case with my ego.
I am actually really grateful to be able to deliver something I am passionate about, and the opportunity to mix with learning folks.

Anyway, I am going to blog the event, with observations, learning, photos, and graphic notes. At least that's what my ego has laid out. We'll see if the rest of me can meet the commitment. Maybe I need those pills from Gas-n-Go.

I invite your participation and encourage your comments...as long as they don't come from your ego.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Defy Labels

I am reading The Story Factor by Annette Simmons, which is an excellent book, subject and she writes it in a very excellent manner. This morning I read, “Getting caught up in categories and linear analysis misses the point…” (pg 80) when it comes to what kind of story to tell and why to tell it, because it is more than that. She further says, “It is useful to have categories, but they are not real.” (pg 80). She also talks of a 35 year old woman and snapshots of her at 3 years old and 13 years old and that she is neither 3 or 13 or 35 but all those things and more. Very cool


The easiest way to see this is to look at our interpersonal relationships. In our ordinary experiences with other people, we know that approaching each other in a machinelike way gets us into trouble. We know that the process of changing a relationship is a lot more complicated than the process of changing a flat tire on your car. It requires a willingness to change. It requires a sense of openness, a sense of reciprocity, even a kind of vulnerability. You must be willing to be influenced by another person. You don't have to be willing to be influenced by your damn car! A relationship with a machine is fundamentally a different kind of relationship: It is perfectly appropriate to feel that if it doesn't work, you should fix it. But we get into real trouble whenever we try to "fix" people.
-Peter Senge

We have objectified, analyzed and categorized our world to death. Our model in life today is to look at our problems as objects and for many purposes utilizing an unemotional perspective is useful, but it doesn’t fully cover the needs. Is it useful to look at our family in its entirety and make decisions on objective fact alone? Pick friends and lovers based on 32 personality measures for success? Plan our marriages, children, and careers on an efficient timeline reducing non value activities to a minimum and capitalizing on high value opportunities? I would hope most people would answer “No”, however, this type of thinking and I may add behavior is not a small minority. In some ways we are losing what we had when we didn’t have what we’ve got today. With the advent of ever increasing technology, we are losing our realization that machines cannot produce small humans and that humans cannot go through fertilization, a nine month gestation and a strenuous birthing and produce small machines. Thomas Moore in his book, The Care of the Soul, points to our machine age models as one of the reasons we are losing what we had.

The most universal challenge that we face is the transition from seeing our human institutions as machines to seeing them as embodiments of nature. I've been thinking about this shift for 25 years or more: We need to realize that we're a part of nature, rather than separate from nature.
-Peter Senge

While many may agree that way we spend our energy on our human relationships need to differ dramatically from our relationship to machines and technology, what about the energy we spend with regard to our companies and organizations? They are neither human nor are they machines, which does not mean that we should invalidate or necessarily marginalize their existence to rash strategies which constantly tear down and recreate structure as if there is one right structure that will become apparent in the instant it is conceived.

I worked with clients who in the past who would probably be better served by a metal detector than a plan or a strategy, for they are constantly looking for silver bullets (can you detect silver with a metal detector?). “When we get this (program, tool, process, person) we will be so busy, I don’t know how we are going to handle it.” In the meantime the old program, tool, process, and people sit around, gather dust and at least for one category of resource, grumble, complain, and wonder what’s next? All the while frittering away valuable energy in the form of dollars spent and not realized, potential untapped, and opportunities missed.

Companies and organizations are not people, processes or technology but the embodiment of all. They are the container that holds them all together and as such are a being in its own right; unique, different and requiring different attention. This container is the system that allows these things to thrive. Mess with the container and you mess with everything in it. Leaders need to know that when you change an organizational structure, it is like adding blue dye to a pond – it is very attractive for the moment but the unintended consequences and down stream negative effects are much more than the momentary thrill of looking good.