Critical Thinking is a Byproduct of Education

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship, Networking, Neuroscience, New Posts, Opinions, Problem Solving, Relationships, Speaking, The Future & The Singularity, Truth, Virtue

Critical thinking is a byproduct of education.

When a culture prioritizes the educational process as one that exists to indoctrinate minds, ensure conformity of behavior, and to socialize to a certain level, education transforms into something other than a vehicle for encouraging critical thinking.

When public education becomes something else, it serves to overpower and induct rather than something that serves to grow engagement and interaction with hard ideas—and tough (rather than utopian) choices about life, morality, ethics, and care.

Critical thinking becomes the byproduct of analyses, interaction, and engagement in a model that favors the development of such traits. In this scheme, critical thinking is not to be confused with “criticism-thinking”: where a conclusion is pre-determined and then the student is educated backward to make sure that their answers (and their thinking) conform to the “right” answer.

Whatever that answer may be.

Fake news” as a public information issue is exacerbated by the presence of a lack of critical thinking among college students: people who are exiting a public education system that overpowered their critical thinking (but not their “criticism-thinking”) long before they became encultured to the vagaries of choices and options in the world that only applied critical thinking could help them manage.

When the public focus is more on telling people what to think, because that process sells more papers, encourages more compliance, or makes better workers (but not better citizens) the public overall shouldn’t be surprised when, after a few decades, critical thinking becomes less of a byproduct of education.

The critical thinking for which the public is looking—to create informed voters, for instance—comes about through first determining what exactly the educational system is for.

Critical Thinking is a Byproduct of Education

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Culture, Education, Entrepreneurship, Networking, Neuroscience, New Posts, Opinions, Problem Solving, Relationships, Speaking, The Future & The Singularity, Truth, Virtue

Critical thinking is a byproduct of education.

When a culture prioritizes the educational process as one that exists to indoctrinate minds, ensure conformity of behavior, and to socialize to a certain level, education transforms into something other than a vehicle for encouraging critical thinking.

When public education becomes something else, it serves to overpower and induct rather than something that serves to grow engagement and interaction with hard ideas—and tough (rather than utopian) choices about life, morality, ethics, and care.

Critical thinking becomes the byproduct of analyses, interaction, and engagement in a model that favors the development of such traits. In this scheme, critical thinking is not to be confused with “criticism-thinking”: where a conclusion is pre-determined and then the student is educated backward to make sure that their answers (and their thinking) conform to the “right” answer.

Whatever that answer may be.

Fake news” as a public information issue is exacerbated by the presence of a lack of critical thinking among college students: people who are exiting a public education system that overpowered their critical thinking (but not their “criticism-thinking”) long before they became encultured to the vagaries of choices and options in the world that only applied critical thinking could help them manage.

When the public focus is more on telling people what to think, because that process sells more papers, encourages more compliance, or makes better workers (but not better citizens) the public overall shouldn’t be surprised when, after a few decades, critical thinking becomes less of a byproduct of education.

The critical thinking for which the public is looking—to create informed voters, for instance—comes about through first determining what exactly the educational system is for.

Three Places to Thrash

By | Emotional Intelligence, Active Listening, Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Mediation, Negotiation, Neuroscience, New Posts, Organizational Development, Persuasion, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Resolution, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Truth

When faced with a project there are three places to thrash:

Early—before the project begins.

Middle—as the project is proceeding.

Late—as the project ends.

When you (or your team) thrashes early, brainstorming becomes a way to develop new ideas. Speed and immediacy become the primary goals of early thrashing: Speed to actionable ideas and immediacy to the implementation of action, moving toward accomplishing end-of-project goals.

When you (or your team) thrashes in the middle of a project, brainstorming becomes a place to hide. Hiding emotionally, “getting to know your team,” or struggling to decide about the efficacy or practicality of an idea, become the unstated, primary goals. Speed becomes less important than looking good to peers, and groupthink really kicks in at this point, bogging down the implementation process.

When you (or your team) thrashes at the end of a project, brainstorming becomes a place of panic, anxiety, and on some teams (or with you) a place of abject fear. The combination of pressure to ship something out the door encourages a mindset and attitude focused around speed (but for negative reasons) and impatience with people and processes. The implementation process recedes in the face of the attitude of “just get it done.”

Thrashing—that is brainstorming a direction, deciding on an approach, planning a process, managing opinions and conflicts, and implementing a plan for action—should be done early, rather than late if you’re really interested (or your team is really interested) in shipping a product, idea, or service out the door and direct to the market.

The Privacy of Memory

By | Active Listening, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Networking, Neuroscience, New Posts, Platform Building, Privacy, Relationships, Social, Social Communication, Social Media, Storytelling, Strategies, Strategy, Stress, Technology, The Future & The Singularity, Virtue

We lose a little of ourselves when we outsource our memory to Google.

But not in the obvious way that we think of.

What we lose in the privacy (some would say inaccuracy) of memory is the ability to forget.

And to be forgotten.

The privacy of memory and the palaces that we build in our minds of truths, facts, lies and stories is more valuable than we know to preserving the best parts of our fragile humanity.

In the rush to electronically preserve the truth in non-debatable, and factual ways, we are losing the pleasure (and the privilege) of the privacy of choosing what we want to remember—and what we have the grace, forgiveness and ability to forget.

When we can call out each other using facts we like that work for us (and avoid or dismiss the facts that don’t), our social media communications and interactions become about expressing the rawest of emotions with immediacy, in the face of overwhelming facts that are preserved as eminent, and indisputable truth.

Google can’t help us here. Neither can artificial intelligence. Neither can another social communication platform.

Only human beings can preserve the privacy of memory in relationship with other human beings.

[Advice] Packaging Your Workshop

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Neuroscience, New Posts, Opinions, Persuasion, Presentations, Selling for Peace Builders, Seminars, Speaking, Strategies, Strategy, Training, Workshop

Think for a moment about product packaging:

Everything that we buy, from dish soap to artesian water, comes in some type of package. Being the rational consumers that we are, we often tell ourselves that the shape of the container, the way that the container is delivered to us, or even the design and colors on the outside of the package doesn’t influence our decision to purchase.

The more honest, irrational consumer, however, will admit that all those factors influenced their purchasing decision, but they won’t admit it in a way that can be quantified, researched and measured in a way that will produce repeatable results.

Instead, they’ll just say “I liked the bottle.” Or even “The wine tastes different in this glass versus that glass.”

In the fields of marketing, advertising, and sales, the psychology of influence has been used for years to design packaging that has sold millions of units of products over decades. Proctor and Gamble doesn’t just exist because of fancy investments.

The peace builder who wants to sell a workshop, seminar, or coaching, should examine closely the impact of influence in three areas, if they want to have a successful sales career selling solutions to conflicts to a conflict comfortable, and peace process skeptical, public:

When selling an intangible product (peace, health, stress relief) or service (legal help, social work, therapy) it’s important to remember that rationality ceases to be a driver of the decision making process to buy: Potential clients may claim that rationality drove their decision to pursue peacemaking as a process, but typically what drove their decison making was the rise of their emotions around their conflict, that encouraged them toward your workshop, seminar, or coaching offer.

The same emotional content that drives conflict escalation (and encourages de-escalation) drives product (peace, health, stress relief) or service (legal help, social work, therapy) purchases: This fact makes it hard for the peace builder to sell, which is why their marketing efforts must be robust, always on, and always human.

No one remembers what you told them, but potential clients will remember how you made them feel: This statement sometimes reads as facile, but the fact of the matter is, potential clients are searching for a feeling—of trust, professionalism, confidence, security, competency, etc.—before they even see your marketing materials or hear your sales pitch online. This is why the rise of video (and live streaming) for the peace builder is such a critical tool for driving and converting sales. All of the emotional content comes through in a personal appeal via video.

Packaging a product (peace, health, stress relief) or service (legal help, social work, therapy) is more a matter of determining the “emotional tone” a peace builder would like to strike with the market, and then championing that tone to close sales.

And all without being unethical.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Opinion] New Triggers

By | Blog, Conflict, Conflict Communication, Conflict Engagement, Conflict Resolution, Culture, Dysfunction, Education, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Neuroscience, New Posts, Problem Solving, Reconciliation, Relationships, Social Media, Stress, The Future & The Singularity

Emotions then judgment then language.

The old advice no longer holds in addressing the language of conflict. The new advice can best be articulated as “Sticks and stones may break my bones, and words will really hurt me.”

We often focus on the language of conflict, to avoid addressing the structures of emotions that actually drive the language.

Focusing on the language allows us to hide effectively and to avoid doing the courageous work of addressing conflicts at their root.

Focusing on the language allows us to anchor people to positions, using the language of principles, without ever addressing people’s expressed needs.

Focusing on language allows us to continue to rest comfortably on our assumptions, prejudices, biases, and pre-conceived notions about the other party (or parties) without ever doing the hard work of addressing the impact of their needs on us.

Focusing on language allows us to render quick judgment, maintain the shorthand of conflict, and to continue to allow our own emotions to go unexamined, without self-awareness or change.

Make no mistake, words have meanings, they tell stories, set the table for conflict, and can be used as weapons to create problems.

But if we’re going to be successful in a future less and less defined by equanimity and peace, then we’d better get really good at overcoming our thin-slicing, our first impressions, and our reactions to language—and the words ensconced within them.

Otherwise, we face a conflict fueled future of escalation around eggshell sensitivities and trigger warnings.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Strategy] Open A.I. Disagreements

By | Blog, Conflict, Neuroscience, Old Posts, Privacy, Relationships, Technology, The Future & The Singularity

In a world with responsive, predictive artificial intelligence, operating behind the veneer of the world in which humans operate, a philosophical question arises:

Will the very human tendency toward conflicts increase or decrease in a world where the frictions between us and the objects we have created is reduced?

From the Open A.I project to research being done at MIT, Google, and Facebook, the race is on to set the table for the technology of world of one hundred years from now.

As with all great advances in human development (and the development of artificial intelligence capabilities would rival going to the Moon) the applications of artificial intelligence at first will be bent towards satisfying our basest desires and human appetites and then move up the hierarchy of needs.

But a lot of this research and development is being done by scientists, developers, entrepreneurs, and others (technologists all) who—at least in their public pronouncements—seem to view people and our emotions, thoughts, feelings and tendencies toward irrationality and conflict, as a hindrance rather than as a partner.

Or, to put it in “computer speak”: In the brave new world of artificial intelligence research, humanity’s contributions–and decision making–is too often viewed as a bug, rather than as a feature.

However, design thinking demands that humans—and their messy irrational problems and conflicts—be placed at the center of such thinking rather than relegated to the boundaries and the edges. Even as humans create machines that can learn deeply, perform complex mathematics, created logical algorithms, and generate better solutions to complex future problems than the human who created the problems and conflicts in the first place.

Eventually, humans will create intelligence that will mimic our responses so closely that it will be hard to tell whether those responses are “live” or merely “Memorex.”

But until that day comes, mediators, arbitrators, litigators, social workers, therapists, psychologists, anthropologists, philosophers, poets, and writers, need to get into the research rooms, the think tanks and onto the boards of the foundations and the stages at the conferences, with the technologists to remind them that there is more to the future than mere mathematics.

Or else, the implications for the consequences of future conflicts (human vs. human and even machine vs. human) could be staggering.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Advice] The Productivity of White Space

By | Advice, Blog, Conflict, Emotional Intelligence, Media, Neuroscience, Old Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Platform Building, Problem Solving, Relationships, Social, Social Media, Strategies, Workplace, Workplace Development

The human eye is a powerful bundle of tissues, nerves and liquid.

As the most complicated mechanism (short of the brain) in the human body, the human eye can see, take in information and transmit that information for interpretation in the brain.

One of the first things that a practicing artist must learn while still a student, is the value of white space: Those places in the piece of art where there is “nothing,” instead of “something.” The artist must dismiss her natural tendecy to trust what her eyes—that confuse the crowded appearance of the world, with meaning—see is “there,” and search diligently for what is not.

There are a lot articles on the Internet, which fall into the genre of the “new self-help.” These articles focus around “hacking” your life to become more “productive.” Some of them offer valuable information in the form of listicles, without much explanatory content, research based findings, or even a really good argument about how to implement all of the tips at a practical level. This species of article has become so rampant in parts of the Internet, that they are approaching the level of pornography in their ubiquity.

But what do the human eye, seeing, art production, and the “new self-help” all have in common?

The lack of—or the crowding out of—white space in the world.

The human mind has a limited attention span.

And the messages from various signal bearers (i.e. family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc.) tend to “crowd into” the human mind, creating distractions that cause a loss of focus, a loss of clarity, and sometimes, a loss of personal purpose. The solution to this limited attention span problem (or limited bandwidth problem) is not to read another productivity hack article on the Internet and then to vainly attempt to apply its proscriptions.

The solution is to focus ruthlessly on carving out more white space.

More absence of messages that don’t matter, in order to catch the signal of messages that do matter. In principle, this just reads like another “new self-help” proscription with no basis in practical fact, so here are three initial questions to ask yourself before carving out more white space in your personal interactions, your personal productivity, and even in your personal perspective on the world:

Is this action I’m taking right now (or think about taking later) going to give me the highest value beyond just this moment (or the next)?

Am I providing value to someone else by having this interaction with them, or am I not?

Am I playing the long game, the short game, or not playing a “game” at all by having/not having this interaction, taking on this task, or engaging with this person?

Through discipline and with an understanding of the power of absence, your human attention span can focus on the things that matter, and be more productive.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Podcast] The Likely and the Comfortable – The Earbud_U Minute

By | Advice, Blog, Brain, Earbud_U Podcast, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Neuroscience, New Earbud_U Episodes, Old Posts, Opinions, Organizational Development, Podcast Episode, Strategies, Technology, Workplace, Workplace Development

There is a way that work realities are constructed that betrays a lack of understanding and acceptance of an uncomfortable, likely future reality; and betrays a comfort with creating a reality that is comfortable, but unlikely:

  • The comfortable reality is that employers keep hiring (albeit at a lower/slower rate) and that they keep on the people that they already have.
  • The comfortable reality is that college age students will continue to pile on massive student loan debt and the skills that they get in exchange for this debt will somehow be rendered relevant in the future economy.
  • The comfortable reality is that employees will continue to be compensated at current (and ever rising) levels as the technical skills that they exhibit continue to remain more relevant than the people skills that can’t be measured.
  • The comfortable reality is that all this technological and software advancement will remain nothing more than a meaningless side show with no value to a corporate bottom line, middle line or even top line.

Considering, pontificating and reassuring that “it’s always been this way and will always be this way” in the form of published bromides and policy assurances, calms the employee lizard brain (the cerebellum where fight/flight/freeze responses live) and such statements and actions soothe and serve to maintain the status quo in organizations.

The likely future reality is much, much more complicated. And scary.

  • The likely future reality is that technological and software changes in the industrial workplace structure and underlying economy will allow more advancement and innovation to be done with fewer employees.
  • The likely future reality is that employees will be compensated less and less (and at ever decreasing rates) until the gap in compensation between top individual organizational performers and the next employee down the line, will mirror the current growing wage gap between the upper class and the middle class in the overall economy.
  • The likely future reality is that college students with crushing debt will struggle to learn and integrate emotional and psychological lessons that the academic world did not see fit to teach them at $7.00 per hour jobs. Or that they did not deem important enough to learn in between the socialization and the outrage. All while paying back five and six figure loans.
  • The likely future reality is that employers will seek to replace people with algorithms, or computer programs, or software solutions and (at the end of the line) robots, who will demand no pay, no benefits and will have such incredibly high productivity that shareholders will be happy to fire humans as a reflex, even as their returns increase.

Writing, teaching, lecturing or even casually mentioning likely future realities activates the employer/employee/politician/administrator lizard brain and makes fear, avoidance and attack responses kick in at all levels of society, from the C-Suite of an organization to the office of the President of the United States.

True management and supervisory leadership requires clear eyed planning for likely future realities, as well as a sophsticated ability to persuade, cajole and even threaten employees, shareholders, and the public to face likely reality head on. Such leadership will create sustainable economic and social systems that will be antifragile, and able to sustain and evolve from unexpected shocks, rather than attempting to build redundant, robust systems, or constructing fragile systems that fall apart in a heartbeat when the next “it could never happen here” event, happens here.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

[Advice] Changing Our Approach to Distribution

By | Blog, Brain, Conflict Engagement, Entrepreneurship, Marketing for Peace Builders, Networking, Neuroscience, Old Posts, Persuasion, Platform Building, Strategies, Strategy, Technology

Content distribution is hard.

Changing Our Approach to Distribution

Really hard.

Here’s why: It’s really difficult to research content, write content and edit content without a commensurate plan to “get it out there.”

Here at HSCT, we looked at the distribution part of creating content as secondary to the problem of generating enough content to actually be of value in the virtual space that we occupy.

As we have learned more and more about the process of writing, we have had to learn more and more about distribution systems. In our estimation, for the conflict consultant, seeking to make a dent in the conflict space, there are a few distribution mechanisms for getting attention (and eyeballs) on their content:

Social media—Everyone knows that social media is a place of content curation and content creation, but many people (not B2B/B2C brands) don’t think about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or even Pinterest as being 2nd party distribution mechanisms.

Email—Everyone knows that email isn’t “sexy,” but it keeps right on moving along. Email as a method for B2B content distribution drives around 4% of all traffic to the HSCT blog, with over 75% of that traffic being new visitors.

Curation Options—Many peace builders (and other content creators) don’t focus on curation tools such as Flipboard and StumbledUpon, as well as Quora.  There are also secondary content creation options out there from Medium.com and LinkedIn publishing.

The “dark” Web—Sharing of articles, reposting and republishing of articles into private newsgroups (yes those are still around) and chat rooms (yes, those are still around as well) can be powerful connection drivers for the development of a peace builders’ content. We have found this is a growing area for our content, our approach and connecting people to our philosophy and business model.

Here at HSCT, we are using all of these methods. Our strategy is simple: Keep learning and researching, keep writing our articles, keep distributing our perspective and keep growing through distribution.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/