Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!
Drive Safely.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Productivity and Interest

I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and am now reading Punished by Rewards. And I have come across the most amazing things:

If people are In The Zone (flow) they can be 100 times more productive then someone who does not get into flow. All it really takes is for them not to be interrupted and distracted.
And from Punished by Rewards I learned that students can remember 30 times as much of the content of the lesson if they are interested in it then if they are not interested.

Experts say that children have short attention spans, generally that is true because most things are not very interesting, but knowing my own child and many others, I have seen amazing demonstrations of concentration and of memory. How many times have you been amazed by a teenaged girl who knows all the lyrics to all the Top 40 songs, or a teenaged boy who can disassemble a motorcycle and put it back together again in a week, or the 8 year old who can assemble a computer from parts. My own daughter who is 2 will spend lots of time and energy putting together a block tower that takes far longer then the 15 seconds of attention she is supposed to have.

It isn't that people have short attention spans but they are just trying to make the time go faster while something is going on that they don't find interesting. In the average business meeting there are a lot of people in there who aren't interested in what is going on, mainly because it has little to nothing to do with them. It is a tremendous waste of resources to have people stuck in a meeting when they could be doing something productive.

Haven't you ever gone in to work extra early or stayed really late, "so you could get some work done." We want to be productive, we even have a good idea of how to be productive, but standard work practices are such that we can't be productive. Having a signal to others that you are trying to get work done is important, so they understand that interruptions are bad for a time. One of those little "Will be back by" clock signs would be really good.

Monday, November 08, 2004


Something that is frustrating but really good are the questions that children ask. The frustrating part is how they get on a roll and don't stop if you are trying to do something. But you want to respect them as they are trying to learn. Many of their questions are hard because they are not going to stop with easy answers they just keep asking "Why?" until you tell them to stop, then it is a game to find out how far they can go.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Record Voter turnout

This is the way to scare a politician.

The turnout was phenomenal ... "the best we've ever seen here," said Jan Kuhnen, deputy director of elections in Larimer County.

With 155,045 active voters on the Larimer County rolls, 145,052 cast ballots, a 93.5 percent turnout.

93.5% that is amazing. Not at all like the usual 15-20%. No, sir.

These are the kinds of numbers that make politicians sit up an take notice of what is happening. Now if we can keep it up.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election Day - Do it.

Today is election day and we have voted. One of the best parts of this is that all the political telephone calls, and advertising will stop. Then we will be able to get back to the important things like seeing who got fired on The Apprentice this week :)

I see voting as the best way to scare politicians. when the voter turnout was less then 20% they had a really good idea of who their constituency was because they could meet a large percentage of those people, and they were really very similar. Now with voter turnout expected to be near 60% they will realize that they have no idea why people are voting for them. Since the average politician is obsessed with getting reelected he is going to have to find out why so he'll be elected again next time his term is up. This is three times as many people as he is used to. It will be hard on him but I believe that most people in this country are living such that they desire good more then evil and that will affect our elected officials.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Taught Helplessness

I read a lot and sometimes things just fall together.

I have read Design of Everyday Things. He brought up a concept he called Taught Helplessness, basically if you fail at something, you think it is your fault, therefore you think you can't do it, and the worse you get at it. He has found it happens a lot with respect to Math education and Computers.

In An Underground History of American Schools, he has an example of a girl who is so completely helpless that she has learned how to get the teacher to practically do all the work for her.

In Punished by Rewards, he talks about how using rewards is just as powerful as using punishments in creating learned helplessness, which is in fact taught to the subject.

There is a hard question to ask here. What other ways are we being taught to be helpless that we aren't seeing? Life in America has changed in the last few decades. It used to be that the American Dream was to own your own business, and now it is just owning your own home, and it seems to be slipping to be just having a job.

It doesn't have to be this way. We can do and be better. All we have to do is do something!