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What is school for?

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There has been multiple mentions of Seth Godin’s “Stop Stealing Dreams” on this site

So, finally, there is a TEDx Talk on this and the future of education.

Here it is, invest 18 minutes of your time

STOP STEALING DREAMS: On the future of education & what we can do about it.

Other mentions of TED talks on this site

Written by frrl

October 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

A Manifesto for Education in the 21’st Century

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Karen Lewis, the Chicago Teacher’s Union President, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have a testy relationship at best…

Lewis said she got her answer about Emanuel’s character rather quickly.

“In that conversation, he did say to me that 25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them.”


So, 25% of the kids in school in Chicago will never “be anything” and never “amount to anything”.  So let’s not waste our time or money.

Has anyone really thought about what we want our kids to amount to or become? Is the role of education and school in the industrial age of the 20’th century the same as the role of education in the 21’st century?  Perhaps the 75% of the students that do amount to something are really amounting to the wrong thing given the new opportunities of the 21’st century  Are we giving our students an industrial-age education when that age has long passed?

What has changed?  In the 21’st century we have an abundance of information rather than scarcity.  If we can look things up on the internet in a fraction of a second why do we force our students to memorize so much – what a waste.  In the 21’st century we are globally connected.  Why do students study in isolation?  The smartest person in the room is not a student, nor the aggregate of students, but the room itself.  The room is the network that joins the people and ideas.  What prepares students to collaborate in the globally connected world?  What will success look like in the 21’st century?  Who will be rewarded?  Show up on time, do what your boss tells you, do your job and only your job, wait for instructions on what to do next.  That will no longer get you anywhere.  The rewards will go to those who will take initiative, take risks, are not afraid to fail, solve problems, connect data to create information, collaborate, create, and move forward.   How does today’s education system teach this?

Someone who has given some thought to the role, purpose, and delivery of education in the 21’st century is Seth Godin

Check out his manifesto on education here –

Here’s the impetus for this work …

I don’t know how to change school, can’t give you a map or a checklist. What I do know is that we’re asking the wrong questions and making the wrong assumptions.  The best tactic available to every taxpayer and parent and concerned teacher is to relentlessly ask questions, not settling for the status quo.

“Is this class/lecture/program/task/test/policy designed to help our students do the old thing a little more efficiently, or are we opening a new door to enable our students to do something that’s new and different?” School is doing the best job it knows how to create the output it is being asked to create. We ought to be asking school to make something different. And the only way to do that is to go about it differently.

The simple way to make something different is to go about it in a whole new way. In other words, doing what we’re doing now and hoping we’ll get something else as an outcome is nuts. Once we start to do schooling differently, we’ll start to get something different.

Read another perspective … from Prof. Walter E. Williams of George Mason University
Should we stop trying to teach the unteachable?

Written by frrl

March 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

The risk of competency

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If you are a marketing person, executive, business owner, or entrepreneur  and you are not reading Seth Godin’s blog then you are missing out on a lot.

What is Competency?

Everyone knows what “competency” is – until you take the time to put some precision around the meaning.  Seth wrote about competency a while back.  The impetus was some construction work that was being done on his home.  Seth hired a competent architect and a competent contractor but didn’t get what he wanted.  So why couldn’t these competent people produce the results that Seth expected?  Simple answer, they were too competent in their work.  (Read Seth’s story at the end of this posting)

From Seth’s perspective, here is the upshot on competency.

1. Competent people can be a liability.  If competency is defined in terms of standard processes, repeatability, reliability, and predictable outcomes then competent people can become your worst nightmare.  Why?  Competent people resist change.  Competent people resist change because changing things takes away from exactly what competent people are known for – producing predictable outcomes in reliable, standard, and repeatable ways.  If there is a high rate of change then there is uncertainty and risk.  If there is uncertainty and risk then producing, reliable, standard outcomes is in jeopardy.

2. The confusion of speed and velocity.  To understand what Seth is getting at here you need to remember some high school physics.  Velocity is multi-dimensional.  That is, it has a component of direction and speed.  Speed, in the sense that Seth is using it lacks this dimensionality and rate of change of direction.  That being said, competent people confuse velocity with speed in that they simply “go fast” without adapting to changing circumstances.  Another way to understand “changing circumstances” is the idea of  marketplace innovation by competitors and changing consumer demand.  To compete you need speed as well as direction.  Competent people don’t like changing direction; it upsets the standard way of doing things repeated over and over again that has led to success in the past.

3. Lack of brute force “will to change” by competent people.  Again, another theme on change and the inability of  folks to deal with change; they lack the will to take the risk to embrace change that would make them and their company more successful.  It is easier and safer to continue to do things the way that has worked in the past.  But not having the will to adapt at the required rate of change will lead to failure.  (Think of Block Buster and Netflix or Borders Books and Amazon.  Block Buster and Borders were incumbents in the industry; they did things they way they always did things even  into the age of disruption caused by the Internet.  Amazon and Netflix seized the opportunity and took away their customers by embracing a change to the traditional bookseller and video rental business model.)

You can read an excerpt from Seth’s thoughts on Competency at the end of this posting

Here are a few things to think about when you read it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

June 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

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Some thoughts on Apple and average products for average people

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I’ve had my Mac Mini for 1 day. But seeing it sitting there on my desk next to my PC I thought of something Steve Jobs said in an interview back in the 1990’s when he was CEO of NeXT.

The only problem with Microsoft is that they just have no taste. They have absolutely no taste and what that means is – and I don’t mean that in a small way, I mean that in a big way – in the sense that they don’t think of original ideas and they don’t bring much culture into their product… Why is that important?  Proportionately spaced fonts comes from typesetting and beautiful books – that’s where one gets the idea.  If it weren’t for the Mac they [Microsoft] would never have that.  I am saddened not by Microsoft’s success – I have no problem with their success; they have earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact they make really third-rate products. – Steve Jobs

The Mac mini, a single piece of sculpted aluminum 7.7-inches square and 1.4-inches tall, is sitting next to my behemoth PC.  The PC’s case was made by forcing a sheet of cheap steel into a rectangular box.  I remember the NeXT Cube that I had on my desk in the early 1990’s.  The case was a cube of magnesium and inside was the NeXT Step operating system based on the Mach Kernel.  The GUI was clean and crisp based on display postscript.  One cable brought power and video to the monitor from the cube.

What do consumer products really tell you?

I collect old radios.  I recently acquired a Hallicrafters WR600.  It’s a 4 band shortwave receiver.  The WR600’s were produced between 1961 and 1964.   What do these radio’s represent?

On first pass, these radio’s represent something of the history of radio.  The WR600 is a tube radio (fire bottles).  For as long as there are RF radio broadcasts these radios are both collectible and usable every day.

On second pass, and thinking of the quote above from Jobs, take a look at the radio (links below).  Take a look at the cabinet.  This is another example of someone bashing out a piece of sheet metal and forming it into a rectangular box.

The real icing on the cake of the Hallicrafters WR600 is that someone at Hallicrafters decided it would be a good idea to apply a wood grain to the sheet metal cabinet.  So, you have a radio that has an obvious sheet metal case covered with a picture of perfect wood grain.  Is anyone being fooled by this?

Add to this the fact that the Hallicrafters WR600 has no power transformer.  This means that one side of the power cord is soldered to the metal case.  It also has a non-polarized plug.  So, plug the radio in and you might end up with the chassis and case at 110 volts.  Touch the radio and something at ground potential at the same time and you will find the value of cutting corners by not using a power transformer – at your expense.  Shocking!

Take a look around you for mediocre products.  How many pieces of furniture do you see made out of particle board covered with a veneer?

What do consumer products tell you about manufacturers, the buyer, and the culture?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by frrl

June 1, 2011 at 5:17 am

When to Quit and When to Stick

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Complements of the mind of Seth Godin…

“If you are not going to put in the effort to be the best possible choice, why bother?  Is, “Well, no one better showed up” a valid strategy for success?  Are you hoping to become a success because you’re the only one being considered?

The reason big companies almost always fail when they try to enter new markets is their willingness to compromise.  The figure that because they are big and powerful, they can settle, do less, stop improving something before it is truly remarkable.

They compromise to avoid offending other divisions or to minimize their exposure.  So, they fail.  They fail because they don’t know when to quit and when to refuse to settle.

What Jack Knew

When Jack Welch remade GE,  the most fabled decision he made was this: If we can’t be #1 or #2 in an industry, we must get out.

Why sell a billion dollar division that’s making a profit quite happily while ranking #4 in market share?  Easy.  Because it distracts management attention.  It sucks resources and capital and focus and energy.  And most of all, it teaches people in the organization that it’s Okay not to be the best in the world.”

Written by frrl

April 6, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Sneeze! – Seth Godin’s blog and books

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If you are interested in the ever-emerging ever-changing new culture made possible by the disruptive innovation of the internet you should be reading Seth Godin’s blog – and his books.

Seth’s books are quick and easy reads. Quick and easy does NOT mean they lack depth of thought on important ideas.  Quick and easy means that Seth can deliver important ideas cleanly and efficiently.  My experience of reading Seth’s books is that some of them can easily be read in one sitting ( Meatball Sundae, The Dip) but they contain ideas that may fundamentally change the way you think about things.

Here are some interesting snips from a recent blog entry on Culture.

Driveby culture and the endless search for wow

The net has spawned two new ways to create and consume culture.

The first is the wide-open door for amateurs to create. This is blogging and online art, wikipedia and the maker movement. These guys get a lot of press, and deservedly so, because they’re changing everything…

The second, though, is distracting and ultimately a waste. We’re creating a culture of clickers, stumblers and jaded spectators who decide in the space of a moment whether to watch and participate (or not)…

Should I write blog posts that increase my traffic or that help change the way (a few) people think?…

Should a charity focus on instant donations by texting from a million people or is it better to seek dedicated attention and support from a few who understand the mission and are there for the long haul?…

My fear is that the endless search for wow further coarsens our culture at the same time it encourages marketers to get ever more shallow. That’s where the first trend comes in… the artists, idea merchants and marketers that are having the most success are ignoring those that would rubberneck and drive on, focusing instead on cadres of fans that matter. Fans that will give permission, fans that will return tomorrow, fans that will spread the word to others that can also take action…

The difference this time is that driveby culture is both fast and free. When there’s no commitment of money or time in the interaction, can change or commerce really happen? Just because you can measure eyeballs and pageviews doesn’t mean you should…

In the race between ‘who’ and ‘how many’, who usually wins–if action is your goal. Find the right people, those that are willing to listen to what you have to say, and ignore the masses that are just going to race on, unchanged.

You can read the full blog entry (March 16,2010) and a list of his books here –

Written by frrl

March 22, 2010 at 5:02 am

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Living in an era of Idea Diffusion & the Remarkable Purple Cow

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Another remarkable talk by marketing guru Seth Godin ( bio )

And a little more wisdom from Seth…

… If you want customers to flock to you, it’s tempting to race to the bottom of the price chart. There’s not a lot of room for profit there, though…In a world that relentlessly races to the bottom, you lose if you also race to the bottom. The only way to win is to race to the top. When your organization becomes more human, more remarkable, faster on its feet, and more likely to connect directly with customers, it becomes indispensable….

…Second, the people that work for you, the ones you freed to be artists [i.e. creators of unique, compelling, and substantial value], will rise to a level you can’t even imagine. When people realize that they are not a cog in a machine, an easily replaceable commodity, they take the challenge and grow. They produce more than you pay them to, because you are paying them with something worth more than money….

… As a result of these priceless gifts, expect that the linchpins on your staff won’t abuse their power. In fact, they’ll work harder, stay longer, and produce more than you pay them to. Because everyone is a person, and people crave connection and respect..

On the power of being genuine and transparent: “Virtually all of us make our living engaging directly with other people. When the interactions are genuine and transparent, they usually work. When they are artificial or manipulative, they fail.

… The linchin is coming from a posture of generosity; she’s there to give a gift [no-strings support of your efforts to succeed]. If that’s your intent, the words almost don’t matter. What we’ll perceive are your wishes, not the script…

…This is why telemarketing has such a ridiculously low conversion rate. Why corporate blogs are so lame. Why frontline workers in the service business have such stress. We can sense it when you read the script because we’re so good at finding the honest signals…

Written by frrl

March 6, 2010 at 5:13 am

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