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Leading by Instinct

There is not a Best M.O. among top leaders. Nor is there any M.O. that would exclude you from being a good leader.

My research shows that the best predictor of both productivity and sustainability in complex and complicated environments is the degree of conative or instinct-based diversity among the core leaders in the C-Suite. In smaller organizations, with only a few people at the top of a narrow pyramid, the conative criteria for leadership also narrow.

Instincts in C-Suites

In a large and very complex organization with a collaborative culture, it works especially well to have a CEO whose instinct is to initiate in both the Fact Finder and Quick Start Action Modes, sparking both research and development programs. Another essential part of the conative mix is for such leaders to instinctively resist or just mildly accommodate Follow Thru systems. This is how such leaders keep their organizations from getting bogged down in redundancies or becoming too bureaucratic.

It is essential, that leaders with this M.O. have CFOs, or other cohorts at the top, who deal with the complicated, more linear, financial, legal, and sometimes physical structures. It has proven wise to have a second in command who naturally plays the role of insisting on adherence to Follow Thru regulations -which he or she instinctively creates. It helps a set of such leaders to work in sync with each other if the second person accommodates Fact Finder strategies. When these leaders have equal levels of insistence in Fact Finder, they need to have clearly defined, separate responsibilities or they will end up with dueling priorities. Rounding out the M.O. of the cohort is a resistance in Quick Start, which adds a stabilizing force to the senior management team.

In today’s world, the CEO often serves as the chief PR person in the face of scandals, recalls, attacks, and hackings. I don’t see many resistant Quick Start CEOs surviving through major crises like these. Quick Start energy is required when being a spokesperson dealing with uncertainty (note what happens to the grand orator in Obama when he addresses uncertainty).

Resistant Follow Thrus are beaten up for not finishing what they start, but without their input organizations would stay put. The power of their randomness makes their resistance to sticking with the plan the ingredient that often saves the day. As confounding as it can be to their conative opposites, their natural ability to dodge bullets is a trait that helps organizations land on their feet.

It is the Implementor leader’s insistence on precision and manifestation of ideas that makes this M.O. the most difficult to put in the C-Suite. It is essential, but often better in the field than the executive offices – as long as he or she is empowered to halt processes for quality control purposes. Given the freedom to skip meetings and lead the on-site troops, these leaders will add significantly to the power and quality of products and programs.

Instinctive Facilitators are especially interesting to observe as they perform at high levels of leadership in organizations like franchises and health related situations; first, because in those environments leadership involves maintaining systems and second, because it involves maintaining ego-driven relationships – and the caring for a diversity of human beings. Their instinct to bring out the best in others and to build bridges between people reduces conflicts and keeps energy focused on purposes rather than personal issues.

Entrepreneurial Instincts

It is less complicated to diagnose the instinct-based leadership in an entrepreneurial organization. It is all about the naturally born entrepreneur trusting the combination of Quick Start insistent drive and back-up Fact Finder strategies. Without much Follow Thru budget making, a stand-alone entrepreneur needs to use the power of Quick Start persuasion to cut deals, and rope friends, family and vendors into becoming uncompensated co-conspirators. Of course, those who fill the need for creating Follow Thru systems are also essential. When a true entrepreneur builds an organization to the point where it requires the type of leadership team noted above, it is time for him or her to move on – and do it all over again.

Leadership is not just about the use of conative instincts. But, nothing in my experience indicates that leaders, regardless of their M.O.s, initiate problem solving by using processes they have been taught. Their cognitive powers come into the process when they edit their instincts – and certainly when they second guess them. Leaders’ actions, triggered by whatever motivates them, are as tied to their instincts as their best salesperson’s instincts are tied to asking for the order. I do not belittle the power of the cognitive (it is not an after-thought in the Kolbe Creative Process). It’s a matter of what comes first.

Instincts are precognitive. If that weren’t true, we would have no heroes – or top leaders. Having closely observed the creative efforts of thousands of leaders in vastly different types of problem solving situations, I have yet to see an example of solutions being initiated by them during a period of contemplation. The actions that spark productivity are born from the innate, authentic powers of a leader’s instinctive drive.

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Why Monday Morning Blues During Happy Hour Sunset?

How could they be my friends and spend a lovely Sunday evening (while they could have been watching a magnificent sunset change from vibrant colors to muted tones) talking about how they were dreading going to work the next day. Both very intelligent, well-paid professionals were planning for their Monday Morning Blues.

“Why don’t you find jobs that you would love to do?” I asked, even though I knew the answer.

“It’s not that I don’t like my job, I would just prefer not to work,” one said.

“My job is filled with joy,” I said, realizing this would ruin their fun in complaining about their jobs, and make me an outsider. “Monday mornings are great, because I get to dive in to what I love doing.”

“You are not normal,” said the second, with a tone close to disgust, “I have to work at my stressful job until I can get my full retirement, because we want to be able to do lots of traveling when I’m done with it.”

“You’re your own boss, Kathy, so you don’t know what it’s like to have to work at a job where you have to do what others decide you should be doing,” said the other person.

“Yes, I created a work situation that gives me the freedom to be myself,” I said, “which, by the way, doesn’t give me retirement benefits. I’ll never retire. I look forward to working at doing something that I love doing for the rest of my life. I’m not waiting to have freedom, I have freedom.”

Eyes rolled and they both ordered another drink.

“You are not normal,” they said, in unison this time – with shared disgust in both their voices. “Part of the fun of Happy Hour is complaining about your job. Stop being a party pooper.”

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What I know about Being Gifted

Being gifted cognitively does not make you smart. Nor does it give you instinctive problem solving abilities, a better personality or a greater work ethic than others.

“Gifted” is a dumb label for high intelligence. It is a “gift’ that comes with no instructions, and is often like the proverbial “White Elephant.” It can be hard to figure out how to use it.

Being gifted adds to your workload

People with higher IQs often find it hard to use normal solutions.

If you have a high IQ this means:

You have to work hard to figure out how to get along with the majority of people who don’t “get it” as fast as you do.
If you don’t overcome this problem, you will be a terrible teacher/trainer/boss/roommate/team-member/next-door-neighbor.

You have to discover how and why you learn differently, because most teachers will not challenge you sufficiently.
If you don’t figure out that you have to be self-motivated, you’ll simply learn to regurgitate facts and not fulfill your potential as an excellent creative problem solver.

You have to work very hard to communicate the ideas in your head in ways that work for most others.
If you don’t make this happen, you will be frustrated by others not listening to you, or joining you in developing solutions you know are possible.

You have to work hard, some times to avoid the bad behaviors that stem from boredom.
If you don’t self-manage your mind, you will attract attention to yourself for all the wrong reasons.

“Over-achieving” is impossible. “Under-achieving” is a betrayal of possibilities.

Those who have a “gifted” mind do not have the option of re-gifting it. They have the responsibility of using it for good purposes.

Advantages of High Intelligence

Three characteristics, which could be used to define the unique nature of high intelligence are:

1. Ability to Anticipate Actions
2. Ability to Empathize
3. Ability to Manipulate

It’s because they have the first two abilities that gifted people CAN manipulate – for good or for not-so-good. They can to choose how and when to use this attribute.

When someone seems to “know” how you feel, it can be a sign of high IQ. However, do not confuse this with Caring about how you feel, which is, of course, in the affective domain rather than the cognitive.

Those who anticipate a movement in the stock market, or of a bear in the woods, or what will make a tree crash to the ground – are all showing higher degrees of IQ. Whether they act on it is an affective issue. How they act on it depends upon their conative instincts.

Being Gifted is Never the Whole Story

I was told as a child that I was highly gifted – in everything but math. Math turned out to be one of my greatest strengths as a theorist and entrepreneur. The terms “severely dyslexic and dysgraphic” weren’t used yet, so my weird way of reading and writing made some people think I wasn’t trying hard enough. It always took effort to “show them!” that my weird ways worked. It also took effort to prove that a severely gifted girl (born in the late 1930’s) didn’t have to play dumb. Most of all, it has required tons of effort to prove that a highly dyslexic person could play smart.

Effort is as essential for a gifted person as it is for any other person. This is understated in most literature on gifted education. Although I have been a university Adjunct Professor of Gifted Education, published “Resources for the Gifted,” and run programs for gifted youngsters, no amount of reading or discussion among experts in the field ever taught me as much on this subject as my observations and discussion with four generations of gifted family members. There is not a single one among them who has not had to work very hard to overcome challenges and discover their nitch in the world.

It is through interactions with gifted grandchildren, that I believe I have completed my home work. I finally consider myself a bona fide authority on the subject of Being Gifted.

 

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Music by M.O.s

Musical instruments tileBach had to have been a Follow Thru because of his repetitive use of sequential patterns.

Beethoven was so much more the Fact Finder with a strong strategy.

Mozart went for the Quick Start pizzazz.

Lots of factors go into the making of a great composer, but certainly HOW a person composes will tie to their innate conative modus operandi.

What instrument should you encourage your child to play? Even if it’s just for a few years of learning music, selecting the right instrument can make the difference between it being a nurturing experience or a dreadful one.

If only my parents had known what I know now, I would never have started with the piano. My resistance to Fact Finder details made it a horrible choice. It was terribly unsuited for my Quick Start need for an instant result. My “ad libs” were considered unacceptable lapses into goofing off.

What’s a parent to do?

Fact Finder insistent kids: piano is the best place to start for those who need the background and strategy of both the instrument and way music is written. For any other kids, lessons that start with such information are tedious and could stifle their love of learning music.

Follow Thru insistent kids, who are not resistant to Fact Finder:  violin, cello, bass (string instruments, in general) meet their need for basing their efforts on patterns/systems, and being rewarded in performances because their sense of consistency helps to create quality.

Quick Start insistent kids: Singing is FAR better than “studying” an instrument, but to do it well, they need some lessons in piano or another instrument – but just for the basics of learning to read music. Make it performance-based, fun stuff, including making their own instruments. Harmonicas, bongos, ukuleles, are all better than the more formal lesson-requiring instruments.

Implementor insistent kids: Let them pound away on the drums, bang the cymbals, and/or use the mallets to play the xylophone. If they also have a high accommodation (or insistence) in Follow Thru, they’ll have a natural sense of rhythm. If not? Well, you might think more about getting them into the trumpet, bassoon or other places where they aren’t the essential keepers of the beat. Band instruments are best for them. Think marching bands!

Facilitator kids: Playing the guitar often appeals to these kids because they see themselves as using it to bring a group together in a sing-along atmosphere. For them, music is a means to an end – that does NOT include spending hours all alone having to practice their instrument. That’s why singing in a choir is excellent for them. It can lead to a very natural outlet for musical interest in a Facilitator – which is to become a musical conductor.

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Nothing into Everything

This is the poem that inspires a comment I frequently make: Nothing IS Everything.

Know you what it is to be a child?…it is to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in our ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul.

Francis Thompson

I wrote a children’s book titled: Nothing Doings: There’s Nothing to It!, published in 1985.

With a few updates it reads as follows:

I am Nothing.
There’s Nothing like being Nothing.
There’s Nothing to it.

Nothing’s wrong with being Nothing.

There’s Nothing quite so popular as being Nothing ‘cause …
Everyone wants something for Nothing.

You often hear folks say, “Thanks for Nothing,”
And answer, “Think Nothing of it.”

With me, it’s Nothing ventured, Nothing gained.

I don’t think of myself as a mere Nothing
I’m ALL or Nothing
‘cause I’ve got plenty of Nothing,
And Nothing’s plenty for me.

Nothing’s more fun than Anything.
You ain’t seen Nothing yet.

Nothing is possible.

Nothing is everywhere. There’s either
Nothing to wear…
Nothing to eat…
Nothing to do

Nothing succeeds like success

You’re wise to say “NOTHING!”
Nothing but the truth.

I figure I’m pretty entertaining…
Because I often hear there’s Nothing to laugh about.
When I’m in an otherwise boring show, there’s Nothing to cheer about,
Even when it’s awful, Nothing would be better.

When I hide, there’s Nothing to seek.
When I surprise you, there’s Nothing more intriguing.

One thing for sure about me: Nothing is certain.

I’m original because Nothing is new under the sun.
There’s Nothing like me.
When people use me in a wrong way, the Nothing they put into a project…
Leads to Nothing coming out of it.

I’m tops when it comes to productivity because…
Nothing can be created from Nothing,
And Nothing in Particular
Turns Nothing into Everything

by Kathy Kolbe

Copyright 1985-2013

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My Theory of Creative Problem Solving

You will never create anything without a conviction that it’s worth creating.  

If you try to create something by making an effort that doesn’t fit your M.O., you won’t get very far with it.

It takes a Commitment of your conative abilities for you to solve a problem in a sustainable way.

Creative Process

Creative Problem Solving takes more than just Doing something you want to do, you also have to evaluate whether what you’re doing makes any sense.

Judging whether another person is fully engaged in Creative Problem Solving is easier than judging levels of beauty. You can evaluate the process without judging the outcome.

Q: Why bother evaluating the process if the outcome stinks?
A: Because those who engage in the process are more likely to get consistently creative results.

 Q: Couldn’t someone who is not using a Creative Problem Solving process create something by dumb luck?
A: Luck happens when you create the opportunity.

Q: Is that all there is to your Theory of Creative Problem Solving?
A: No, but I’ll wait for you to ask more questions here so I can tell you the things about it that you are motivated to discuss.

Creative Process ladder

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5 Simple Steps to Avoid Getting a Job Interview

You have an equal opportunity (or as one recent job candidate wrote in the first line of his resume:  “an opertunity”) …to destroy your chances of getting called in for a job interview.

Simple 1st step for getting out of a job interview is what 80% of on-line job applicants are doing: send blah, or blah that should have been spell-checked and proofread.

Step 2: Show laziness + ignorance by either not including a cover letter, or (even better – for your purpose) sending a one-size-fits-all cover letter that doesn’t even mention what the company does or what the job requires.

When you don’t take time to individualize your application for a specific role at a particular company, you won’t need to worry about a quality company taking your time for a job interview. They’ll immediately put you where you seemed to ask to be put – in  the Not Interested pile.

Step 3: If you’re still in danger of having to be interviewed, your next line of defense requires going beyond canned blah. You may need the help of an overused, senseless expert in bad blah, like the book, What Color Is Your Parachute. By using all of its meaningless “key” words, you have a recipe for avoiding the disclosure of any spark of your own creativity or insight. This me-too approach will keep companies from expecting too much from you.

Step 4: You shouldn’t have to put this much effort into not being selected for interviews, but this just-in-case step improves your odds of not being interviewed because it insults the intelligence of whomever makes those recommendations. Be sure you take this step to extremes. Unfortunately for you, many others seem to be catching on to this trick. You’ll have to one-up what is being said by all the other wannabe losers.

Use highly unbelievable statements about how much you have done in so little time (“I worked for a very high status company for 6 months, and during that time I increased corporate revenues by 28%). Or how you saved an entire company from disaster by your discovery of all of their mistakes (“Reviewed and redesigned corporate strategic plan and established a workable system that impacted the productivity of all departments.”) Or how just little “newbie-you” outsmarted the corporate culture (“I introduced the company to the world of social media and got thousands of on-line followers to chat with us.”).

 Step 5: Not sure you can sound more boastful than so many others? This last step is what some have used as the dagger in the heart of an almost-ready-to-interview-you situation. You may even find it fun:  Complain about the potential employer’s hiring process.

There may be an employee who will give you credit for being outspoken (or agree with you that their company is not doing a good job) so be sure when you use this technique that you call the company owner or CEO on his or her personal cell phone. Here’s a sample script that is pretty sure to get you out of the interview:

“I don’t know why you think anyone would want to work for your company. I shouldn’t have to show you examples of my private, personally done work, or spend my free time reading your website, or put up with you snooping around my Facebook stuff.  And, I shouldn’t have to fill out that stupid Kolbe Index.”

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Scholarship: About Doing, as Much or More as Thinking

It feels like there is mostly Thinking going on in many academic programs, from fourth grade through undergraduate programs in universities. Where does the Doing get done? Not in lecture-based classrooms.

How inappropriate that parents, not teachers, often end up helping kids DO their homework – where most of the learning actually gets done.

Ask undergrads what they are Doing at school, and they usually tell you about what they are Doing in their “free” time or extra-curricular activities. Ask what they are doing in class, and the answer is probably, “Nothing but sitting and listening.”

Decades of research shows that learning happens by Doing. It’s called Active Learning in today’s literature. The proper term for the Doing domain of the mind is Conation.

Every field of study deals with conation. Yet, a century of perseverating about cognitive Thinking has led to contemporary blindness of the pervasiveness of conative Doing.

  •  Marketing textbooks, when discussing the fallacy of focus groups asking for opinions (Thinking), point out that they are not a good predictor of what people will Do in the actual purchasing process.
  • Law school texts warn of the need to distinguish the difference between Thinking about and actually Doing (or committing) a crime.
  • Religion and philosophy courses deal with the difference between Thinking in moral ways and actually Doing moral or immoral acts.
  • Language classes teach the difference between passive verbs (Thinking) and active verbs (Doing) – the latter even known as conative verbs in some languages.
  • Engineering programs tackle issues of sustainability – this does not mean keeping a level of Thinking, but rather sustaining levels of energy or Doing.
  • Medical and health related programs cope with issues related to getting patients to Do what they need to Do, not just Think about what they need to Do. The term coming into greater use is now referred to as the patient being Active, as opposed to the former negative labeling of patients as Non-compliant.

Name a field of study and there will be issues dealing with the differences between Thinking and Doing. Doing will always be the key to breakthroughs, innovation, discoveries – or any other word synonymous with Success.

The programs that “Get Conative” become the leaders in their field.

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Like Forcing Water to Flow Uphill

Having spent a good part of the past weekend on a steep hillside, trying to get my amateur watering system to flow up to outlying trees, I was reminded of it being an analogy for conative stress.

Trying to get water to flow up hill is like dealing with:

1. Barriers to Innovation:
Convincing a determined Fact Finder boss that something that has never been done before could work well.

2. Inflexibility:
Getting a mega Follow Thru to adjust the schedule.

3. Misplaced Dependency:
Waiting for an empowered person, who is short on Implementor, to repair equipment.

4. Overcoming conative Conflict:
Having to get two totally opposite conative people to work together cooperatively.

5. False expectations:
Getting your short-lined Follow Thru friends to RSVP – or even find the invitation.

6. Endless Inertia:
Watching a team of conative clones trying to get something done.

7. Stunting Growth:
Helping an entrepreneurial Quick Start stick with the tried and true.

8. Making a Temporary Fix:
Making it easier for a conative Facilitator to choose a side – any side.

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OverDoing

 

OverDoing is what makes Rule #5 for Trusting Your Instincts especially important. That’s the one that says: Do Nothing – When Nothing Works.

Telling OverDoers to Do Nothing will get better results than telling them to hold back – just a little. Once they get into conative gear, it’s unlike them to hold back.

OverDoers come in different levels, and the worst of them get (and probably deserve) labels akin to hoarders. They need to have the stuff for OverDoing. It takes paraphernalia to have all the accoutrements for special occasions, the cataloging of the possibilities, and the car that can drag the special effects around.

OverDoing can cause clutter and chaos, and wastes money and time.
OverDoing can turn a special event into a fiasco.

Since it involves Doing, OverDoing is conative.
It isn’t driven by intelligent decisions, and is apparently not edited by them, either.

As with any creative effort, OverDoing is inspired by affective emotions.

OverDoing leads to the conative effort of converting the ordinary into the extraordinary.
OverDoing is the showering of affection, and results from an outpouring of love.

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Goals with Purposes

 

Goals are for keeping score. Purposes are for making differences.

Kids learn a lot about making goals in soccer games.

They learn:
Who is best at making goals
What it takes to defend against others who make goals
Where to position themselves for making goals
When to shoot for a goal
How to use soccer skills to score goals

It’s easy to make the Who/What/Where/When/How list regarding goals of almost any kind.

Who on the sales team is most consistent in reaching sales goals?
What will get a lot of good PR?
Where can you find the best new team members?
When is a right time to buy new equipment?
How is it possible to save enough money?

What’s missing is the WHY

Why is it valuable for kids to play sports like soccer?
Why is good PR an important goal?
Why are new team members a necessary goal?

For all of the other W’s, there is always a Why.
In the Why, you will find the Purpose.

As a journalism student at Northwestern,
I was taught to always include the 5W/s and the H in a news story.
The Why often became clear only when I wrote the headline
–or at least contemplated Why the story mattered.

Kids Prove Teamwork Pays
PR Leads to an Increased Number of Job Applicants
New Employees Add to Team Synergy

Goals, like Deadlines, focus our conative energy.
They help us fulfill our Purposes.

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It Pays to Know Others’ M.O.s

It’s just not worth it to ask people to do things if the way they do them doesn’t work for you.

Don’t ask initiating
     Fact Finders for an answer – if you aren’t prepared to provide lots and lots of background information.
     Follow Thrus for help – unless you’ve cleaned up pretty well ahead of time.
     Quick Starts for ideas – if you aren’t willing to take at least some of the recommended risks.
     Implementors to fix something – unless you have plenty of time to wait for it to be done really, really well.

When you know another’s M.O. you can predict what they’ll do based on non-prejudicial information, not on myths regarding gender, age, and race. You won’t make the mistake of making false assumptions that can hurt feelings and ruin relationships.

Don’t assume you can change people or that they will “wise up” and stop being whatever part of them may annoy you.

You might even see the humor in
     a perfectly healthy, resistant Fact Finder forgetting important details.
     a seemingly sensible initiating Follow Thru rejecting time-saving shortcuts.
     an introverted initiating Quick Start surprising others with sudden decisions to do the unexpected.
     a resistant Implementor pushing the wrong buttons and messing up technology.

If you know those things will happen, you have a better chance of stopping them from causing problems.

When resistant Implementors grab one of three remotes and operates it by instinct, they often mess it up.
(I just gave my resistant Implementor husband the latest, greatest universal remote. I’ll let you know if it helps.)

Leaders – and bossy spouses – have told me that knowing a person’s M.O. wouldn’t help. They would just demand that people do what they were told to do.

How has that worked for them?

When they have demanded
     Fact Finders cut to the bottom line – they got errors.
     Follow Thrus use short cuts – they got sloppy work.
     Quick Starts stick to the script – they got turnover.
     Implementors sit still and listen– they got disputes and disobedience.

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Don’t Mess with Truths of Conation

Unfortunately, some think that it would be a good idea to try and figure out how to make the brain conform to a job or educational system. For example, some say that it would be wise to find a way to get students to conform to regulations and do their work all in the same way. They don’t see the harm to the individual in doing this because it will “help” them do a better job. Many researchers are looking for ways to use QEEG technology to “change” brains so they are not ADHD. Some researchers are also trying to claim that since the brain has proven to have plasticity, my theory that conation is a constant isn’t accurate.

Yes. There is a way in which all human beings truly are equal. It is in the quantity of their conative abilities.

Yes. There is a part of all human beings that is consistent and sustainable throughout their lives. It is the conative modus operandi.

Yes. There is a renewable form of mental energy within all human beings that provides a natural resilience. It is a life-long, replenishable, conative drive.

Yes. I have discovered the patterns of a person’s M.O., and try to help individuals and organizations use this powerful resource for productive purposes.

Yes. I have found evidence that this resource emanates from a very deep region in the brain.

Yes. I can help individuals self-manage this resource to maximize their mental efficiency, reduce functional stress, and bring them the joy of accomplishment.

Yes. Ethical leaders have a responsibility to give those they lead the freedom to act, react, and interact according to each person’s M.O.

No. I absolutely, positively will not allow my work to be used to justify denying individuals the freedom to act according to their conative strengths.

No. I will not sit quietly and watch children and adults be medicated in an attempt to alter or dull their M.O.s – so that they “fit in” or act, react, and interact in a culturally more desirable way.

No. I will not assist faulty management systems that try to make human beings “more pliable” or force them to conform to work processes that denigrate their conative strengths.

No. I will not go along with brain researchers who, because of ignorance of conation, confuse the neuroplasticity among the three faculties of the brain with the absence of a need to protect the integrity of the brain’s M.O.

Bottom Line Conative Truths:

• Consistency of conative M.O.s assists an individuals’ Sustainability and Resilience and is compatible with theories of neuroplasticity.

• It is not only unethical to deny the free use of natural conative abilities, it is also unethical to try to alter the conative functioning of the brain.

• It is just plain stupid for any human being to think he or she is smart enough to create a better source of human power than the conative energy with which each person is endowed.

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Journalists vs. Today’s Media

Journalists dig behind the words.
Today’s media parse words.

Journalists interview subjects to get the story, not to be a part of the story.
Today’s media promote themselves on entertainment shows.

Journalists try to keep personal biases from being apparent.
Today’s media flaunts views in “panelist” roles.

Journalists seek unique angles and untold stories.
Today’s media repeat (and repeat) the story that is going around.

Journalists seek a wide variety of sources.
Today’s media interview people in the “Spin Room.”

Journalists don’t use the weird phrase, “Take a listen;” or begin a segment by issuing the command: “Look, what you have to know is…”
Today’s media believe it’s imperative that we pay attention to them.

Journalists don’t moonlight for the candidates or organizations in his/her stories.
Today’s media boast about insider connections with subjects in the news.

Journalists don’t confuse reporting the news with giving opinions about it.
Today’s media are confused about their role.

Journalists give the most important news at the top of the story.
Today’s media tease you to stay, but save the best part ‘til last.

 
(My bias: I am a long ago graduate of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism)

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When a Fast-Forward Mind is Forced to Rewind

By my own reckoning, my instincts compel me to be future oriented and to resist living in the past. I’ve thrived by living according to my instincts, even when others have wished I could explain exactly when and where I had done what.

It’s not easy to avoid the past.

The Past is Omnipresent.

Everyone talks about it – a lot.
Most writers start with it.
Teachers tell you about it and test to see how much of it you recall.
Friendships are built on it.
Religions celebrate it.
Friends relive it.
Doctors dwell on it.
Politicians rewrite it.
Lawyers restate it.
Accountants refigure it.

How can the Past be avoided when:

Problems recur?
Events are relived?
Dialog is repeated?
People reappear?
Plans are reinvented?
Ideas are refreshed, reinvented, and reproduced?

What’s a person to do when redoing and remembering doesn’t come naturally?
Look stupid? Seem uncooperative? Satisfy requirements?

When I meet others with my conative MO, I often ask them about their survival tricks. They don’t want to talk about what has and hasn’t worked in the past. Worst of all is recalling times they had to justify steps they had previously taken.

Having to clean out a storage area in which I’ve dumped 3½ decades of my past efforts has made me realize there are 100s of products, programs and manuscripts that I could retrieve and reinvigorate.

I wouldn’t need another new idea as long as I live.

 

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What was the Deal with Resources for the Gifted?

Graduate students in my university class on Gifted Education included public school coordinators and teachers for what were usually called “Gifted and Talented” programs. Yet, when I asked them to define a gifted student – without using the legislative gobbledygook for it – their answers were all over the place.

 “So, what’s the difference between a “gifted” youngster and a “talented” one?” I’d ask.

 “Talented kids aren’t necessarily smart, but they can do one thing really well?”

 “Does that differ from a ‘savant’?”

 “Well, sure. A talent could be anything that doesn’t mean academically advanced.”

 “Does that mean that a kid who wins national yo-yo contests would qualify for your program?”

 “Not really.”

 “Define a talent that should get a student into your program in contrast to one that clearly would not.”

 They were really stumped when I once gave the following questions as a homework assignment. I taught the class for a few years, and rarely repeated assignments — or I’d have some interesting data from the answer to these questions:

 What percent of students in the school district in which you teach are neither gifted, nor have a talent? What evidence is there to support that figure? Are the natural abilities of a student a talent? Identify research that has been done on students’ natural abilities? How do you know giftedness or talents when you see them? When or how do natural abilities convert to ‘talent’? Does your role in your program require you to increase, nurture, or build on giftedness or talents? If not, what is your goal and how will you know if you’ve achieved it?”

 You can probably imagine how frustrated my seasoned graduate students were with these questions – and how enlightened I became by seeing their often illogical answers.  

 Those who just came to the class to get the lesson plans for teaching gifted education were dissatisfied. I was CEO and primary author for Resources for the Gifted, the leading (actually, the only) worldwide publisher of materials for gifted education. They expected me to give them the answers, not ask questions for which they suspected I didn’t have the answers.

 My #1 rule for teaching creative problem solving (which I hoped would be what they wanted to learn how to teach) is: Never ask a question for which you know the answer.

 “I’ll share the methodology for teaching critical and creative problem solving,” I said, “but I will not limit the discussion to offering these materials to only those labeled’ gifted or talent’ – especially since those terms are not even clearly definable. Every child has natural abilities, and some day I’ll be able to identify “talents” or natural abilities in a way that educational system can not ignore.”

 I got called into the Dean’s office:

 “Kathy,” he said sternly, “you have the experience and expertise to teach gifted ed or we wouldn’t have you doing it. But if you say you’re going outside that specialty, then there are people who will not be able to use federal funding for gifted education to pay for the class. Don’t make waves.”

 That’s when I had to reevaluate not only teaching that class, but calling my business Resources for the Gifted. The 101 books, games and brain teasers I’d written or edited and published would help all youngsters experience the creative problem solving process. I hadn’t denied any kid that opportunity in the five years I’d been conducting my own lab school – and I had no intention of restricting the use of my materials or learning systems. I knew from raising my own gifted kids that their need for these materials was imperative – but that didn’t justify others not having them available.

 The next catalog I mailed out had two covers. One said Resources for the Gifted, the other said: Problem Solving Tools. Other than that they were identical. I split our mailing labels into two random groups, and mailed each set out on the same day. Almost twice as many orders came back from the catalogue with the Resources for the Gifted cover.

 I asked close friends in education why they thought so many more educators bought from the Gifted cover than the other one, and the answer was what I expected:

 Federal funds for “differentiated materials for gifted education” were able to be used only when the materials were labeled for the gifted and were not available to other students.

 Proving I’ve never been as driven to be as entrepreneur as to be a crusader, I changed the name of my award winning publishing company to Think Ink, and never mailed out another catalog labeled Resources for the Gifted.

 I focused a good deal of my energy on figuring out what truly differentiated giftedness from natural abilities, and the cognitive from those other patterns I’d been observing.

 Gifted people, I concluded, can be differentiated by their ability do three things better than others. They:

  • Anticipate
  • Empathize
  • (and therefore) Manipulate

 Within a year, I had found the other piece to the puzzle. I’d discovered the word Conation and that the ancient philosophers’ had discussed it as being the third part of the mind (along with cognition and affection).  

 Within days of the goose bump  moment when I realized conation was the missing piece of my life-long search, everything in my life came to a screaching halt.  The car I was in was struck and I was almost killed by a drunk driver.

 While the physical damage was excruciating, the brain damage became one of the greatest blessings of my life. It robbed me of my cognitive abilities  for over a year and made me totally reliant on my conative strengths.

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