Author Archives for Curtis Ogden

August 13, 2009

Keeping Our Eyes (Not Just) On the Prize

Thanks to Sean Stannard-Stockton for introducing me to this video.  He referenced it while writing about the risks of being outcomes-focused in philanthropy.  It’s a great reminder to keep ourselves open to what we aren’t looking for.  It may also provide some insight as to why networks bend our brains, at least those parts that are singularly focused on results of a linear cause-and-effect kind.  The social capital and new forms of self-organized action that are the result of network building activity are not always the first things that appear front and center on our screens.  Rather, they may appear in the background, on the periphery, or in the spaces where more concrete images meet.  And yet, there is little doubt about the potential of net-centric approaches for social impact.  Time to adjust our eyes from the isolated (old paradigm) prize.

Leave a comment
August 6, 2009

No Such Thing as Waste

Landfill

When we throw it away, it doesn’t go away.  This is an important lesson of both systems thinking and ecology.  Fritjof Capra, physicist and founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy, writes that we need to relearn the fundamental facts of life, including the fact that matter continually cycles through the web of life and that one person’s (or species’) waste is another’s food.  If our awareness and actions shifted in accordance with these facts, how would we live and work differently?

Leave a comment
July 30, 2009

MyShift


There seems to be no doubt that we have to shift our understanding of the problems that confront us, not just so that we understand what they require as solutions in the traditional sense, but so that we can comprehend what they require of us.

Psychologist Carol Dweck’s work shows that many of us have been educated to have what she calls a “fixed mindset,” one that can become concerned first and foremost with our own standing and status.  She goes on to show how this is a sure fire recipe for disaster with respect to long-term results, whether one is a professional athlete, a CEO, a teacher, or a parent.  If one is considering sustainable (and shared) benefit, then it behooves us to embrace a “growth mindset,” one that entails the ability, humility, and enthusiasm to learn from our mistakes and to help others to do so as well.

That is one of my biggest take-aways from being in DC last week.  So many people are caught up in the game that plays out inside the Beltway where you have to make a name for yourself in order to have an impact.  Fixed mindsets rein.  But just when are you done proving yourself in such an environment?  And what impact do we cheat ourselves of under such conditions in the long run?

Leave a comment
July 23, 2009

Order Matters

“Beware of the stories you read and tell.They are shaping your world.”-Ben Okri

I’ve been very interested to read more about the research of social psychologists focused on the impact of the order of thoughts when it comes to making changes in behavior.  David Hardisty has conducted experiments in which people considering whether or not they would agree to a carbon tax to offset their air travel were asked to jot down the sequence of their thinking as they went about making their decision.

What showed up was that in constructing their preferences, the order of participants’ thoughts really mattered, with early thoughts significantly biasing subsequent ones.  For example, people who ultimately rejected a carbon tax had negative first thoughts along the lines of, “I will be dead by the time the world is in an energy crisis,” whereas those who ultimately supported the tax had more positive first thoughts about the welfare of their children or subsequent generations.  More intriguing, in a follow-up study, when Hardisty asked people to first make a list of the benefits of a carbon tax and then make a list of cons, this affected their preference in a more supportive direction no matter their political inclinations.

rocco_clay_sequence1

Read More

Leave a comment
July 16, 2009

Come From the Heart

Remember this old song? I don’t. But I heard Garnet Rogers doing a version the other day on WUMB. The timing was quite something, as I was in the car on my way to the office and my return from parental leave, trying to hold on to the reality of my situation. And it’s been on my mind as I get ready to embrace and ease into another transition (just remember, 40 is the new 30). Click to listen to Guy Clark’s rendition.

When I was a young man my daddy told me
A lesson he learned, it was a long time ago
If you want to have someone to hold onto
You’re gonna have to learn to let go

You gotta sing like you don’t need the money
Love like you’ll never get hurt
You got to dance like nobody’s watchin’
It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work

Read More

Leave a comment
July 9, 2009

Prove or Improve?

Last week I had the privilege of co-delivering a workshop on collaboration and effective teams to this year’s crop of New Leaders for New Schools Residents as part of their Summer Foundations experience.  These principals-to-be truly give one hope for the future of education in this country.

Prior to our two days of delivery, I heard Jeff Howard of the Efficacy Institute deliver a presentation to the Residents on the difference between what he called a “performance orientation” and a “learning orientation.”  Howard’s claim is that schools often fail when they overemphasize student and staff performance at the expense of learning, and his message to the future school leaders was that they needed to think hard about what is most important as a long-term goal for the people in their building.

Read More

Leave a comment
July 2, 2009

Mind Over Laundry

In her analysis of leverage points to intervene in a system, the late Donella Meadows highlighted mindsets as one of the most fundamental levels on which to focus if one is hoping to make deep and long-lasting change. The case for this is well made in a recent article in Mass Audubon’s Sanctuary Magazine.

Katherine Scott writes in “The Wind in the Wash” about the lost art of the clothesline in America, largely obscured by the now ubiquitous clothes dryer. In this day and age, notes Scott, many children haven’t the remotest idea of what a clothespin is. She is not simply waxing nostalgic, but making an important point about the way we think.

Read More

6 Comments
June 25, 2009

This I Believe

In the 1950s journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a radio program called This I Believe, in which he invited people from all walks of life to share their personal philosophies. Fifty years later, Dan Gediman revived the show on National Public Radio with the goal of “encouraging people to begin the . . . difficult task of developing respect for beliefs different from their own.” The result has been a growing movement of communities and schools jumping at the opportunity to invite citizens and students to articulate their core beliefs and values, and to align their lives accordingly. For a taste (actually a glimpse and/or listen), check out this link.

Read More

Leave a comment
June 18, 2009

Daddy’s Back

Next week I return to work after three blissful weeks of parental leave. Well, perhaps I should say three very full weeks (I’m not sure that nights with little sleep and days filled with constantly changing diapers constitute bliss). I am forever grateful to the Interaction Institute for Social Change for having such a humane parental leave policy, for a father no less. This is certainly not the standard in this country.

The flip side of my gratitude is the sadness that comes from needing to leave my two infant girls, and to leave my wife with her hands full. It is certainly much more than a full time job to raise three children, and considerably more to do it well. And I am sad to think of all the parents in this country who do not have anything approaching the kind of benefit we have at IISC, and hopeful that efforts to enact some kind of federal legislation will be successful.

Read More

Leave a comment
June 18, 2009

Daddy's Back

Next week I return to work after three blissful weeks of parental leave. Well, perhaps I should say three very full weeks (I’m not sure that nights with little sleep and days filled with constantly changing diapers constitute bliss). I am forever grateful to the Interaction Institute for Social Change for having such a humane parental leave policy, for a father no less. This is certainly not the standard in this country.

The flip side of my gratitude is the sadness that comes from needing to leave my two infant girls, and to leave my wife with her hands full. It is certainly much more than a full time job to raise three children, and considerably more to do it well. And I am sad to think of all the parents in this country who do not have anything approaching the kind of benefit we have at IISC, and hopeful that efforts to enact some kind of federal legislation will be successful.

Read More

7 Comments
June 11, 2009

Design for a Living World

“Ecological design competence means maximizing resource and energy efficiency, taking advantage of the free services of nature, recycling wastes, making ecologically smarter things, and educating ecologically smarter people.  It means incorporating intelligence about how nature works . . . into the way we think, design, build, and live.” -David Orr

The Nature Conservancy’s “Design for a Living World” Exhibition, which recently opened (May 14th) at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, features ten designers exploring the relationship between the natural world and the products we use. Each designer was asked to develop new uses for sustainably grown and harvested materials and the results are quite beautiful in a number of different ways.

I find the idea of designing for a living (or livable) world to be a powerful invitation for those of us engaged in creating experiences to bring out the best in others (innovation, collaboration). I hear the call to be mindful and respectful of the cultural and ecological contexts in which I find myself, to work with (not against) the surrounding social/natural environment, and to think in restorative (as opposed to extractive) ways. As David Orr, environmental philosopher and author of The Nature of Design, suggests, sustainable design is all about creating harmony between intentions and “the genius of particular places” (we might add particular people). The standard for Orr is not so much efficiency or productivity, but health. So here’s to ours, fellow designers.

Leave a comment
June 4, 2009

Generation G

In the final chapter of “What Would Google Do?” (recently referred to by Marianne), Jeff Jarvis makes a provocative statement about the future and promise of a networked world.  Many of the points Jarvis makes appear to turn things on their head, at least compared to the way that many of us might first react to developments in our ever more densely connected and information-rich world.

A few things to ponder:

1.    This current generation is growing up with an ability to stay in touch with nearly everyone they meet throughout their entire lives.  Whereas those of us who grew up pre-Facebook may have lost track of old childhood friends and college buddies, this generation has the possibility of always being more directly in touch with the different chapters of their lives.  Scary?  This seems profound to me, and yet I don’t really know exactly how.  What might this do to the very nature of relationship?

2.    The flip side of TMI (too much information) is greater transparency.  Young people are putting so much more of themselves and their lives out for public consideration.  Often this gets construed as risky and/or a kind of exhibitionism.  However, if more people are playing the same game, then perhaps the rules will enforce greater overall acceptance and safety of full and liberating self-expression.  Jarvis quotes author David Weinberger  – “An age of transparency must be an age of forgiveness.”  Wow.

3.    And what about all of that apparently inane information that people share about their bunions or the mold growing on the bathroom tile?  Well, how about the benefit of “ambient intimacy” (Jarvis quoting blogger Leisa Reichelt –www.disambiguity.com), swapping the small details of our daily lives?  This may just help us to develop stronger relationships as we come to know more about people who would otherwise be just acquaintances, or grease the wheels for the next time we physically see one another or talk by phone (less catch up time).

Throughout these and multiple other points, Jarvis seems to be suggesting that more integrated lives and more widespread trust are a result of living in the Google age.  Given that collaboration thrives on trust, and that collaboration may be our saving grace as a species (see Charles Darwin and my post “The Group Effect” – ), shouldn’t we all be striving to be fully exposed and (wireless) card carrying members of Generation G?

Leave a comment