That pun was unintended, but was it unavoidable?

Listening to a discussion on a talk radio show yesterday, one of the guests said something to the effect, “The US is a magnet for steel from everywhere else…, no pun intended.” Which got me thinking.

People make these unintended puns because their mind is already thinking of the subject, as in the reference to a magnet in a discussion of the steel industry. In the same way, our everyday decisions – whether personal, business, or something in between – are influenced by what we are already thinking of.

I think we all want to believe that we make objective decisions based on just the information, but we need to keep in mind that all of our decisions are subjective, it’s just that sometimes we don’t know it.

Knowledge and Understanding

A while back I posted a quick example of how knowledge of how Microsoft PowerPoint works could save you time when composing a presentation. In KM terms, this type of knowledge would be considered explicit, something you can read in a book or find in the help file (or just figure out by clicking on menu items and buttons to see what happens). But just because you know how to use PowerPoint doesn’t mean you understand what you can do with it. (If you want to get a better understanding of what you can do with PP, I highly recommend Cliff Atkinson’s blog beyond bullets and his recently published book Beyond Bullet Points.)

A couple of things have happened over the last few weeks that have got me thinking about the differences between knowledge and understanding.

I bought a new car: Closing the deal with the financial guy, there were forms upon forms. He typed in my info, a bunch of things got printed out, “Sign here, here, here and here.” The process was very straightforward, he knew what needed to be done, but I don’t think he necessarily understood why he was doing all the things he was doing.

Tax time: I used TaxCut to do my taxes this year. The interview process is relatively painless (assuming you have all the info you need gathered up). The program asks some questions, you give answers, it tells you if you have a refund or owe money to the IRS. But how it comes up with that answer is beyond me (and, I would guess, most everyone else that isn’t a tax specialist!)

GTD: I’ve been using the
Getting Things Done add-in for Outlook
, with some success. What I’ve found, though, is that by relying on the technology of the add-in to do the bulk of the processing, I’ve lost touch with the process. On the surface it looks as if I’m effectively managing my projects and actions in accordance with GTD, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find something a bit less straightforward.

The common theme here is how the automation of processes through IT has the potential to remove our understanding of the processes we follow everyday. Is this good or bad? Who can say. Just something I think we need to keep in mind.

What really matters to you?

Ask people that question, and you’re likely to get a quick “Spending time with my family” or “Helping others help themselves” or something along those lines. If you ask those people to really think about it, you will some much more detailed, personal responses.

It is very unlikely, however, that you will ever hear someone answer that question with, “Go to work everyday and only get paid for 8 hours even though I actually work 10 or more.” Yet that is exactly how many people spend their time, going to work doing something they don’t enjoy and just enduring it until they can get away.

In a recent post I wrote, “if the results of our work is not art, what is the point.” No matter the job, each individual has the ability (and I think responsibility to themselves) to leave their mark, to leave something “good” of themselves. A legacy, if you will.

In the soon to be released What is Your Life’s Work? : Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters…and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do, author Bill Jensen explores this question in great detail. From the our life’s work site:

Imagine having a profound, plain-spoken conversation with your loved ones. You speak with absolute conviction: “This is what I stood for, believed in, struggled with, and accomplished. This is my life’s work, and what I want to be remembered for.”

These conversations are captured as letters from parents to children, or friends to friends. You can download a couple of sections to get an idea of what is in the book. For example:

Never Hang Back, Wedge Yourself Forward

Years ago, as a widowed mother with two young children, the idea of work took the form of a cage or a boa constrictor: I have to support my children. I have to work, unceasingly, for the rest of my life because no one else is going to take care of us!

But I love work. I hope you will too. Not for the money or the perks, but because it offers a place to express yourself to a captive audience.

Work is a verb, not a place. A business is simply where I go to do my work, but I’m working most all the time. This matters a lot: Identify your God-given talent, cherish it, refine it, and then find a way to get paid for it for as long as you need to.

The most important thing is connecting with a place that is big enough for your talents, with people you enjoy and can learn from. No matter what your responsibilities, use every opportunity to wedge your talents into the forefront. Make suggestions. Design a solution and put it in front of the CEO as “just something to think about.” Invent the need for what you deliver. Express yourself. Chances are that people will start to pay attention, especially since so many people just hang back and do what they’re told.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Good advice, indeed.

Dusting off some old notes…

Going through some old notes, I came across a couple of things worth repeating here.

Can adults learn? from McGee’s Musings. The short answer (imho): Of course they can!! But only if they choose to. And unfortunately, it seems that most adults choose not to.

NESTA Futurelab – literature review in games and learning.

Computer games are today an important part of most children’s leisure lives and increasingly an important part of our culture as a whole. We often, as adults, watch in amazement as children dedicate hours to acting as football coaches, designers of empires, controllers of robots, wizards and emperors. In the past, computer games have been dismissed as a distraction from more ‘worthy’ activities, such as homework or playing outside. Today, however, researchers, teachers and designers of learning resources are beginning to ask how this powerful new medium might be used to support children’s learning.

Abandoned projects

During last week’s spring break, my 12 year old made it a point to watch all of the Star Wars DVDs, including Episodes I (The Phantom Menace), II (Attack of the Clones), and the original trilogy. To make sure he is up to speed for the upcoming release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, he also bought and watched (several times!) the animated Clone Wars Vol. 1. Needless to say, when he happened to be watching when I was home I sat down and watched with him.

Though I have to admit I’m not an admirer of George Lucas as a screenwriter or director (my favorite of the Star Wars films has always been Empire Strikes Back , directed by Irvin Kershner and co-written by Lawrence Kasdan), I’ve always been fascinated with his approach to making movies, exemplified by the following quote:

A movie is never finished, only abandoned.

The quote above came to mind as I was answering Ian’s questions about the original trilogy and what is was like to see them in the theaters. Of course, the conversation wound its way to the special editions of the movies in theaters, then the re-release on VHS.

– – — — —–
As I’m sitting here composing this post, I’ve got iTunes in the background playing my library in shuffle mode. What just came on? Yep, the Star Wars Main Title. From the Return of the Jed Soundtrack – Special Edition version no less. Sorry for the interruption, but I just had to write this down.
– – — — —–

As we watched the DVDs, I would tell Ian where something was different, where things were added from the original to the Special Editions. Even I was caught by surprise though at the end of Return of the Jedi. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, suffice it to say that the special edition was tweaked just a bit for the DVD version, so there are now 3 different versions of Return of the Jedi. (And yes, I’ve got all three versions 😉

I think we all at some point have “abandoned” projects, not because we thought we were finished but because it was time to stop. Some deadlines are hard, and you don’t have any choice but to deliver what you have. For example (again from Lucas):

Though Episode II was shot entirely digitally, it still had to be transferred to film for display in theaters. This meant that the “final” edit had to be complete about 2 weeks before release date for printing and distribution. It was printed and distributed, but Lucas wasn’t really finished with the film and continued to edit a final final cut right up until release, when the digital version was distributed to the few theaters in the country that have digital projection. The vast majority of people that saw the movie in theaters did not see the “final” version of the film (which, by the way, is the version that is on the DVD.)

I’m not sure what my point is, if there is one, in this rambling post. On the one hand, there is the desire to have your art (and if the results of our work is not art, what is the point) truly reflect your vision for it, to make it as complete as possible. On the other hand is the practical reality that dictates to us that at some point we have to stop, whether we want to or not.

Just something to think about…

April is Autism Awareness Month

As the parent of an autistic son, I have a keen interest in all aspects of autism research. Since Zeke is now 13, though, my main focus is in the area of treatment, services, etc. In support of local efforts here in New Jersey, I’ve signed up as an “Autism Awareness Ambassador” for the NJ Center for Outreach & Services for Autism Community, or more simply COSAC. Their mission statement (quoted from their website):

COSAC is a non-profit agency providing information and advocacy, services, family and professional education and consultation. COSAC encourages responsible basic and applied research that would lead to a lessening of the effects and potential prevention of autism. COSAC is dedicated to ensuring that all people with autism receive appropriate, effective services to maximize their growth potential and to enhancing the overall awareness of autism in the general public.

As part of my ambassador duties, I’ve also set up a page as part of COSAC’s online fundraising campaign for Autism Awareness month. I’ve set a modest goal of US$500 and am posting this notice here as well as sending out some e-mails to friends and family. While COSAC is primarily an NJ organization, the work they do ultimately benefits us all.

For more information on autism and to converse with me on the subject, please take a look at my blog 29 marbles.

The Mindjet Blog

From the executive group (including their CEO, CTO, and VP of Bus Dev) at Mindjet is The Mindjet Blog, a recently launched blog addressing the technology behind and uses of their Mind Manager application. A couple of interesting early posts include an article about using Mind Manager as an RSS reader and a piece on “How Our Blog Travels Through the Blogosphere.”

I’m looking forward to more good info from the Mindjet team. Thank guys.