Tag Archives: Education

For My Eyes Also

California Lutheran University Campus

I’ve begun work on something I have wanted to do for a long time but, for numerous reasons (some of which actually make sense in retrospect) have not been able to accomplish. I’m speaking of writing a book. Actually, I’ve had three books in mind for a few years: One sharing my blog posts; one about the years I spent in the Peace & Justice movement, with special emphasis on the movement against the war in Vietnam; and, my memoirs. I can say with reasonable objectivity, I have had a rather unconventional and interesting life.

Since the beginning of March of 2018, I have been working part-time as the business manager for a small AI software development firm. In doing so, I transitioned from my Mac to a PC laptop in order to comply with the company standards. Today I moved my Mac out into a place in our living room where I can sit quietly and write. Since this is the first time I’ve actually spent a while at the Mac, I have been going through my files and am somewhat pleased to discover there are a lot things I’ve written over the years that should prove helpful in writing (at least) my memoirs. Some of the things I’ve written are only a couple of sentences or a paragraph or two, but they convey the essence of a thought I can expand upon. On the other hand, some of them are completely unintelligible.

What I’m going to do here, however, is use this blog to publish a term paper I submitted 19 years ago, when I was attending classes at California Lutheran University, in their Center for Lifelong Learning offering, ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program.) It’s 22 pages long, so I’m going to post it in sections, as I wrote it. Today I’m sharing the intro. As I’ve re-read parts of it, I’m reasonably certain some will end up in at least my memoirs, as they are part of my unusual education.

Introduction

Although this paper is being written as part of the requirements for a grade in Organizational Management, its impetus and content are driven by a real life situation at the company I work for, Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power, a business unit of the Space and Communications Division of the Boeing Company. As suggested in the course syllabus, I selected a subject which I felt had some relevance to my company’s activities and my position within it.

As with many organizations throughout the world, mine is struggling with understanding and implementing the concepts of Knowledge Management. These concepts, and the issues surrounding them, are numerous and complex. As an example, one question which must be asked is how does an organization determine the importance of the information it uses and how does it weight that importance? How does it determine who needs it, who wants it, who might benefit from knowing of its existence, or whether or not it should be available to everyone who might wish to make those determinations for themselves?

Furthermore, there are numerous software developers who are touting their particular method of capturing data and making it available to a company’s workforce. Each of these developers will attempt to convince you their method is best for your application. Of course, this situation is hardly different from that faced by anyone who has to determine what method they will use, or what software they will purchase, for any task. Nevertheless, at this early stage of the game it doesn’t make the task any easier.

I propose, in the following pages, to set forth some of the history of Knowledge Management, from tribal times to today, and the perceived need for Knowledge Management, both in general, and with particular emphasis for my company, Rocketdyne. I will look at what knowledge management means, and briefly mention some of the tools which are being used to develop its use. The definition of tacit knowledge, and the importance of understanding it when implementing Knowledge Management will be discussed, along with a brief look at how we acquire and share knowledge. I will close with a glance at what is probably the most daunting task facing a company which desires to utilize Knowledge Management to its advantage, the need for dramatic cultural change.

Before beginning, however, I would like to quickly explain the nature of this paper’s subtitle, “Breaking the Information Bottleneck”. Here, the word bottleneck has the same meaning we use when speaking of a traffic jam. Most of us have experienced being caught on the freeway when suddenly we come to a crawl or dead stop. Usually there is an explanation for the delay. Sometimes, however, there is no apparent reason.

In the same way that freeways experience bottlenecks, so too does any system which requires the smooth flow of some activity or commodity. On the shop floor, it is generally components, though it can also be tooling, raw material, or usage hardware. In the office it is generally data or information, and when its flow is restricted the organization suffers.

I believe, with the advent of computers, and their widespread use through Local Area Networks and intranets, and with our increasing dependence on technology to solve our problems, we have forgotten how sharing knowledge actually works and, in the process, created huge information bottlenecks which will not go away until we learn once again how to manage knowledge.

Unfortunately, the scope of this paper is woefully inadequate to fully treat all the issues involved in this major change now occurring. It is my hope that I will be able to expand upon and use it to help melt the glacier of resistance which surrounds my organization at present and makes change painful and tedious.


WTF Happened?

I just introduced #WTFWednesday, as in WTF happened, on Facebook. Here is the photograph I presented to my friends that I just discovered in my seemingly never-ending caches of paperwork, photos, etc., that keep popping up. I believe this is my 1st grade class at Chase St. Elementary School, in Panorama City, California. After WWII, Panorama City advertised itself as the “Heart of the Valley,” the San Fernando Valley, that is . . . like totally.

I only know what happened to one of the kids in this photo; the one in the Hopalong Cassidy shirt, third from the right, third row up. The kid with the large, goofy ears. Last I heard, he was still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.


An Interesting Age

Kind of interesting to be spending part of my birthday waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school. I hadn’t quite put my foot on what always feels just a bit strange every time I’m here.

It finally hit me. It’s the knowledge I’m at least 54 years older than the oldest kids here. I’d venture to say the vast majority of parents here are no more than 30 years older than their kids. I mostly don’t feel like an outlier, but I am.

I’m also processing the reality that Alyssa had far more challenges than Aimee, who also has three friends who’ve known each other since kindergarten or the first grade, and whose families we have spent a lot of time with over the years. Alyssa doesn’t have any friends like that, which troubles me deeply.

I guess I’m living in interesting times. All I have to do is stay healthy and productive for about another eight to ten years. Slice pie!


Restarting A Knowledge Management Program

Tseng College at CSUN Logo

My Alma Mater

I received my Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the Tseng College of Extended Learning at California State University Northridge (CSUN) in 2009. Shortly afterward, the University decided to cancel the program. Recently, I received a request to participate in a survey being used to determine if it was time to reinstate it.

 
As a result, I not only took the survey, but also shared some of my thoughts about the program and its importance. Today I am meeting with the person at CSUN who is leading the effort to make the determination of whether it’s worthwhile to start up again. I also expressed my interest in teaching a class or two.
 
I’m still quite convinced (at least my interpretation of) Knowledge Management is an important part of how organizations can make the most of what they know and how they use it to further their efforts. It may need to be re-branded, as KM seems to be a term too loaded with baggage, especially the concept of “managing” knowledge. Frankly, I’m not sure, but I’d like to be part of the conversation.
 
I’m not expecting much, but it would be nice if they brought the program back and, even better, if I can play a role in making it truly meaningful and relevant. Far too many think of it as something like library science on steroids . . . and I think that characterization misses the point. I’m of the opinion connecting people day-to-day is far more important than developing a repository of lessons learned and better practices. Not that they aren’t necessary; I just believe facilitating continuous conversation aimed toward more useful collaboration and greater innovation (especially wrt internal processes) holds more promise for most organizations.

How Do You Talk To Children?

Came across this on Facebook and wanted to share it. I have seen adults doing these very things; in fact, I believe I’ve been guilty of it myself, though I make every effort to be engaged with children, especially my own.

I recently attended a new school orientation, as my 12-year-old is beginning 7th grade and it is her first encounter with middle school – we chose to keep her in her elementary school through the 6th grade, which we believed was useful for her special needs. I was very encouraged by the welcoming and uplifting tone everyone at the school took when dealing with the children. Better yet, my daughter’s 1st grade teacher is now the Director of Student Services at her middle school, and my wife told me she’s the only teach she had who didn’t complain about our daughter. Encouraging.

Take a look at this video and see if you recognize anyone; yourself or your child’s teachers or some of the administrative staff at any school. They’re not all like this, not by a long shot, but it’s important to keep in mind how easy it is to dismiss children and affect them in ways that will stay with them; possibly for their entire lives.


Let’s Bite Off Our Noses To Spite Our Faces

It seems to me that anyone who really cares about their country, who is a genuine patriot, has to care for everyone. Life is NOT a zero-sum game, where the gains enjoyed by others are a loss to you and yours. No, life and human society are highly complex, interdependent systems where every part has a role to play, and when we don’t provide optimal conditions for the health and well-being of some of the parts, the whole body suffers. Would you want your car’s engine to go without one of its spark plugs? While it would still get you to where you were going, it wouldn’t do it as efficiently, nor as effectively. In the end, it would almost certainly cost more to deal with the results of an imbalance in the engine than it would to ensure all its components were kept in good working order.

Yet many approach life as though they are living on an island. It’s difficult to fathom the level of insensitivity, blindness to reality, and the callous lack of empathy it takes to turn one’s back on people who may not directly affect your life in a way you can feel immediately, but who nevertheless impact the organizations and institutions you deal with all the time.

For instance, by not ensuring all children receive healthcare, adequate nutrition, and early education, we ensure our up and coming workforce will be less prepared than they otherwise could be for the kinds of jobs that will be available in the near future. The net result is we not only handicap those children, we also handicap their families, their friends, and the entire nation. By guaranteeing they need more help for far longer than might otherwise be the case, we add to both their burden and ours.

We hobble ourselves with mistaken, outdated, unsupportable notions that give far more importance to diversity as a bad thing; as something that takes away from our sense of worth, of self. Instead of understanding, celebrating, and taking advantage of all the ways in which we complement and enhance each other, too many of us turn those virtues into imaginary vices and use them to divide and separate us. What a pity.


Possibly Another Stellar Career Move?

USC Marshall Logo

Yesterday was a very good day. I didn’t make a penny and I don’t care. Jimmy could have cracked an entire bushel of corn and I still wouldn’t care. I had a good morning, posting a few items to my FB page, as well as a special item to my Rotary Club’s group and page. I spent a little time studying a request to get involved in the effort to bring open source, transparent voting technology to bear in California, and I enjoyed some interesting conversations with friends here on FB. I received a copy of a soon-to-be-released, transformational book that I had the privilege to help one of the authors with . . . and it was signed with a nice personal note. I also noticed I received a mention in the acknowledgements. All good stuff.

However, the pinnacle, the apex, the absolutely awesome apogee of my day was an interview at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where I had applied for a position as an Adjunct Professor. At this point I don’t even know who referred me to them. I thought it was a friend who teaches there, for whom I have been a guest lecturer a couple of times, but the woman who interviewed me thought it was a cousin who is a Professor in the Education department. I need to sort that out.

My appointment was for 2:30 pm and, since I live over forty miles from the campus and would have to traverse downtown Los Angeles to get there, I planned on leaving an hour and a half early. It turned out to be perfect, as I ran into the expected traffic, arriving at the entrance a half hour before the scheduled time. It took a couple of minutes to secure a parking permit (they had reserved a slot for me) and the gentleman who did so also gave me a map and instructions.

I parked on the fourth floor of a large structure and, noticing there were no elevators, I walked down the stairs to the street level. I guess I haven’t been in a building that tall in quite some time — at least one without an elevator — and, between the distortion of my bifocals, my being out-of-shape, and what I can only assume is an age related tendency to experience a little vertigo, I felt like a doddering old man, carefully stepping down each flight while holding on to the hand rail. I can remember a time when I could virtually skip down such stairs, but I guess those days are long gone.

As I walked the nearly quarter mile to the building I was headed to, I looked around at all the students walking and riding bicycles and skateboards, as well as the plethora of vehicles that included a large number and variety of electric carts and vans. Coming from the suburbs, I was struck by how closely packed everything seemed to be and I found myself thinking we are preparing the students for life as sardines.

USC Mascot

Tommy Trojan and Traveler – Fight On!

I had little trouble finding the Accounting building, where I was to report and, once inside, I sat down for a moment to get my bearings and to check in with my location on Facebook. I had posted about the interview and was pleased to find so many friends wishing me luck and I wanted to let them know I was there. I once read of a man who, asked to what he attributed his success, answered that he always arrived ten minutes early. As I had long believed a lack of punctuality was disrespectful, I adopted his tactic and, in this case, I was actually 15 minutes early. I don’t know if all this will translate into success, but I’m committed to the effort.

Based on a quick reconnoiter of the office numbers, I figured the one I was headed to was on the fourth floor, so I climbed up the first flight of stairs. At the top I found a sign indicating the stairs provided access to floors one through three, and that there was also access to the roof. I was pretty sure the office I was looking for wasn’t on the roof, but I couldn’t find any sign that pointed out where access to the fourth floor was located. I stopped a couple of students and asked them. They didn’t know, but one offered that she was going upstairs and she would walk with me. When we got to the third floor, it appeared there was another flight, but when we went around the corner it led to a locked door. We clearly weren’t going to the roof.

The student who had accompanied me offered to seek out advice and we ended up finding one of the Deans, who led me down a corridor to a door that opened up to stairs. Not in any way obvious, but . . . voila! I was near the end of my search and still 10 minutes early. I climbed the stairs and found the office I was seeking, announced my presence and the recognition I was early, and took a seat outside. Within minutes, the woman who was to conduct the interview popped her head out the door, introduced herself, and asked me to come on in.

I followed her inside, through the reception area, and into her office where she offered me a seat, closed the door, and sat down at her desk opposite me. We had an interesting opening chat which thoroughly confused me as to how my name had found its way to her, and I intend on researching that a little more, but it wasn’t really all that important. It did serve to show I had more connections to the University than I had realized, which was gratifying.

To make what is now a long story a little bit shorter, she told me I had a very impressive resume and she thought I would be perfect teaching both business communications and writing. She also told me they’re already set with their Spring schedule and that I would likely be offered a position after that, which would probably be teaching either Sophomores or Juniors, students she suggested would be very interested in my eclectic experience and knowledge. She also said I might be able to teach virtually, especially since they’re heading more in that direction and I had fairly recently completed my Masters degree in Knowledge Management entirely online. I would also be assigned a mentor, this being my first experience teaching at this level.

As it stands right now, in the interim I have the opportunity to be a guest lecturer, somewhat at my leisure and with subjects of my choosing. This, of course, would be uncompensated but I consider it valuable experience and a way of showing what I can do. I will soon send her a couple of synopses of what I propose to offer. Otherwise, I wait. Based on her enthusiasm and interest, unless she’s being disingenuous (and I have no reason to believe that to be the case), I expect I will begin what may be a new, interesting, and challenging chapter in my life’s journey within the next year.

One thing I find both interesting and ironic about all this is that I grew up believing I would attend UCLA, if I went to a local University. As it turns out, I never did go to undergraduate school, but UCLA likely would have been my first choice. That I may end up teaching at USC, their bitter crosstown rival, is kind of like growing up wanting to play baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers, only to end up being drafted by the San Francisco Giants. There are far worse things I can think of.


Teach, Learn, Share

The following is from a post I published in LinkedIn, in response to an emailed request from Dan Roth, Executive Editor. They implied I’m an “influencer”. How could I resist?


Giving advice to young people beginning their professional careers is not something I’m generally asked to do. How does someone whose background and experience is as unconventional as mine even relate to others who have already gone a different route? You just finished earning a Bachelor’s Degree. I never attended undergraduate school. What can I say to you that will make any sense? Nevertheless, LinkedIn has suggested I give it a shot and even ensure my thoughts stand out by tagging them with #IfIWere22, so here goes.

Twenty-two! Whew. That was 45 years ago. I have a hard time even being certain what I remember from back then actually happened. By that age I had already been in the US Navy (medically discharged after a short stint), owned a small business, lived on the streets of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco during the waning days of the Summer of Love, and the North Campus district above the University of California at Berkeley after that.

By all measures of the time, I was a failure. I had nothing to show for those years save a hell of a lot of street smarts. How does one put that on a résumé? I did manage to get a job at a jewelry manufactory, where I learned to melt . . . er . . . solder gold and silver, making some very high quality jewelry, but it surely wasn’t a career I was interested in pursuing. In the next few years I had lots of jobs, but no career to speak of.

Law School Graduation

Don’t take life too seriously.

At 26, despite having no undergraduate education and never having taken the SAT, I was able to attend an accredited Law School, largely because I scored very high on the LSAT and after my first year easily passed the First Year Law Student’s Exam. It was not required of those who had their Baccalaureates. I received my Juris Doctorate in 1976.

I was lucky. I had some resources at my disposal and I had always been an avid reader and a self-learner – an autodidact. After graduating Law School I realized I didn’t much care for the legal profession and, coupled with my father having a major heart attack, I felt I had no choice but to join my family’s wholesale food distribution business. For the next 12 years I worked with my family and in several different jobs and businesses. You can see my profile for yourself. This is LinkedIn, after all. 🙂

Now . . . the question remains, what did I learn and what can I pass on to you as you begin your career? One thing, probably, is you don’t want to do what I did. However, there are at least two very important things I think brought me to where I am today (btw – check out my last job before retirement. It was a doozy), which isn’t wildly successful, but has given me a considerable amount of satisfaction.

First, don’t ever stop learning. Read, experience, experiment, test, and share. Learn so you can share what you know with others. It is the best way, IMO, to move forward. Too many people try and create a persona for themselves they hope will be perceived as irreplaceable. Don’t be one of them. Your value is in sharing knowledge, not hoarding it. You will be much happier because you won’t be constantly looking over your shoulder, wondering who’s sneaking up to replace you. You’ll be too busy concentrating on the steps above you.

Second. Perseverance. In the words of Coach Jimmy Valvano, “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up.” No matter how bad things are, they will improve if you just don’t give up. This doesn’t mean you won’t experience failures and setbacks. They’re inevitable. What it means is, despite your losses, despite those failures and setbacks, you need to pull yourself up and get on with your business. And when these things happen, refer to the previous paragraph; learn. Turn that sow’s ear into your very own silk purse; defeat into victory. You can do it.

I hope some of what I’ve written here will be of use to you. If you are in the intended audience for these “If I were 22” posts, you’ve got your entire career ahead of you. Keep your eyes and ears open. You don’t need to plan every step; serendipity is a wonderful thing. As you can see from the picture of my Law School graduation in 1976, above, I also think it’s important to not take oneself too seriously. Enjoy your lives and make others happy. Good luck out there.


The University of Twitterville

I joined Twitter on March 2, 2008; 1678 days ago. I know this because I asked the Internet when I joined. I kind of remembered, but wanted to be sure. I just typed into Google “When did I join Twitter?”. Actually, I didn’t have to finish my sentence. Google finished it for me. I was presented with the following link, http://www.whendidyoujointwitter.com/. I put in my user name and in less than a second I had my answer. A short while later I remembered HootSuite knows when I joined and shares that info quite easily as well. Oh well. It’s good to have choices, eh?

University of Twitterville

The University of Twitterville

At the time I joined I was working for a rather large aerospace company (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a division of United Technologies), where I had been a member of the Space Shuttle Main Engine team for nearly twenty years. My job at the time, which had changed considerably over the years, was to seek out new technologies for communication and collaboration and determine if we could use them internally to our advantage. I don’t recall when I tweeted for the first time and I just tried a whole bunch of applications which purport to reveal that initial tweet, but none of them can handle the number  I’ve made (18,036 at the moment). My recollection, however, is that it took me nearly six months until I was able to figure out a use case that made sense.

I was never interested in following celebrities and I wasn’t interested in small talk. I was looking for how Twitter could be used for a business to help its people get their work done efficiently and effectively. I think one of the first actual uses I encountered that impressed me was my discovery the team preparing one of the Shuttle Orbiters for its next launch were using it to share status updates in real-time. I had been part of teams that had “stand up” meetings every morning to update each other on the previous day’s activities. These were hugely wasteful exercises made necessary by the limited communication capability at the time. There were many days when only 20% or less of the team needed to be at the meeting, but there was no way to know that until it was over.

With Twitter, I imagined the NASA team being able to follow each other and share their status immediately. The value to this could be, in my estimation, enormous. For instance, if a team member was offsite picking up an item that another member of the team needed to continue working on a particular task, the knowledge that it would be available in four hours could allow them to start a task, knowing that the upstream portion of it was now complete or that a needed component for finishing that task was on its way. There are all kinds of scenarios where not having to wait until the following day saves time. There’s also something to be said merely for the value of one-to-many communication capabilities, which is one of the many value propositions of Twitter.

Unfortunately, I could never get anyone at Rocketdyne to experiment with Twitter as a communications tool, so I had to look for another use case; one that benefitted me but might have broader implications as well. So here’s what I, personally, got out of Twitter and why I think it is so valuable. One of the first people I started following was Tim O’Reilly (@timoreilly). He had written what I found to be the seminal paper on the transition in the Internet from a one-way, broadcast medium to a multi-path, participatory medium. It was entitled “What is Web 2.0“, and reading it had been one of the more enlightening reads of my career. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly.

It wasn’t long before I was following quite a few thought leaders. What made all this so incredibly valuable was not merely being able to read their pithy tweets, but also being able to read the papers, columns, and blog posts they provided links to. Thanks to link shortening services like tiny.url and bit.ly, a very long URL could be shortened to less than 25 characters, allowing the author of a tweet to not only share the link, but also to provide a little information on what the subject is. This made it easy to determine if something was going to be of interest to me.

Although I hold a professional degree (Juris Doctorate) and a Masters degree (in Knowledge Management), I am largely an autodidact; a self-learner. I never went to undergraduate school and got into Law School on the strength of my LSAT scores, which I am reasonably certain were high based on my being self-taught and, therefore, fairly well rounded and well educated. I barely made it out of high school, taking an extra semester to finish enough credits to be able to graduate. I’m a lousy student, but a powerful, self-actualized learner.

In my opinion, perhaps in large part because I’m already someone who learns on his own, I found the things I learned – the education I got, if you will – from Twitter was every bit as valuable and useful as what it took for me to get either of those advanced degrees. In some ways I’m pretty certain it was actually better. It was certainly more pleasurable because it was done entirely on my schedule and nothing I studied was superfluous. I can’t say that of any other educational experience I have had in my entire life.

My experience with Twitter, therefore, is analogous to having gone to University; one of my choosing, taught by people I admire and respect, and studied on a schedule completely of my choosing. Tests came in the form of real-life applications both on-the-job at Rocketdyne and in various interactions I had with professional and other organizations and people. I am very grateful to be a proud graduate of the University of Twitterville.

Has Twitter affected you in any appreciable, useful way and, if so, what was it?


Dreadful and Delightful

My Daughter's Class

See if you can spot Alyssa

And so it begins. Another Summer vacation filled with excitement and challenge. I know my kids want to spend the entire seventy days watching television and swimming. They’ll want to do it at home and at their friends’ homes . . . and back at our home with their friends. They will resist anything that smells of homework or, heaven forbid, learning.

My job is to stand in their way and keep them from having a good time. We can be sure that’s how they see it. I see it as a challenge to figure out creative ways to get them to think without it appearing as though that’s what I’m doing. I have some ideas. My education has been mostly unconventional and I am a life-long learner. Hopefully, I can instill in them some of the excitement I get out of the chase for knowledge.

I picked up my youngest from school today. I got there a little early so I could find a parking space and walk in to greet her. The kids were all assembled on the lawn outside their multi-purpose room, sitting fairly patiently with their classmates and their teachers. I had the opportunity to thank my daughter’s teacher for all she’s done this year and, let me tell you, she was challenged on our behalf. She earned whatever they pay her, which I’m pretty sure isn’t enough.

About three minutes before Noon, the Principal said a couple of words and put on the single version of James Brown singing “I feel good!”. When it was over she said a few more words. Then she did something I wish I had been prepared for, because I would have loved to share what would have been a powerful, exciting 15 seconds of video. She looked at her watch and started a countdown from 10 seconds. The kids got into it – big time – and the area was filled with the full-throated chanting of around 350 – 400 kids. When they reached zero they erupted into cheering.

I haven’t experienced a casual and cavalier Summer, where I really wasn’t required to do anything but have fun, for a long time; somewhere around 50 years. I don’t really remember the feeling any longer. However, for about 10 seconds today, while those kids were marking a big step in their lives, I think I was able to capture the sheer joy of it all. It was awesome!


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