Communication #2

It is never guaranteed that the intentions I have when I communicate with you will be realised. 

The process of transmission from one person to another is fraught with many obstacles which can distort the message. 

In fact if you really think about it, it is remarkable that we understand each other at all.

The process of transmission from one person to another is fraught with many obstacles which can distort the message. In fact if you really think about it, it is remarkable that we understand each other at all. 

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Communication #1

Communication always happens on at least two levels. 

What you say is the easy part. It consists of the words that come out of your mouth or from your keyboard.

The trickier part is the message which is not the same as the words.

The message is influenced by:

  • what you model (are you telling someone loudly that they shouldn’t shout?) 
  • the manner and way in which you communicate (e.g. succinct, verbose, subtle, direct) 
  • who you are (as a person) and 
  • what you stand for (your values)
  • your background (what have you done previously that impacts this communication?) 
  • the people you are communicating with (how are they likely to receive the communication)
  • body language (Albert Mehrabian is mostly misinterpreted) 
  • or written style (if you are writing)
  • the medium you use to communicate
  • and only then what you say

Communication - what you say and the message are not always the same thing

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Strategy and yoga

The game of chess is often rolled out as being useful for strategic thinking.

The chess requirement to think ahead and manage decisions on multiple fronts is valuable for strategists.

But the practice of yoga is more apt as both metaphor and training.

Chess masters can get obsessed with winning and losing, making it a zero sum game.

Yogi’s on the other hand spend their time challenging their awareness. Finding ways to continually improve. The winners in yoga are those who do the practice. Pushing the limits over and over again.

In the process we get to know ourselves. It is hard to be biased about our yogic abilities when we have to face them on the mat, in all their glory.

Strategists could learn from yoga that daily practice, awareness, learning and incremental improvements are more important than a fascination on competition and winning.

We can also think about Yoga as much as we want, but if we do not do the practice, nothing happens.

And the reward lies in reflection. Looking back on where we have come from provides the motivation to keep pushing the limits.

Thanks to Jarvis and the YogaSpirit team for giving me a magical place to practice and, without knowing it, the inspiration to make this connection.

Jim Harrington, world renowned Yogi showing Vashista-Padangusta on Table Mountain with Lions Head in the background

Image source: Jim Harrington Yoga

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The end of the classroom (as we know it)

The classroom as we know it is no more. It happened a while back.

When coal miners went underground, they would carry a canary in a cage. If the canary was still breathing, their air supply was good. When the canary died, they knew they didn’t have enough oxygen and were in danger. For the classroom, the emergence of the Kahn Academy a few years ago was when the canary stopped breathing.

Classroom’s used to be where we went to learn. We would find teachers there, and between the teachers, their knowledge, the pictures on the wall, the small library in the classroom and the main library down the hall, we would have all that we needed. Wherever it was, at school, at university or at the business training course or leadership development programme, the classroom was where the knowledge had been gathered. This is where we found it and where learning happened. 

With the stroke of the search engine all that changed.

An example is my daughter’s school experience. Pre Kahn Academy, the teacher would prepare the lesson by gathering information and the classroom would be used to share and tell. Children would sit in wonder and listen to the facts and figures and anecdotes. 

Since the canary died, what happens in the classroom is different. Teachers are suddenly the curator of information rather than the source of information. They are the glue that makes the information come alive, or not. 

Now, rather than her teacher arriving with all the knowledge, my daughter is required to seek out the information and together they assemble it and make sense of it under the facilitation of the teacher. This is kindergarden but the same applies in the business school. Teachers assemble a topic and rather than present the information, teachers present a core message, make it interesting, engage the participants and create an environment where learning can happen. 

The new classroom requires different skills for teachers: 

  • Rather than producer of the lesson, teachers now become directors of the lesson.
  • Questions from the teacher increase the value of the experience Telling the answer decreases it.  
  • Teachers are now more a clearinghouse for knowledge than a source of knowledge.
  • Rather than always being the person with the most knowledge in the room, teachers may need to help the person with the most knowledge to share their message. 
  • Instead of conveying the knowledge, teachers now need to make the knowledge interesting. 
  • More entertainment is needed to grab the emotional attention of the class. Reciting facts doesn’t cut it anymore. 
  • As doctors are finding with patients arriving self-diagnosed, students will know more than their teachers. Teachers need the humility to accept this and to work in collaboration with smart students. 
  • “I don’t know, let’s figure it out”, is now an acceptable approach for teachers. In the past it was a sign of an unprepared teacher.
  • Facilitators would be more a more apt name than teachers. 

With the answer to any question a smartphone and a few seconds away, we may feel we no longer need a classroom. This is wrong. The classroom will always play one crucial role that technology cannot take away and that is connection. Although technology allows us to connect, the ease with which we connect is inversely proportional to the quality of our connections. A quick text message doesn’t carry the same connection value as a face to face conversation. A Skype is useful, but not the same as a cup of coffee with a friend. Yes, it is quick, but not the same.

The classroom offers valuable human connection. Deciding how to communicate in the classroom is now as important as knowing what to communicate.

The classroom of the future is an environment for learning

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How we missed Madiba

It’s a strange feeling to watch the United States celebrate our heroes more effectively than we can.

My father mailed me the link to the Arthur Ashe Courage Award presentation to Nelson Mandela which happened on the 19th July as part of the annual ESPY awards. If you haven’t seen it then stop reading now and watch. It’s electric and I guarantee even the most emotionally disconnected will feel a tear well up in their eyes.

I got curious about why I hadn’t heard about this prestigious award. I’ve been traveling and hit the ground running after my winter break (hence not much Thought Leader blogging). Thinking I may have missed the coverage, I searched the websites of the major English newspapers in South Africa.

Google showed the following results:

Mail & Guardian
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” – did not match any documents.

Sunday Times
Your search – “nelson mandela” “arthur ashe courage award” – did not match any documents.

The only English paper to carry the story was the Independent. Why would this be? Why are we not celebrating our most famous citizen as he gets recognised internationally for his bravery and strategic brilliance?

The footage on YouTube, introduced by Barack Obama and presented by Venus and Serena Williams, takes you back to a different time in South Africa. The 1995 Rugby World Cup was set against a backdrop of violence and uncertainty in the years before. Hope emerged, at least for a moment, as we all dropped our guard and rallied around the boys.

As is usual for an American TV production, this ten minute segment is powerful, real and emotional. Unlike some US productions, it isn’t over the top.

Can you remember what you were doing on those days when we beat Australia in the opening game, beat France in the semifinal and then the big game against New Zealand? Prompted by the video, I remembered each occasion vividly.

Today I browsed Mark Keohane’s gushing account of the rugby world cup 2007 “Champions of the World: Seven Magnificent Weeks”. The book documents the Springboks second World Cup win. While a fantastic achievement, the 2007 win wasn’t quite the same as ‘95. This means we have to look harder for these special moments.

Have a watch and then pass it on. We can’t afford to miss celebrating and feeling proud of Madiba and our rugby heroes.

The powerful catalyst that was created through a leaders’ foresight and a game of rugby is worth spreading. We’ll find more of these moments over the years ahead and they will help us re-build our country.

Don’t worry about the newspapers, they’ll catch up and start reporting the things that really matter; when we make them matter.