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Entrepreneurs: Too Many Minds: 4 Lessons towards better Listening Skills

In Forbes’s article, “Ten Reasons Why Entrepreneurs Fail,” written by Steve Andriole, a business professor from the Villanova School of Business at the Villanova University in Pennsylvania, stated that Entrepreneurs were not smart. “Not talking about IQ here. Entrepreneurial IQ (EIQ) is about a holistic understanding of situations. Many entrepreneurs understand their idea, but not the market that will accept or reject the idea. Nor do they understand how accidental, uncontrollable, unscheduled innovation actually works. Or who the real competitors are. Often entrepreneurs have too little domain depth: they literally do not know what they’re talking about (though they often talk a good game).”

minds

I like to address this issue from a different perspective and use an example from the movie, “The Last Samurai.”  It’s a story of a 19th Century army captain named Nathan Algren played by Tom Cruise.  In one scene of the movie, Cruise’s character is attempting to learn how to sword fight with wooden samurai swords.  His teacher, a seasoned samurai, is showing no mercy and Cruise’s character is getting beaten and bruised mercilessly.

After another round and ending up knocked to the ground, the American captain sits quietly and bewildered as to what he is doing wrong.  A young samurai approaches him and tells him quietly, “Too many minds.”  The young Japanese man goes on, “Mind of the fight, the mind of people watching, the mind of your surroundings, too many minds.”  This concept of too many minds can also parallel the concept of listening skills.  Here are four key lessons to improving those skills and help you focus on one mind.

eye contactLesson 1:  Maintain eye contact.

This means to focus on the person who is talking to you.  It doesn’t mean stare and think about a good come back.  The blank stare shows no activity because the person is thinking or daydreaming about something else.  Grant you in some cultures, like in Japan, looking at the eyes can be an insult, but even in this case, the focus must still be on what words are being chosen to express thoughts.

Keywords under magnifying glass

Lesson 2:  Listen for keywords.

What words has the speaker chosen to express himself?  If the words are vague or too general, that is a good time to interrupt politely and ask for clarification or definition.  This will also demonstrate that you are listening and engaged.  Emotions play a big part in what is spoken and should not be taken personally.  Listen for emphasized words.  But how will you know which words are keywords?

body-language-300x212Lesson 3: Body communication.

I remembered a community play I directed, and one patron came up to me after the show and told me she really liked the young actress in the performance but could not hear or understand her.  I thought that was interesting because I was up in the control booth and could hear the young actress’ lines perfectly.  But when I saw the video of the performance, I understood immediately what the problem was.  Several times the actress delivered her lines with the right emotion, but with nobody communication.  No hand gestures, facial expressions, or body movement.  Body communication is 80% of public speaking.  Body language is another way to listen by interpreting what is being said through facial expressions, hand gestures, and body stance.

shut-up-birdsLesson 4:  Shut up and listen

A while back Forbes described and listed the 10 top reasons why entrepreneurs and solo business owners failed.  Interesting enough, six of the ten can be further filtered down to one specialized skill.  One that you don’t even think about but can affect your sales, marketing, partner relationships, customer service, and in the end your business. That is learning how to listen.  Strong listening skills will improve your marketing, sales, customer service, and presentation and public speaking from presentations to sales.

A successful entrepreneur, Ernesto Sirolli, learned the hard way an important fact about listening.  In his 20’s, he had come to Africa with ambition, knowledge, and resources to help Africans move from their primitive ways, according to Western thinking, to modern advancement–and he failed.  Why?  Listen to his story on learning how to shut-up and listen.  Ernesto is a brilliant public speaker with a talent for quick wit and humor.  If you really want to succeed as an entrepreneur take the time and listen how to achieve that goal, it will be, in my opinion, the first primary step to learning an important lesson that can start your improvement towards better listening and inevitable towards improving your public speaking and presentation skills.

Then, when you are ready, I’m here to help take those next steps in mastering both your public speaking and presentation skills. Look me up on LinkedIn.

Is Coding a Trend or a Fad?

 f4f3127d04b10d38d15d86ca2e48fad1Liana Heitin (@LianaHeitin) recently posted a blog from Educational Week, (http://bit.ly/1LG4uG2) on the topic of, “Coding for Elementary Students: A Growing Trend?”  Or, is it a tech fad.  Technology was never designed to replace the teacher.  Technology is a tool not a learning outcome.  Computer and technology companies, like Apple, have been marketing their product not only as educational wonders but having the power to increase learning outcomes.  The results of over 35 years of marketing and sales has only increased these company’s sales and profits.  At the same time as tech industries have increased, educational scores have decreased.  

Back in 1984, IBM, Motorola, and Apple were competing for the computer market.  I had learned FORTRAN, BASIC, and Pascal, and was interested in teaching people how to build, maintain, and program these computers.  In those days, there were no teaching credentials for this topic, so I applied through the El Monte Unified High School District for a vocational credential to teach programming and computer systems.  The State of California did not know what to do with this request, eventually I was awarded a VocEd in Computer Programming and Data Systems in 1985.  I found out I was the first to apply and receive a VocEd teaching credential in computers for the State of California.  

Looking back at all those kids who learned how to program in BASIC and Pascal, they are now today in their 40’s.  Did computer literacy and programming prepare them for Smartphones, iPads, or any of the Social Media we have today?  I would say–No!

Will teaching today’s elementary students coding skills help them 20 years from now?  I don’t think so either!  Grant you, programming offers skills in problem-solving, computer logic, and problem analysis.  However, computers are continuing to be developed in more complexity with intuitive controls.  Apps didn’t exist 10 years ago.  Why do we assume our children will need to program computers in the future?  How many of you out there program your computers, iPads, Smartphones, or other technical devices?  I would assume very, very few.  Today’s kids, as those in the future will be end users.  The majority of students today don’t know how their device works, saves, or runs.  They don’t need to.   

What skills they will need, I believe, is learning how to ask the right questions (database research); Learning a foreign language and culture (Global Community Awareness and Interactions); how to choose the right tool to complete a job (problem analysis); and finally, how to manage available resources (Adaptability.)

Elementary students also need to have strong foundations in mathematics.  They need to know their time tables, understand how to identify patterns, how to communicate (public speaking), and understanding visual symbolism in communications.  Reading (analysis and reporting) is also important to help students as they progress the ladder of education.  Coding is an elective.  Changing a butterfly to a plane on a monitor and then moving it around the screen while changing sound and colors is fun, but what future skills are schools preparing students for?  Technology is becoming both more complicated and intuitive.  Technology will change, that’s a given, but the foundations of math, the Arts, science, reading, and public speaking are skills our children will need in the future, not how to code.

Tools of the Trade 2

teachingtoolsBack in the 1990’s, the boys at the high school I worked at carried all their textbooks, notebooks, pencils and calculators in large duffle bags.  They had access to a locker, but students felt carrying their locker in one bag from class to class was better.  In any case, they got their weight training in early.  It was during this time the Dean of Technology, Dr. Jerry Waite, and myself were looking into e-books, originally called, “e-readers.”  This was pre-kindle.  We both came to the early conclusion that if educational publishers ever took on the task of converting traditional paper textbooks to digital this could save a lot of weight.  However, would owning an e-book increase student reading skills, comprehension, and output?  Would it increase literacy?  Would it motivate students to read more?  We weren’t sure.

This article is a continuation in a series I am writing about regarding the Tools of the Trade.  Teachers have access to more teaching tools than any previous generation.  How to choose the best tool for the right job is still an important question.  There is no one tool that fits all.  Hopefully, these articles will open dialog and direction that in the end will benefit our students.

In the world of marketing, both online (Social Media) and offline (newspapers, flyers, and even business cards) media are encouraged in getting the message out.  Likewise, in education it’s important that we embrace the new technologies while continuing to evaluate what we gain and lose with legacy tools vs. digital tools.  Certain questions have come to mind, which I believe are being ignored or overlooked.

Question 1:    What improvements in learning are achieved by integrating new technology into the classroom?

Lest we forget, the classroom is a learning tool, and the classroom as we knew it has been evolving.  Today’s classroom can be a dynamic learning tool for discovery, creating dreams, and empowerment provided we address three conditions:

  • IF, all the elements in the classroom are interconnecting and engaging the
    young learner.
  • iF, the teacher has been well instructed on how to use and integrate the
    technology into the curriculum, and
  • IF, the teacher is willing to push the technology envelope to find more ways to
    reach student learning styles.

exam-20I have read a lot of articles about the “New Skills” today’s technology will teach our students.  But no one has ever taken the time to make a list of exactly what those skills are.  LAUSD spent $1 billion dollars to purchase 600,000 iPads and WiFi infrastructures for it’s school district.  The only public reason given for this purchase has been that the California State Standardized Tests under the new Core Curriculum will now be taken online.  So I thought, what new skills are needed to learn on how to click on a bubble, or type in your answer in an assigned box?

childworkingonipadA week ago, I visited a fifth grade math class.  The teacher had several multiplication problems on her Smartboard that were being copied by students using their iPads.  As I walked around the room I saw student after student using his/her finger to write the problem onto a blank screen and carry out the computation.  Students could use the same finger to erase by tapping on the appropriate icon.  As the students continued to work, I asked the teacher a question, “How has the student learning outcomes improved by replacing pencil and paper for the new digital device?”  She replied, “We haven”t had much time to evaluate that question.” She continued, “However, it has saved our school quite a bit on paper purchases.”  Was saving paper or student growth the most important reason to implement iPad technology into the lesson plan?

The efficacy is further hindered with yearly industry system and software upgrades along with district demands not only to learn the new technologies but finding new ways to integrate them into current curriculums.  All of this creating a learning curves for teachers that are almost vertical on the graph.

So, how is this problem to be solved?  Base on my research, these six foundation questions need to be answered first.

  1. How will the technology being considered improve the content to be delivered?
  2. What projects will be developed from the technology demonstrate student engagement and self-motivation?
  3. How will the technology create collaboration between students?
  4. How will student communication improve?
  5. What creative projects can be created, that will utilize both traditional and digital technologies in solving a unique problem?
  6. How will the technology help to encourage learning outside the classroom?

Second, better assessment tools need to be created, not on the technologies, technologies don’t have learning outcomes, but on student learning outcomes.
Third, programs need to be re-evaluated for school mission efficacy.  Our school missions are the light houses that represent who we are, and what goals we have agreed to work on for the betterment of our students, not state rating or scores.