5 rules for productive conflict

TED Blog

Margaret Heffernan speaks at TEDGlobal 2012

Rob Manning did everything in his power to screw up the Curiosity rover’s landing on Mars last night. Manning not only cut radio signals to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s control room, but also simulated a hole being poked in the rover’s fuel system and solar flares flying toward the spacecraft.

Why would he do this?

Because he is the chief engineer for the rover mission, and wanted his team to be able to handle any worst-case scenario.

“Being a gremlin allows me to soul-search and look at all the things that I missed,” Manning told the Chicago Tribune in the days before last night’s landing.

Manning’s mischief would certainly get a thumbs up from management expert Margaret Heffernan. In a thought-provoking talk given at TEDGlobal 2012, Heffernan shared a counterintuitive lesson learned in her years running businesses and organizations — that conflict and opposition are essential for good thinking.

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What I’ve learned: Life Hacks

American Vagabond

002564a5d684112547f34aI could easily write a list of awesome badass “Life Hacks”. A “Life Hack” is a time-saving, money-saving, productivity inducing, or just sanity giving “tip” to help you live your life better. These are usually tips that you already know but have no actual interest in implementing. For example, you already know that spending oodles of time on FaceBook is lame, useless, and bad for your soul – but you do it anyway. You already know that drinking pop (even diet) is bad for you, but you drink it anyway. You are well aware that you could save money (and time and your soul) buy not stopping at Starbucks for your morning latte-chino, but you do it anyway. And, you already know that television is shit, that cable companies gouge your pockets and rob you blind, but you still insist on keeping 1-4 T.V.’s in your home equipped with all…

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Some Terrible Advice I got in College

Great post!

A Step onto the Road

Back in the days when I was a fresh young teacher, full of ambition and determination, I soaked up any bit of extra knowledge from the expert teachers around me. Any advice, no matter how ridiculous it sounded, I would try. 

After a while, I began to realize the absolute insanity of some of the advice. Some things I was told turned out to be the opposite of what a teacher like me ought to do. So, if you are looking for tips on teaching, look elsewhere. Or better yet, do the opposite of what I was told.

The infamous terrible tips of my yesteryear:

1. Don’t smile for the first few weeks. I know this advice is given with the best of intentions. The common saying is, “You can ease up later, but you can’t take back control.” That is false. No one wants to start a year with…

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The Emotional Component of Intellectual Work

As a Feminist, I am acutely attuned to the emotions or lack thereof when dealing with others.  I have researched gender roles and am continuing this work, I may even begin a new blog on this topic, considering it is not about my more Civic Engagement type of work that I am planning to do.  Point being Civic Engagement= nice, calm, sort of “girly” and Research= not pretty, sort of “masculine”, not calm in the least.  Now I am not talking about research in the sense of circulating surveys and grinding out numbers and graphs, etc… I am talking about qualitative, on the “streets” work that led me to opening doors that many would prefer to keep closed and locked and preferably moved to Cuba.  Now this is not the stuff of superheroes, it is the stuff of Sociologists.  We are supposed to go to the “other side of the tracks”, to understand subcultures even the violent ones, we are just well…we should do it although not all us have taken this road.

So cue in the everyday life of someone (A Sociologist or other research person); we have an idea in our heads, but have realized we have no pen and paper to write down said ideas.  In comes a jovial, bouncing neighbor or fellow parent or anyone who leaves their job at the job.  I am sure we seem aloof and sometimes even rude when we are contemplating such things as terrorism or violent gangs and we are asked about a bake sale.  Similarly confusing to “normal” people are the times I have claimed to be “too busy” to do X or Y and I am spotted in the bleachers watching one of my sons doing athletic training, practicing, game playing, etc… and going to games is important, sure but going to practices and other events, no not even necessary.  To me it is however, as I watch their male coaches and trainers coach and train.  Their lack of emotion (except sometimes anger), use of metaphors such as “you are athletes, not horses!” when they are stomping around, and all around command of respect and space is something to learn from if you have a penchant for sports, leadership, and gender in no particular order or possibly one but not all.

One may have an erroneous idea that coaching sports (especially ones considered more violent and less aesthetic such as football and martial arts) requires no intellectual work and that it is all yelling and throwing chairs and such.  This is quite untrue as these sports are a science and an art, respectively and emotion is expected as a motivator; simply put it is a role and a necessary one.  Enter in female teacher and the opposite is expected by most Feminists; intellectual work is supposed to be all that is on display while emotions are not supposed to be added at all. Now not all Feminist teachers believe this to be true, but they do (rightly so) realize that women are viewed as being “overly emotional” i.e. hysterical or teary-eyed or more concerned with making people “happy” rather than successful.

Stereotypes do nothing positive for either men or women. But it is quite possible to use emotion as a woman in intellectual work, as well.  This emotion does not have to be of the “chair throwing” origin, but it is what I call “fake anger’…I see coaches using it quite a bit.  Now sometimes they are legitimately angry, but in the “pre preseason” as it is now for football; I see that fake anger used for two objectives (1) expect some actual anger later in the preseason and (2) I am trying to motivate you and being nice is not a motivator when push-ups, running, and other not fun activities are involved. So yes this can be translated to women in teaching or any leadership role sans the actual angry which is always counterproductive.  (A) fake anger is good in that it prepares students for the “real world” where people are not going to always be nice and (b) it motivates students to do some work that they may have to do to fulfill prereqs that they may have no interest in doing.  Of course, you have to still “coach” by praising outstanding performance and have some fun here and there.  But the point is when we think of women as emotional, the angry side is often looked at as a transient “she must have PMS this week” type of thing.  Consistency is key and I will attest to this in my classes and in my parenting of 3 boys as a single parent.

I can and will be nice, step out of bounds and I won’t be, it really is that simple.  When I feel legitimately angry, I pull out pen and paper and write, literally write “do not freak out on Jordan for being disruptive in class, count to 10…oh still mad at him? count to 20”, then I shoot “Jordan” a look and move on… same thing at home. Stay in the bounds of acceptable behavior and all will be well, step out and it will be a boot camp situation.  In hindsight, dealing with all the myriad issues of having my oldest son start high school and the middle son start junior high, has been a trial.  The oldest has went from being disruptive and failing to honor roll at this point, the middle one; well his angry outbursts ended when I got radical and took him to the ER, knowing the charge nurse was a fellow parent of kids his age.  After getting a counseling referral and telling him in no uncertain terms “if you want to go to counseling to have people feel sorry for you, you will never be an adult that can function on your own- stop feeling sorry for yourself”. It has worked.  He is also honor roll and doing great.

One final statement on this, Feminists stop, just STOP acting as if parenting is something that is taboo in your world.  Yes, I get it believe me, it sets up back 50 years if all we talk about is our kids, and swap recipes, and read People magazine.  But don’t deny the fact that if you can’t run a “tight ship” at home, don’t expect anyone to think you can run anything else.  Also some might assume that your husband (even if you hyphenated your name or kept your maiden name and the rest of us are confused as to whether you even believe in having children) is doing all the discipline at home then.  No, we can’t have it all, but we can do emotional and intellectual work simultaneously and be better people for it.

Why Journaling as Therapy may not Work for Everyone

Writing a journal as a form of “self-help” is a common homework assignment given by therapists.  I am not in therapy, though I utilize self-help techniques to become a better person~a blissful person as this blog reminds me… However, writing as self-help has never been something I could do in any medium, although I have never tried with a typewriter and maybe that is the trick, who knows? When I type on a computer, I always search for a “theme” for my feelings which then translates into a thesis, which then leads to references to cite why I am having X emotions at Y time and why.  It becomes academic. It’s inevitable.

Worse is what transpires when I put pen to paper- or pencil or colored pencil or even crayon and yes, I have thought different writing instruments might supply different results. I end up analyzing the doodled mandalas I create attempting to find the secret meaning of that duck or anvil or what is that? Then I give up, move on to crayon or something else and some horrible haiku ensues that makes me question the artistic importance of haiku in the first place.  How can something so “choppy” be art? So I give up things like meter and rhyme or syllable count and just write with my marker or whatever new utensil I have found.

The rest was just a warm-up, I tell myself.  I then end up writing like a person with hypergraphia causing me to wonder if, indeed, I should be seeking mental health attention.  Then to my chagrin, I end up with some horrible Greek Tragedy of a past relationship that turns to a existential crisis with some major Freudian undertones that would make Freud himself blush.  This is rock bottom at this point, since life is apparently hopeless and tragic.  There is nothing left to do but grab a highlighter and some post-its and write self-affirmations like “it could be worse” “at least you don’t have cats” “whatever” “don’t put this on your mirror” “never do psychology on yourself again” “write only self-deprecating humor and/or academic pieces”…and so on.  Not quite self-affirmations, but it’s why writing as therapy doesn’t work for me.  But maybe I am just doing it wrong, where’s the typewriter….?

Tips for Trauma Fatigue

Being an informed citizen is important, knowing what is going on around us is essential to how we conduct our day to day activities.  From knowing whether to grab the umbrella or understanding the genesis of tragedies that happen in our communities and others, knowing what is happening can be helpful.  It can also be exhausting.  It was a week when passive media consumers and active first responders were all collectively begging that no more tragedies would happen; enough was enough.  While many of us were relieved to discover that the Boston bombing suspects had been taken dead and alive (respectively) either because we were obsessively following the story or we happened to come across it later on, tweets of an earthquake and of bird flu just kept rolling in. It’s enough to give a person “mean world syndrome” or even mild to severe symptoms of PTSD from constantly watching or reading about the events this past week and beyond.

1. Understand that a controversial label ; “media PTSD” has been suggested and children that watched footage of the 9/11 were found to have symptoms of the disorder.  Children should be kept away from images, but not a healthy and age-appropriate dialogue of what is going on around them.

2. It is quite common for people to feel a sense of helplessness when so many things around us seem to be going wrong. We can’t control what others do, but we can control how much media we consume and know when enough is enough.  We can also get our own family, work, and community affairs “in order” so that we don’t feel a domino effect of constant negatives.

3.  We can be helpful to other people in small to large ways, depending on our skill set.  Community Service is a win/win situation.  However, jumping on an internet platform to criticize or stir up controversy just confuses people.  Yes, Free Speech is a fundamental right, but who does that speech help?  If it is just a way of “venting”- find another way; like journaling or talking to a trusted friend.

4. Don’t lose sleep.  It is easier said than done if we believe a storm is going to hit in the middle of the night or if a story if developing and we are afraid we will miss something.  Occasionally there are times when we need to take the family to the basement if a storm is impending, but if you find yourself awake late most nights you may be overly vigilant and that isn’t good.  Talk to someone.

5. There is a difference between hypervigilance and having situational awareness.  Situational awareness is what we employ when we are “defensive driving”; knowing where the cars around us are, the speed limit, road conditions, etc… It is helpful and it keeps us safe.  Hypervigilance is irrational and keeps us on the “edge” when no real threat exists to us.

6. Take your own advice.  If you are a parent or have a career that dictates you care for and/or lead others, it is second nature to give advice and be helpful.  Sometimes those in the “helping professions” can feel better when they are leading and managing others, but we can’t lose sight of our own needs in the process.  Setting a good, strong example is a positive, but we have to take care of our own needs and acknowledge when we are not doing just that.

Now go turn off the computer and relax!

Jeremy Rifkin: Planet Meet your Emphatic Civilization (via jeremyrifkin1)

Rifkin is one of my new favorite writers at the moment- he and Saul Alinsky. Great blog here about this new book-worth a look or better yet an entire read!

Jeremy Rifkin: Planet Meet your Emphatic Civilization Jeremy Rifkin—author and advisor, lecturer and teacher, and global columnist—embedded his cemented social observations, thoughts, and insights in a book entitled The Empathic Civilization. From Neil Perkin Mirror Neurons In this platform for critique, concepts, and commentaries, Mr. Rifkin takes off from the discovery of mirror neurons in humans. “We are actually soft wired to experience another’s plight as if we are experiencing it ourselves,” h … Read More

via jeremyrifkin1