Monday, June 12, 2017

Writing Services

Writing is central to Camplin Creative Consulting. While we certainly provide editing and proofreading services, we also provide a variety of writing services as well. We have experience helping authors write their books, and we have experience writing copy of various kinds, from corporate blog posts and white papers to product and property descriptions.

Minimum Fee:
We charge a minimum fee of $30 for all projects. We also require the total fee up front.

Face-to-Face Consultations:
We charge $30/hr for face-to-face consultations, which can include brainstorming, recommendations, etc.

Turnaround Rate:
Turnaround rate is negotiable, but would be a minimum of 5-7 business days from the date we receive your document.

Writing projects can be very complicated. Regardless of the length of the project, you will be expected to provide an outline for us to follow.  Guidance can be provided to you for the outline through the provision of a form which you can fill out. From that, we would write the polished piece.

Writing Fees:
10¢/word for any piece following an outline which you provide (e.g., $50 for 500 words)
20¢/word for any piece which we have to research (e.g., $100 for 500 words)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Kindergarten Curriculum

Kindergarten children should be taught how to play music, learn songs and nursery rhymes (yes, memorize them), and learn their numbers, letters, and sounds.


Kindergarten is the time to establish the most basic of foundations. You cannot do math without number, you cannot read without letters, and you cannot learn without memory.

Kindergarten children need to learn numbers according to number theory, according to the natural patterns into which our Arabic numerals fall:

  0    1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9
10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19
20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29

The pattern here is immediately obvious, and in my experience results in students learning their numbers extremely rapidly. The standard number line, which starts with 1 and ends with 10, completely masks this pattern, and slows children's learning down considerably.

We do of course have the Alphabet Song, but for some reason there are those who discourage its use. Discouraging its use is a great idea if you want to prevent children from learning their alphabet. Children need to completely memorize the song first, and then the teacher needs to have everyone sing the song as she points out each and every letter.

I have also come up with a little song/poem for the vowels:

A, E, I, O, U       ( / u / u / )
A E I O U           ( / u / u / )
All these letters are the vowels     ( / u / u / u /)
And sometimes Y is, too!             ( u / u /  u / )

 After each line I showed the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables to help with the rhythm.

Kindergarten children ought to be learning the names of things---objects and animals, in particular---and songs, nursery rhymes, fables and fairy tales (these latter two preferably in verse form) are ways of introducing the names of things, as well as address various moral subjects. Pictures should always accompany these, so that they can see that the words are indeed names of things.

So, for example, if you were to teach the fable of the fox and the grapes, have a picture of a fox and some grapes. And just start telling the story. When you get to the word "fox," point to the picture of the fox, and when you get to the word "grapes," point to the picture of the grapes. Don't tell them the words outside of the context of the story. It is the story which gives the words (and the objects) meaning. In a context of meaning, they will better remember the facts.

Also, if you choose to read/tell a story, that cannot be the one and only time you read or tell it. Rather, the students should memorize each and every story/fable/nursery rhyme. Spend the day learning the piece, and each Friday review each piece the students were to have memorized, as reinforcement. On Mondays, see how well the students memorized the pieces. If they haven't memorized them well, review until they do. This will take longer at the beginning of the year, but as students memorize more and more, their memories will improve, making memorization easier.

Memorization is important because memorization exercises and thus expands memory. And the stronger your memory, the more you can learn. Since the entire purpose of an education is learning, one should use any and all established methods of improving memory. And Kindergarten is the time to do it.

Kindergarten children should also learn music. Learning music has been tied to improved math scores, improved reading scores, and better learning outcomes overall. Further, they will reinforce the rhythmic literature and learning methods you will be using. So in a real sense, what we are talking about here is an education literally rooted in music.

Wood sticks are a good thing to start with because with them you can teach rhythm. You can then use them to emphasize the rhythms of the songs, etc. Use of these sticks---as well as keyboards, to which you should eventually move---will also improve movements and dexterity. The more in control of their bodies children are, the more self-control they exhibit in class. So training their bodies to move is an important aspect, all too often overlooked. Learning to play musical instruments will help students learn physical control over their own bodies.

So, too, will martial arts, and probably the best one to use in a classroom setting is Tai Chi, since it is slow and contained to a small location. Its slowness and the emphasis on paying close attention to both one's movements and one's breathing also makes it fundamentally meditative. The school day should begin with Tai Chi exercises to get everyone in the right physical-mental state to learn.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Poem Writing Services

I primarily consider myself a poet, and so it seems sensible for me to offer poem writing services.

If you need a poem written for a wedding, a party, a promotion, or an inauguration, we can work together on the content and style, and I can get to work on your poem.

I am primarily a formalist, meaning that I can write your poem in pretty much any style you would like, be it a sonnet, a villanelle, free verse, or even a limerick.

Poems are not written the same as prose, so the pricing is necessarily different.

$10 per line for the first ten lines
$5 per line for the next ten lines
$1 per line for each additional line

That means that a fourteen line sonnet will cost $120, a nineteen line villanelle will cost $145, and a five line limerick will cost $50, for example.

Since this is a creative project, I will retain authorship of the poem, but you will be buying the right to use and distribution. That means that if the poem is published elsewhere, my name will have to be on the poem itself, designating authorship. I will in turn refrain from publishing the poem myself, including on my poetry blog.

However, for whatever reason, there may be a desire for the authorship of the poem to be anonymous. Anonymity during the lifetime of the poet (me) can be purchased for a very significant fee. In addition, ghost writing of a poem, in which you claim authorship of the poem, can be purchased for an even more significant fee. In the case of a ghost-written poem, I, the poet, will divulge myself of any claim of authorship in exchange for the aforementioned fee.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Cost of Bad Writing

If businesses are spending $3.1 billion on remedial writing training for their employees, that means that far more money is being lost by those businesses because of poor writing skills. These losses are coming about because many of those who can write well--including those who, because of their superior communication skills, have moved quickly up the corporate ladder, and are therefore in positions to make business decisions--likely stop reading when the grammar and spelling mistakes become too much. Poorly written proposals, emails, etc. communicate that you are unprofessional and careless, and who would want to do business with such a person?

The problems extend beyond B2B losses. A poorly written in-house communication can result in lost time (and, as a consequence, money) because now you have to hunt down the author to find out what on earth they could have possibly meant; worse, using the wrong word could communicate the complete opposite of one's intention. So not only could time be wasted, but the author could even be telling you to do the wrong thing entirely. Both outcomes result in lost money and even lost opportunities. Bad writing is bad business.

Camplin Creative Consulting brings over a decade of expertise in writing composition training to our writing training program. If you have employees who need to brush up on their writing skills, we have proven methods to improve those writing skills. We go beyond mere intervention, where the writing coach tells the trainee what they are doing wrong, and use writing exercises that actively improve trainees' writing skills. With our combined use of exercises, interventions, and teaching grammar, logic, and rhetoric, Camplin Creative Consulting provides businesses with the kind of training their employees need to become better writers.

So if you find that you have employees who need to improve their writing skills, be sure to contact us at Camplin Creative Consulting today!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Lunch with Your Austism Spectrum Employee

You probably have that employee who just sits there quietly and does his or her work, but doesn't interact too much with anyone. When you decide to go out to lunch with your co-workers, you probably don't even think to ask him or her to come along. But you should. Believe it or not, they want to come along. They want to be social--they just don't know how to be social the way you are. Of course, if you decide to take my advice--or perhaps, you already asked before and had this happen--you will likely find the request turned down. You should do it anyway, and you should do it every time you are going out with your co-workers. The reason you are turned down can be many--it may be the person is anxious about going out with people who have never asked him or her to go, it may be that they are simply not up to it at that time, or it may be that they had something else in mind for lunch and they are resistant to changing it even though it is certainly possible for them to do so--but you should nevertheless keep trying. It may help to tell them the day before, or even earlier if possible, and tell them you don't need to know right then, so they have time to get in the mindset to want to go.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Four Quadrants for Success

Sociologist Randall Collins argues that for any endeavor to be successful, you have to pay attention to four quadrants: economic, political, social, and culture. That is, material and practical concerns, conflict and power, emotions and networks, and ideas.

These four quadrants may vary in relative importance, but all four must always be taken into consideration. The four can either reinforce each other and create a healthy system, or they can undermine each other and create an unhealthy system that may eventually collapse.

You also need to consider all four to have a complete understanding of the world. Leave one out, or insist that one dominates all others, and you have at best an incomplete understanding of the world.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The First Should Be Last and the Last Should be Somewhere In the Middle

When you write, you ought to be aware of the fact that some parts of your sentence, line, paragraph, and essay or article or email or whatever the entire document may be are more important than others.

Studies show that people better remember the end of a sentence, line, etc. than they do any other part. The beginning of the sentence, etc. is remembered second best. And the middle of the sentence, etc. is remembered least well.

This has implications for your writing. Of course, your standard sentence is structured such that the subject comes first, then the verb, then the object (at least, in English sentences are so structured). Sentences structured this way imply that the object is most important, followed, by the subject, followed by the action engaged in by the subject. Yet, there are ways in which we can vary our sentences. Also, take the sentence I just wrote. The fact that it begins with "yet" suggests that the comparison is important. In addition, I ended it with the word "sentences," suggesting that that is the most important part of the sentence. I could have written it "Yet, we can vary our sentences in many ways." In this sentence, "ways" is suggested to be the most important; specifically, "in many ways," as "ways" is part of a prepositional phrase. In the second sentence, the variation is emphasized, while in the first sentence, the topic "sentence" is emphasized. Which is more important? It depends on what you want to emphasize. What the subject/topic of your paragraph or paper may be.

Probably prepositions are not the most interesting or important words in your sentence. It is for this reason more than any that you should not end your sentences in prepositions. What should you end sentences with? With what you should end sentences? Which is more important? "With" or "sentences"? Which reflects the general topic of this post?

Do you want to emphasize action? Do you want people to act? There are probably ways you can rearrange your sentences so that your verbs find themselves at the end, where they can show that they are doing their work. Some languages, like German, make emphasizing the action easier because the end is where their verbs appear. English, of course, typically places verbs in the middle, suggesting action is not very important. To place it at the beginning or the end will emphasize the importance of verbs.

Given the way English is structured, you would think that adjectives -- the qualities things have -- are quite important, since we typically place our adjectives before our nouns. French, Spanish, and many other languages put most of their adjectives after the nouns, emphasizing the importance of the nouns over the qualities. So important are qualities that the immediate way one thinks of rearranging sentences to place adjectives after nouns results in the following:

The small, brick house . . .
The house was small and brick.

That revision actually makes the adjectives more importance, since they come at the end of the sentence! But consider this revision:

The small, brick house was nestled in the woods.
The house -- small and brick -- was nestled in the woods.

Here we emphasize "house," but at the expense of the fluidity of the sentence. We have to break it up, make it choppier.

The long and short of it is that whatever you most want to emphasize, you need to place it in either the first position, making it the first thing your reader reads, or in the last position, making it the final thing they read. Because whatever you end with is what they are most likely to remember.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Improve Your Energy, Improve Your Life

Scott H. Young has 10 Ways to Improve Your Energy. The suggestions range from ways to increase your physical energy -- by eating smaller meals, drinking plenty of water, and exercising more -- to ways to increase your mental and emotional energy.

Among the suggestions on how to increase emotional and mental energy:
  • Learn new things every day
  • Play games
  • Find a hobby
  • Inject your day with optimism
  • Align action with conscience (be the kind of person you admire)
  • Set goals
  • Find a purpose
In addition, Myrko Thum gives 5 ways to increase energy:
  • Breathing
  • Eating well
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Sleeping
  • Mental and Emotional energy (see above)
I include his because of his addition of breathing and sleeping. We know we need enough sleep -- we also ought to take naps during the day -- but we rarely think about good breathing. This is something that those who take yoga or tai chi know, however. Knowing how to breath correctly improves your energy. It's worth learning how to do.

In addition, there is increased attention to mindfulness. This is paying attention to what you are doing in the moment rather than doing things without thinking about them. The benefits of mindfulness are decreased stress and improved mental and emotional energy. Among the ways to improve mindfulness are:
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Listening to music (calming, slow-tempo)
  • Cleaning house
  • Observing your thoughts (rather than fighting them)
Also, check out this 60 Minutes piece by Anderson Cooper on mindfulness.

I could definitely improve on the physical energy front, I could probably learn how to inject my day with more optimism, and I definitely need to work on mindfulness techniques, but I think I am good on all the rest.

It is vital to have a great deal of energy to accomplish anything. Those with low energy will find that they not only do not accomplish much in life, but are generally unhappy with themselves, their lives, and those around them. 

How are you doing on these ways to improve your energy?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Writing vs. Speaking -- Two Different Brain Systems

It may seem strange at first that people can write sentences they would never have spoken. Yet, this is a phenomenon every writing teacher has encountered -- from pretty much every student, even if in different degrees. Well, it turns out that writing and speaking are different brain systems.

When I have taught students writing, I have always encouraged them to read aloud what they have written so that they can pick up on errors in writing they would not make when speaking. You can hear what you wrote wrong, but only if you read it aloud to hear it. I doubt many students ever listened to me. This research shows I was right to suggest this, and that they all should have listened to me. I hope readers of this blog will listen to the science.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Ideal English Major

If I were to design an English literature major, this is what I would require:

Fall Freshman:

English I -- Composition
Biology -- Human Biology
Western Civilization to 1648
Intro to Logic

Spring Freshman:

English II -- Intro to Literature
Western Civilization since 1648
Intro. to Philosophy

Fall Sophomore:

English III -- Composition/Research Papers
British History
The Bible as Literature

Spring Sophomore:

Creative Writing
U.S. History
Ancient Greek literature -- Homer and the tragedies

Fall Junior:

Roman Literature -- Aeneid and the plays
British Literature I -- to the Renaissance

Spring Junior

Shakespeare I --comedies and poems
British Literature II -- Renaissance to Milton
Continental European Literature
Comparative Religion

Fall Senior

Shakespeare II --  tragedies and histories
British Literature  III -- 18th and 19th centuries
American Literature I -- to 20th century
Literary Theory

Spring Senior

British Literature IV -- 20th century and Anglophone literatures
American Literature II -- 20th century
World Literature

There should of course also be classes offered on different periods of poetry and plays and novels, specifically. And on different authors. So that students can begin to specialize. We have to realize, though, that specialization ought to take place in grad school, while undergrad school ought to be a broad survey so students can learn what is out there and find what they are really interested in.

You will note that I have included classes in the social sciences, philosophy, and religion. These classes will give students potential interpretive frameworks. The literary theory class will then show how past theorists have applied knowledge from other fields to understanding literature.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Some Thoughts On Partnership

What is a partner?

We use the word "partner" in a variety of contexts. We have business partners, life partners, sexual partners, creative partners, etc. We often refer to our spouses as our partners, which is where we get the term "life partner." I suspect that the healthiest marriages are those in which the couple consider each other to be partners. Sometimes these different kinds of partners overlap. Obviously one's life partner is going to be one's sexual partner, but it is not uncommon for one's life partner or spouse to be one's business partner as well.

Since this is a consulting blog, let's concentrate on business and creative partners.

The word "partner" comes from the Middle English parcener, meaning "joint heir." That is, the partners inherit things together. That may be a literal inheritance of property or money, the inheritance of offspring, or the inheritance of a co-created work or business. ME parcener is in turn derived from from Old French parçonier, which means "partner, associate; joint owner; joint heir." When you own things in common, you are partners. The word "own" is derived from the
Old English āgen ‘owned, possessed,’ past participle of āgan ‘owe’; Old English āgnian ‘possess,’ also ‘make one's own’. So the concept of ownership needs to be understood as being related to what one owes. Ownership implies debt. Co-owners are, thus, co-debtors. They are indebted to each other because they each possess what the other possesses. Coincidentally, the word "ought" comes from the Old English āhte, which is the past tense of āgan ‘owe'. Thus, debt, morals, and possession are intimately related to each other.

A partner, then, is someone so completely involved in each others' lives that they are in debt to each other; they are joint possessors. In relationships, that means, among other things, that they possess each other. In business or create endeavors, that means the partners share possession of what they created. And they behave morally toward each other. Without this equal debt to each other, without equal ownership, there is no partnership. Those partnerships that fall apart reflect inequalities within that partnership -- they reflect the unequal ownership of what was created. In other words, if you want to create and maintain a healthy partnership, you have to make sure that you are equally invested.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Project-Based Learning

As a project-oriented person, I was excited to learn about Project-Based Learning (PBL). If you haven't heard of it either, it is exactly what it sounds like. Students learn through the practical creation of a project. Naturally, the projects have to be complex enough to include development of reading and writing skills, math skills, and various social skills as well as learn things about science and technology and society.

PBL involves collaborative learning, meaning students have to make use of collaboration and communication. Further, since there is a project, and the project has a goal and a process to achieve that goal, students have to engage in problem solving, which involves asking questions and coming up with a variety of answers, critical thinking, and creativity/innovation. If there is one thing that schools consistently do not teach, it is creativity and innovation. But with PBL, these things are explicitly taught and assessed.

But here is the bottom line: with a project and a goal to achieve, students are able to see the need to gain certain kinds of knowledge, to understand concepts, and to develop and apply necessary skills in order to achieve the project's goal(s) and create the project products or services. All of this makes it more likely the students will themselves seek out what they need to know, meaning they will be more likely to retain the knowledge. It is also hard to say, "I'm never going to use this knowledge," when you are learning it to use for your projects.

Suppose that you had students put on a play. You would have them read some plays to see how playwrights construct their plays. Then you could have them collaborate first on writing the play. That would mean the students would have to learn to write well -- and poorly written sentences will become very clear when the students read them aloud. This will result in revisions to clean up the play, to make it something you want to perform in front of people. Students would spend time discussing the plot and the characters, and would likely discover the importance of plot and character -- and well-written dialogue. Motivation of the characters introduces elements of psychology. And if the story is based on a historical figure, the students could do research into the time and place and people of that time period.

A historical time would also result in investigations into the architecture and dress of the time, since sets and costumes have to be made. The sets would have to be designed -- meaning math would be needed for all the measurements necessary to create the sets. Math is also needed for creating costumes, since you have to measure your actors to fit them and make some basic calculations to make sure everything fits properly.

Then there would be practice, acting, directing, etc. Putting on a play is fundamentally collaborative.

And we must not forget that the play must be advertised and sold, so students would also be introduced to elements of economics.

We can see the extent to which such a project encompasses practically everything students need to be learning. We have reading, writing, arithmetic, history, psychology, and economics, just to name a few -- and this is ignoring some of the practical skills, such as carpentry and sewing and management. Who wouldn't learn in such an environment?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Repetition Good; Synonyms Bad

One of the worst pieces of writing advice I have ever received was from my high school teachers. I was told that you should never repeat words or phrases, but look for synonyms. Of course, if you have actually ever read anything, you will see the greatest writers repeating words and phrases all the time. That is because repetition creates meaning. And, more, there are really no such things as synonyms, as each word has subtle differences in meaning.

Unfortunately, most people do not read a great deal, nor do they continue on to graduate school to study writing, where you will learn this in a direct manner. I don't know where these high school teachers get this nonsense about synonyms, but if you want to be a bad writer, I strongly recommend you use nothing but synonyms and never repeat words.

One of the things you should do as a writing consultant is to help your client understand what good writing looks like. If they insist that they don't want repetitions, it is your job as a writing consultant to help them understand why this is wrong.

There are several reasons why avoiding repetition is wrong.
  • Repetition Creates Meaning: Repeated words are perceived as meaningful. I am not talking about words like "the" and "a," of course, but rather theme words like "repetition" and "meaning."
  • Repetition Creates Rhythms: There are a variety of ways to create rhythms, from the regular beats of formal poetry to repeated words. The latter are sometimes more complex, but they create patterns all the same. And when you have patterns, your brains pick up those patterns and remember those patterns. If you want people to remember your texts, you need repetition.
  • Search Engines Pick Up Repeated Words: Search engines search for number of precise words used. They do not pick up synonyms. Thus, for any online text, it is particularly important that you have important words repeated.
All of these are important things to consider when dealing with style. At the same time, I am hardly arguing for overuse of repetition. Nor am I arguing for redundancy. There is too much of a good thing, after all. But reasonable repetition is desirable, advantageous, and necessary. Overall, the advice of your high school English teacher has no place in professional writing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Value of Other Values to Business

Businesses exist in civil society, not just in the market economy. Thus, it is important to understand the values supported by other social orders within that society--orders such as the philanthropic order or the democratic order--if one wants to maximize profits.

A great example of this is reported here that corporations that engage in philanthropy can create goodwill that can overcome negative experiences with the company. That is, customers may ignore bad service if they like things the company is doing in the realm of philanthropy. Companies don't just need to accumulate physical capital and human capital, but moral capital as well.

In fact, the above linked research showed that when customers were given an opportunity to have a portion of their payment for their purchase go to a philanthropy of their choice (say, among three offered), customers were particularly forgiving.
"Offering customers a choice of their favorite good cause is a true win-win-win solution to the inevitable service failure," the authors conclude. "Customers win, firms win, and society as a whole wins."
A company can of course compete on cost and/or quality of their product or service, which is the typical way of doing things, but now they can compete on generosity--or at least aiding customer generosity--as well. Give yourself that extra margin over your competition, and help out your fellow man. Now that's a great way to profit.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Ideas

I am hoping this year to really develop and expand Camplin Creative Consulting. The first thing to note is that I am renaming Camplin Creative Consulting as Camplin Creative Consulting and Education Services. I will of course be providing consultation services, but I have decided that that is not the only service I want to provide. I want to expand my services into my full repertoire of expertise. Thus, I will be developing the following products and services:
  1. Writing Consulting Services
  2. Workshops for Business -- including "Leadership and Values" and "Asperger's, Autism, and Business"
  3. Educational Services -- including poetry writing classes and play writing classes
I have written on the idea of free-lance professors, and I think I ought to take myself seriously in that. I will be providing most of these services in person in the immediate future, with the intention of developing a large, interactive website.

I am very excited to be moving in this direction. I am very excited to provide these services. I think there is a desire for poetry writing, fiction, writing, and play writing classes among those who don't want to sign up for a university class. And I can do it cheaper, cutting out the bureaucracy. Most of this will have to be provided locally at first, but as I accumulate the capital I need, I will get my website up and running and make this a truly international offering. Personally, I cannot wait for that to happen.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Rhythm of Persuasion

A properly persuasive writer writes in such a way that people are persuaded without knowing what you're doing. People have to trust you, think you virtuous, and so you have to show you have the facts and that you've done your homework. People have to see your logic. People have to feel deep sympathy and empathy and love and hate with you. You have to paint a picture, make the picture vivid, full of things and people they can visualize. You have to tell a story.

I once presented a hypothesis about the nature of the universe and human nature to the Dallas Philosopher's Forum. I had only a week to write, prepare, persuade. I organized the theories I'd been working on for years into a world-hypothesis I knew would be quite controversial. After all, this was to be presented to philosophers, a group that's hardly known to all agree on everything (or anything). But I decided to use something from my bag of neuro-literary tricks. I wrote the presentation in iambic rhythm so the rhythm would sync up their brains and make my words persuasive well beyond the words' abilities. Thus, in a group that always questioned everyone, I did not receive a single challenge; rather, I received responses asking me the implications my ideas would have on art and literature, on ethics and society. So primed were all the brains there in the audience, my answers met with general agreement.

If you found this post to be persuasive well beyond what you perhaps, reflecting, think it should, perhaps that is because I told a story. And I wrote this post with rhythms most iambic.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Postive Brain Learns Best

Knowing about how the brain works -- and learns -- is valuable no matter what you want to teach. Of course, different subjects will have slightly different requirements, and writing is no different here.

In an interview, Judy Willis observes that a positive mindset makes learning much easier. This is true whether we are talking about writing or a new job's requirements.

One of the things she mentions is the inefficacy of "drill and kill." Too many interpret this as eliminating any and all repetition. However, without repetition, you cannot learn much of anything. Repetition is the soul of education. You repeat until you get it right. That's what it means to practice something. You have to repeat the same song(s) over and over and over and over and over until you learn the songs completely. Unless you do that, you will not and can not learn how to play the piano.

The issue is that learning has to be a positive experience if you want people to learn quickly and best. The right program will allow for the right kind of repetition and a positive learning environment. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Steven Pinker on Writing

Steven Pinker makes many of the same arguments I have on this blog about how to write well in an Edge interview. He points out that in order to write well, you have to be a reader and to learn, through reading, how to write well.
The first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose wherever you find it. That is, to read a passage of writing and think to yourself, … "How did the writer achieve that effect? What was their trick?" And to read a good sentence with a consciousness of what makes it so much fun to glide through.
There is much that writers can learn from psycholinguistics. The existence of rules is one. The flexibility of rules over time is another. Yet that flexibility is exactly that: over time. The rules are what they are at any given time. And, more, there are different rules for different audiences. Knowing what those are matter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Khabele + Strong Incubator

There is a new school in Austin, TX that I hope will become the model for schools around the world. It is called the Khabele + Strong Incubator. It is being run by Khotso Khabele and Michael Strong, and the school is in fact part school and part entrepreneurial incubator. The school is all about both expanding students' minds and students' experiences.

So why am I talking about a new school in a consulting blog?

Because this school is -- or, should be -- the future of not only education, but of each person's continuing education. Businesses need to foster such an environment if they are going to be successful. This school is a model for what businesses ought to be doing within the businesses themselves, for their employees, if they want to be successful innovators in a rapidly changing economy with rapidly changing technology.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Innovators are Rare

In Wired for Culture, Mark Pagel observes that the vast majority of people are not truly creative or inventive, but rather are copiers of others. And by vast majority, we mean something like 98-99% of the population mostly just copy what others do. There is certainly nothing wrong with this -- it is what makes humans so hypersocial -- but this does have implications for the contemporary work place.

If we are currently in a creative economy, this suggests that most of the work being done is going to be done by 1-2% of the entire population. And perhaps not even that many, since there are bound to be a high percentage of those people who are academics or autistic (and thus have a hard time holding down a job) or artists (or all of the above). So businesses are really looking at a much smaller percentage of the population who are going to be creative or innovative. This would suggest that they ought to be more open to tolerating the quirks of the creatives they need to succeed.

Think about it. To be creative or innovative, you have to challenge the way things are typically done. Most people hate that. This is why the most successful innovations have appeared to be mere slight changes in the way things are already done. Movies initially were filmed plays. Movie makers took something people were familiar with -- plays -- and filmed them. Once people were used to that, film makers could gradually turn films into what we now enjoy. And still, most movies still have play-like elements. And cinemas still look like theaters.

A firm full of innovators would likely fail. You need people who are just going to do what they are told all the time to do the day-to-day work and to keep the innovators from running off the rails with their new ideas. You want innovators working on the latest technology, not in the accounting department (innovators in the accounting department will get themselves, if not the entire company, in real trouble). But you have to expect your innovators to be different in their behaviors (such as being less social) from the vast majority of your employees.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Pattern Language for B2B

The world is full of patterns. With humans, many of those patterns can be quite complex. The economy, for example, exhibits pattens so complex that we have yet to fully understand them -- and we could never replicate them on purpose. Businesses also have patterns. We try to design certain patterns, but other patterns emerge naturally through human interactions. In organizations like businesses, we try to strike a balance between the two.

At Authentic Organizations, there is a great piece on Pattern Language for Generative Interactions in business. If there are patterns in businesses -- and there are -- then there will necessarily be both good and bad patterns. It is then important that we understand the good patterns, to encourage them, as well as the bad patterns, to discourage or redesign them. And we need the right language to discuss these patterns.

What do you think of their suggestions?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Interdisciplinary Teams

A popular thing for many companies to do is to create "interdisciplinary teams." I have noticed, however, that many of these so-called interdisciplinary teams are rarely in fact interdisciplinary.

For example, if you have a team that has a mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer, that is not an interdisciplinary team. To be an engineer, you have to master math and physics. The other two may bring in a few more details from their fields, but these three people are in fact all talking the same language and using the same basic methods. They are not an interdisciplinary team.

But let us say you have a team consisting of a psychologist, an economist, and marketing specialist. Now we are closer to having an interdisciplinary team. Here we have three people who in their narrow specialties may not have the least idea what the other two are talking about. However, this team is still not necessarily interdisciplinary.

What will make this team interdisciplinary? Integration. Without the ability to integrate the knowledge provided by each, you only have a multidisciplinary team. You can get some things done with a multidisciplinary team, but you will get far less than you could if you had someone to integrate their knowledge.

One way of integrating is to make sure at least one person on the team is an interdisciplinarian, having sufficient knowledge of the other two members' knowledge to be able to do the work of integrating. While such a person is in many ways ideal, they are also rare.

Another way of integrating is to bring in an interdisciplinarian -- someone who is trained to integrate knowledge from different sources and understand the different methods being used by each of the team members. This person acts both as a bridge among the different individuals and as an integrator of ideas and knowledge.

Unfortunately, while integrationists are necessary for your interdisciplinary team to be most successful, it is rare to have such a person on such a team. People talk about being interested in interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving, but rarely do you see people act on them. And when they do, more often than not they put together a multidisciplinary team rather than an interdisciplinary one. This may also be why there is less actual enthusiasm for interdisciplinary teams than the rhetoric would suggest. Multidisciplinary teams are not going to be very successful precisely because of communication problems among the specialists; unless you have an integrationist on the team, you cannot solve those communication problems, meaning your team will not be as successful as it could be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Self-Managed Workers Work Best and Most Efficiently

What is the difference between a good employee and a good worker? Too many people think the two are synonymous. They are not. A person can be a good employee and not a good worker, and vice versa. A good employee is someone who shows up on time, rarely if ever takes sick days, does everything exactly as they are told, etc. However, that does not mean that the person is a good worker. A good worker is someone who is productive, who returns more value to the company for which they work than they get out of the company, who does what it takes to get the job done right, etc.

Most management styles favor employees over workers. However, there is a new management model that favors workers over employees.The bottom line is this: provide goals, and allow the people who work for you to figure out how to achieve those goals. Rather than requiring everyone stick to a strict schedule (other than for things like opening the business at a given time), let people figure out the best way to become profitable. Rather than micromanaging everyone, give people the freedom to find the right (or wrong) paths.

The funny thing is, I am willing to bet that any company's managers who did this would find themselves quite surprised at how many of their great employees are in fact terrible workers -- and vice versa.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Daydreaming Your Way to Greater Productivity

Annie Murphy Paul has an insightful blog post on how to be more productive. It turns out that the answer is not to work harder -- we already work extremely hard -- but, rather, to give ourselves time to daydream.

Now, you're probably thinking, "My employees are caught daydreaming quite enough, thank you! And not a one of them is more productive!" Well, those employees are probably not actually daydreaming; no, they are probably in fact just thinking of something else rather than their work. They are not daydreaming, but rather engaged in focused thinking -- they are just not focused on their work.

No, when you are in fact daydreaming, you are allowing your brain to go into "automatic" mode. Your brain is quite active during this mode, but quite different parts of the brain are active vs. when you are focused and concentrating. When you are focused, you are less likely to make creative connections. Creativity requires your brain to be allowed to wander and connect bits and pieces that are anything but obvious.

It turns out that nondirected meditation works similarly and, therefore, is a better form of medication than is directed meditation.