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Silos and Silo Mentality

Published on July 18, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Because I live in Kansas, I am very familiar with silos. They dot the landscape and are often the subject of fine art work and photography.

Silo Print by Justin Marable

Because I interact frequently with managers, I’m also familiar with silo mentality. Recently, I visited three clients. When I asked them about their greatest training need, all three mentioned silo mentality. One, a director of a local health department said: “I just wish people would say they work for a great health department, rather than a great program.” Another client complained that people in one program often disparage the importance of other programs. This isolated thinking by teams is lateral silo mentality.

Another form of silo mentality is vertical silo mentality. This is characterised by  mistrust between management and staff. Again a client mentioned mistrust and a lack of understanding between “upstairs” and “downstairs.”

In his book Group Genius, Keith Sawyer discusses “Collaborative Webs,” which he demonstrates are responsible for the majority of innovation and creativity in our economy. Obviously any organization plagued by silo mentality will not feature collaborative webs, and will become stagnant.

How to deal with silo mentality. At Laugh2Learn. We have developed creative play exercises designed specifically to address the problem. Like all of our programs, they are guaranteed to be fun, and effective. If they don’t do what you expect, you don’t pay.

Let’s break down those silos!

 
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No buts about it!

Published on July 10, 2012 by in Uncategorized

The most important concept in improv based training is “yes, and.” We contrast it with “yes, but.” The point is that “yes, and” invites progress. And while saying “yes” is good, implying acceptance of your conversational partners idea,  “Yes, and” not only accepts the idea, it builds on it. This is the soul of creativity and teamwork.

 

Yesterday while re-reading Kat Koppett’s Training to Imagine,  I came upon a bit of wisdom that enhances the notion of “yes, and.” She noted that the word “but” is a verbal eraser. It negates whatever comes before it. Think about it.

  • I don’t want to change the subject, but …
  • I’m not racist, but …
  • I’m not one to criticize, but…
  • I like your idea, but …
  • Sorry, but

In every case, the  “but” completely negates the previous statement. Did you ever hear anyone say, “I don’t want to change the subject, but …” when they didn’t change the subject?

 

“I’m not racist, but…” is always followed by a racist comment; “I’m not one to criticize, but” is always followed by criticism; “I like your idea, but” is always followed by rejection of the idea; and, no one who is truly sorry begins a statement with “sorry, but.”  (I’m tempted to say that anyone who says, “Sorry, but,” is a sorry butt.)

In a sense, saying “but” is an easier way to say “no.” If a coworker comes to you and says, “We should do something to improve morale.” And you say, “Yes, but we can’t afford the time.” You have in effect said “no.”

 

For years I have been telling students in my management classes that the world can be divided into two classes of people: People who try to find a way to say “yes,” and people who try to say “no.” Katt Koppett, points out that the “yes people” find adventure, and the “no” people find security. I’m sure that is true. There is danger in trying new things, and there is security in the predicable. And while security seems, well secure, the environment is changing rapidly, and those who resist change are likely to find the status quo they cling to so stubbornly will soon be irrelevant.

 

So if saying “no” has the advantage of security and the danger of obsolescence, what are the advantages and danger of saying “yes?”

Of course the advantage is adventure. Those who say “yes” will find adventure. They will grow, they will be creative. The downside is the danger of failure. But is failure something to be feared? In improv based training we respond with a resounding “no.” We celebrate failure, because it is the byproduct of trying. If we never fail it will be because we never tried.

 

 
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On Suffering

Published on June 16, 2012 by in Uncategorized

The Fall of Icarus

 One of my favorite poems is W.H. Auden’s  “The Old Masters”. It begins,

  “About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;”

It was inspired by his visit to a museum where among others he saw Bruegel’s “The Fall of Icarus,” of which he says:

“In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.”

 Over 15 years ago, I suffered a heart attack. When, after angioplasty, I went to the Intensive Care Unit, the Doctor told my wife there was no reason for her to stay, she could go home and get some rest.

 She said when she got outside the hospital and saw cars just driving blissfully up the street, she was angry. How could they be so ignorant of the drama in her life?

 I live on the flight path of the Life Flight helicopters. This morning, while I was blissfully drinking my coffee a helicopter flew over. I took just a moment to notice that a life or death struggle was taking place right over my head. I wondered about the injured, or ill, person; about his or her family; about the health care professionals working to save a life. I wondered for an instant then returned to my coffee.

 I’m reminded of another poem, this one by John Donne: 

 “No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.”

Monday I will have long awaited surgery to replace my arthritic left knee. Many people have told me they will be praying for me. I’m not sure whether God will intervene in the surgical procedure, but it pleases me to know that I will be on someone’s mind.

 
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No buts about it!

Published on June 13, 2012 by in Uncategorized

The most important concept in improv based training is “yes, and.” We contrast it with “yes, but.” The point is that “yes, and” invites progress. And while saying “yes” is good, implying acceptance of your conversational partners idea,  “Yes, and” not only accepts the idea, it builds on it. This is the soul of creativity and teamwork.

Yesterday while re-reading Kat Koppett’s Training to Imagine,  I came upon a bit of wisdom that enhances the notion of “yes, and.” She noted that the word “but” is a verbal eraser. It negates whatever comes before it. Think about it.

  • I don’t want to change the subject, but …
  • I’m not racist, but …
  • I’m not one to criticize, but…
  • I like your idea, but …
  • Sorry, but

In every case, the  “but” completely negates the previous statement. Did you ever hear anyone say, “I don’t want to change the subject, but …” when they didn’t change the subject?

“I’m not racist, but…” is always followed by a racist comment; “I’m not one to criticize, but” is always followed by criticism; “I like your idea, but” is always followed by rejection of the idea; and, no one who is truly sorry begins a statement with “sorry, but.”  (I’m tempted to say that anyone who says, “Sorry, but,” is a sorry butt.)

In a sense, saying “but” is an easier way to say “no.” If a coworker comes to you and says, “We should do something to improve morale.” And you say, “Yes, but we can’t afford the time.” You have in effect said “no.”

For years I have been telling students in my management classes that the world can be divided into two classes of people: People who try to find a way to say “yes,” and people who try to say “no.” Katt Koppett, points out that the “yes people” find adventure, and the “no” people find security. I’m sure that is true. There is danger in trying new things, and there is security in the predicable. And while security seems, well secure, the environment is changing rapidly, and those who resist change are likely to find the status quo they cling to so stubbornly will soon be irrelevant.

So if saying “no” has the advantage of security and the danger of obsolescence, what are the advantages and danger of saying “yes?”

Of course the advantage is adventure. Those who say “yes” will find adventure. They will grow, they will be creative. The downside is the danger of failure. But is failure something to be feared? In improv based training we respond with a resounding “no.” We celebrate failure, because it is the byproduct of trying. If we never fail it will be because we never tried.

In almost every training we do at laugh2learn the opportunity arises to celebrate failure. Usually it’s when someone says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand,” or something similar. At that point we interrupt whatever we are doing to talk just a bit about failure and why it is so destructive to be ashamed of it. If you haven’t failed, you’re not trying enough new things.

We then get into a circle and I invite participants to step forward and announce their failures and we all cheer. I am amazed that almost always at least two-thirds of the participants want to announce a failure. At a recent training at an academic institution where students and faculty were participating together, a professor stepped forward and announced that he had submitted many articles that were never published. We all cheered, and I think the students really appreciated hearing of a professor’s failure.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Hear what Michael Jordan had to say about failure:

 ”I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So, be bold. Take a risk. Take the shot. Sometimes you will fail. Celebrate that. It means you were trying.

Accept your coworker’s suggestion. Say “yes, and …” Will you find adventure and progress? Yes! Will you sometimes fail? Yes!  Will the balance be a fuller, more productive life? Yes!

No buts about it.

 
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More lessons from my knee.

Published on June 5, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I continue to learn from my gimpy knee. Last week we took our family vacation at Universal Orlando. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rest of the gang hobbling along with my cane so, much as I hated to do it, I rented an Electric Courtesy Vehicle. I did feel a bit the geezer scooting along, but I was able too keep up with the family, and had a pretty good time.

Yours truly on my electric courtesy vehicle

One of the key points in Laugh2Learn’s keynote, “Rx for Stress: Laughter Plus Control,” is that we should choose our focus. I am often reminded of the wisdom  I saw  on the wall of a donut shop in Los Angeles in 1960:

As you go through life my friend;

Whatever be your goal;

Keep your eye upon the donut;

And not upon the hole.

So here’s the hole: I look like a helpless old fart.

But consider the donut:

  • I can keep up with my family
  • This is temporary until I get a new knee
  • I got to go to the head of every line I got into!

Oh yeah! Every line, and what’s more when my family was with me, we all got to go to the head of the line.

So what if I may look like a helpless old fart? I’m on the ride and you’re still standing in line.

Life can almost always be better if you choose your focus.

 

 

 
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Make a joyful noise

Published on May 15, 2012 by in Uncategorized

I am blessed with granddaughters, and one of the most wonderful things in my life is hearing them giggle. It is spontaneous and joyful. It makes me happy. I”m sure that all of my adult friends were, at sometime, happy giggling children. What happened? Somewhere, in the process of becoming “adults,” we lose our joy, our ability to laugh freely, to cherish playing.

One of the joys of teaching improv based classes is helping people rediscover the joy of play; to help them realize they can learn through laughter.

My friend and colleague at Carolina Improv points out that there is a difference between being childish and being childlike. We can rediscover the inner child and enjoy laughter and playing while remaining responsible adults.

I am always amazed at how readily adults embrace playing and laughter, once they recognize it’s acceptable. Once they realize it’s ok to play they soon begin to learn through their play.

Laughter is the most joyful noise I know of, and learning to re-connect with that laughing, giggling, child is a great way to resume learning.

Make a joyful noise! Laugh out loud! You will feel better, and you will learn important life lessons.

 

 
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Three legged training

Published on May 11, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Since I have been struggling with an arthritic left knee, I haven’t been aggressively marketing Laugh2Learn services. Just wasn’t sure how it would work to do improv with a cane. (Even a classy one!) But, yesterday I had a previously scheduled gig with Garner Remodeling here in Topeka. I had an absolute ball, and I’m pretty sure I have a satisfied client.

So, I’m going to run a special: Anyone who would like any of my training between now and June 18, if you can tolerate a gimpy facilitator, the you can have 50% off. Yep, half price, and remember, it’s still 100% guaranteed.

 
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What I learned from my knee

Published on May 8, 2012 by in Uncategorized

We have all heard of “learning at someone’s knee,” but I’m talking about learning from my knee, my left knee to be precise.

You see, my left knee has developed arthritis. (Fortunately, it’s osteoarthritis not rheumatoid arthritis.) It started hurting last summer and I thought I’d just ignore it and it would go away. (The pain, not the knee.) To tell the truth, I avoided talking to my doctor about it because I was afraid he’d tell me it was arthritis. Dumb? Dumb.

So, finally, last fall, I consulted my primary care doctor who referred me to an orthopedic doctor who diagnosed me with . . . arthritis! But like most good doctors he recommended conservative treatment, first a cortisone shot, then arthroscopic  surgery, then, if no relief, total knee replacement.

Total knee replacement? No way.  Not me. I’ll be fine.

But the conservative approaches didn’t work, and the pain kept getting worse, so I decided to seek a second opinion. Second opinion: total knee replacement.

By this time it’s spring, and we have a family vacation planned. Given the doctor’s schedule and our vacation plans, no new knee until the middle of June. But I will get a new knee.

Now, lessons learned:

  • It’s really dumb to avoid seeking medical help because you are afraid of what the diagnosis might be.
  • Pain will win over pride. When discussing how to deal with the sore knee, the doctor said walking with a cane would help. No way. I’m not going to hobble around like an old man with a cane. Wrong! The cane helps.

    My Cool Cane

  • If you are going to have to have a cane, get a classy one. I didn’t want to get a cheap, old man cane. I couldn’t afford a classy antique cane. So, I asked my son, Glenn, to make me one. I now have the coolest cane in town.
  • Drugs are not the answer. When over-the-counter pain medicine didn’t give me the relief I wanted, I tried prescription pain medication. The pain was tolerable, but who was I? I slept most of the time, and when I was awake I felt groggy. No way. I’d rather be me in pain than some zombie whose knee doesn’t hurt. Now with a combination of Tylenol, Ben Gay, a cane, and adjusting my activities, I have achieved a level of pain I can live with.

The family vacation is coming up; it’s only six weeks until I get my bionic knee. In the meantime, in the words of the concluding number of the “Great American Trailer Park Musical” that I saw at Topeka Civic Theatre last week, I’ll “Just make like a nail and press on.”

 
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Vamos a jugar

Published on April 20, 2012 by in Uncategorized

English is a tough language to learn if you don’t learn it as a child.

I have just come to realize how difficult it is since I’ve been teaching English as a second language at Vida, here in Topeka.

Like, who knew that the past tense of regular verbs varied in pronunciation.

Think about it:

  •  “walked” is pronounced as though it ended in “t;”
  •  “added” is pronounced as though it ended in “id;” and
  •  “smell” is pronounced as though it ended in “d.”

So you can imagine the blank looks and frowns I saw on my ESL students as I tried to explain all this.

Until I said, “let’s play a game!”

We divided into teams and played a “College Bowl” type game in which teams took turns pronouncing past tense of English regular verbs.

Within minutes the room was filled with chatter, laughter, smiles,  and . . . learning!

Suddenly, people were willing to take a chance. When someone pronounced “worked” “work-id” and lost a point, we all laughed. But we will also all remember how to pronounce “worked” in English.

Our slogan here at Laugh2Learn  “A classroom without laughter is a classroom without learning” is probably not always true. But there can be no doubt that laughter is a powerful teaching tool.

Vomos a jugar!

 

 
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Improv: Improvement and Entertainment

Published on April 10, 2012 by in Uncategorized

Last week was a very good week for Laugh2Learn. Thursday we worked with the Shawnee County Sheriff’s leadership team, and Friday and Saturday were Laughing Matters performances.

I don’t know why, but I was a bit  anxious about working with the Sheriff’s team. I shouldn’t have been. The deputies were very receptive and we had a great time, and when it was over, the Sheriff offered to be a reference to other law enforcement agencies. I’m sure he did so because in his opinion we had accomplished the three objectives we had set for the session:

  • Build/strengthen sense of community;
  • Improve communication skills;
  • Improve creative/problem solving skills

Friday and Saturday night were Laughing Matters performances. For me the only thing that competes with the joy of teaching improv is the joy of performing. Where but an improv performance can one have the opportunity to play a geriatric movie director, the world’s worst Viagra salesman, and Christopher Walken auditioning for a role in Winnie the Poo? 

Saturday night, after the show, I had a very pleasant conversation with Kelli Stegeman of Kansas First News. So add to the benefits of improv the opportunity to meet new people.

 
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