From Nepal: Meet a 21st Century “Yoda”

From Nepal: Meet a 21st Century “Yoda”

There is so much to write about from the time here in Nepal; investigating local ICT4D projects, visiting various microfranchises, and co-coordinating the workshop on Technology, Creativity and Entrepreneurship.

Perhaps the most valuable thing for me personally, Clint and Mr. RadhaKrishnahowever, was meeting this great teacher who reminded me of a cross between the wisdom of Yoda, the persevering integrity of Gandhi, and the playfulness of Rafiki (from the Lion King).

Prof. Dr. Radha Krishna Kherwar is 72, but says he feels like he has the energy of a 16 year old. He could have had government positions, but instead dedicated his life to teaching — feeling that was the best thing he could do for his community and country. So he has produced for over 40 years engineers and doctors, government and civic leaders, students who go against the grain of corruption here in Nepal.

It was so refreshing to see his work, as so many of the countries I visit are stiffled in growth (regardless of amount of aid or natural resources) because of corruption.

Dr. Kherwar and I quickly bonded, and I wanted to share a little of this wonderful man’s words and philosophy with you here in this video. (please forgive the video work, I was multitasking as I was recording:)

As I was at the airport and getting ready to leave, he told me that although it was hard for us to separate, with love we are always connected.

– What are your thoughts about Dr. Radha Krishna’s philosophy on teaching and life?
– Of all your teachers, which one(s) was your favorite, and why?

On Taking Feedback

This blog post is brought to you by the letters J, A, S, O, and N.

There is an old screenwriter’s rule-of-thumb:

  • If someone reading your script tells you it has a problem, they’re probably right.
  • If they try to tell you exactly what’s wrong, they’re right half the time.
  • If they try to tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong.

Think about it – even the most casual consumer of stories has literally spent thousands of hours listening to them – in the movies, on television, or even sitting around the living room with Mom and Dad. All of us are experts at listening to stories, so when we hear a story that doesn’t work our expertise let’s us know. But fewer of us are experts at analyzing stories, and even fewer are expert at creating them. So our success at giving advice is those areas is more hit-and-miss. Not that we aren’t capable – just that we haven’t paid the price to learn how.

So the wise screenwriter listens with both ears to people’s reactions to a script, but ignores most suggestions on how to fix the problem, instead relying on his or her instincts.

Do these screenwriting tips translate into taking feedback in other areas of life?

Whose need comes first?

A small company in Utah recently went through a few rounds of layoffs. I bet you can repeat along with me how they announced it to employees.

  • It’s nothing personal, but . . .
  • Well, in these tough times sometimes you just have to . . .
  • The reality of 21st century business means we can’t be loyal for loyalty’s sake . . .

I’m sure you’ve heard it before. And I don’t want to come across as hard on them. Of course, sometimes these things are unavoidable.

But a friend of mine, between the second and third rounds of downsizing, decided he wanted to leave on his own terms. He found a great opportunity, and tendered his resignation.

Can you predict how the company reacted?

  • How could you?!?!?!
  • What ever happened to loyalty?!?!?!
  • You have no idea how tough it will be for us to deal with this!!!!
  • Is it really ethical to leave in this economic climate?!?!?

Again, so I don’t come across harsher than I intend, I’m sure they did consider my friend an invaluable asset, and were legitimately scared about what they would do without him. But yes, you read it right. When the company was the one being affected, out came the language of honor, dependability, and fidelity. When they were affecting others, the language was that of formality, neutrality, and everyone-for-themselves. It seems like a law of modern business.

But is it a law that we want to drive our economy? What is it that should drive our economy? Let me postulate that it isn’t the business need, but the human need that should be given priority. After all, weren’t the employees let go also counting on company loyalty? Won’t it be tough for them to deal with being laid off? And (dare I say it?) shouldn’t we think deeply about how ethical it is to let employees go in this economic climate?

This approach to business relations is not only evident in the employer/employee relationship. I’ve also noticed it in the field I’m most familiar with – education. Many schools, including the most prestigious universities, are starting to see themselves as little more than training institutes for big business (Businesses need well-trained employees, don’t they?). But we don’t ask about the consequences for the educational system, or ultimately the students who are being short-changed for life while they are being trained for jobs that might not exist when they graduate. I’ve even heard administrators who are reluctant to try innovative educational practices for fear of how their business partners would react (won’t it make it harder for them to select the most qualified employees?), rather than considering whether the innovation will help students develop into kinder, gentler, more compassionate people.

I want to live in a world where businesses value their employees not because of what those employees can do, but because of who those employees are. I believe that if employees trusted corporations to take care of them, they would take care of the corporation. After all, that’s what good relationships are about, aren’t they? Taking care of each other?

But I also believe there are virtues and behaviors that should be admired for their own merits, and not only when they are instrumental in achieving other, business-driven ends. Treating people right is just the right thing to do, even when it isn’t measurable by the latest Six Sigma Whatever. Aren’t we really interested in developing people who are capable of discovering and expressing the passion, wonder, and joy of the world? Shouldn’t we be?

Of course, it’s almost heresy to suggest this, isn’t it?

What do you think?

Joint-blogging: Introducing Jason McDonald

Joint-blogging: Introducing Jason McDonald

The world is full of interesting people. In the last week I met a fascinating Zen Buddhist master, known world-wide for helping develop something called “The Big Mind”, and a retired university professor who was on the delegation to Iraq after the war, the only one in that delegation who could speak the Iraqi dialect of Arabic (and was loved for it), and helped set up a fourth of the countries municipal/city governments.

Not the least of cool people to come into my life is Jason McDonald. Jason McDonald
I’ve known and been impressed by Jason for years — seeing him pass his PhD dissertation defense without any revisions (wow), always reading cool publications which were accepted because of the significant value they added, and I’ve just genuinely enjoyed conversations with him and his insights about life, learning, and the world.

We’ve talked about doing something together for a while, so in a recent mastermind group we talked about joint-blogging. I loved the idea of having him share some of his thoughts/questions here on this blog — and he graciously agreed to do it.

So I want to briefly introduce Jason to you, please give him a warm welcome. πŸ™‚

Introducing Jason McDonald:

1) Jason taught the first ever course at a university (that I know of) on “Using Media for Culture Change” — he’ll be teaching it again this fall.

2) He currently works as an executive producer, which is really just a big name for getting to spend all day thinking up cool ideas for how to use powerful elements of “story” to increase the impact of media and media campaigns.

3) Two embarrassing moments of his included:
(a). “There was a time my work passed around a thank you card for someone who had just bought the office a bunch of stuff. I was just supposed to sign it, but I thought the card was for actually me.” πŸ™‚
(b). “Or there was the time I slipped and fell into a construction ditch full of water by the side of the road. I split my pants once at work and stapled them back together until the end of the day. I guess there’s actually lots of embarrassing stories, aren’t there?” πŸ™‚


4) Some of the questions he is most interested in exploring with his research and work are:
– How can people best discover and express the passion, joy, and wonder they feel about the world?
– How can people remain focused on the essential goals and characteristics of the endeavors they undertake?
– What is the role of narrative, conversation, and ritual in human learning?
– How can people develop organizations, practices, or lifestyles that reflect their most important values?

Do you have any questions for Jason?
If, so feel free to post them here.
If not, please make a special effort to interact with him on the posts that he will share here.