Mistakes in Aid and Development (in Africa): Wanting to help, but making things worse

Mistakes in Aid and Development (in Africa): Wanting to help, but making things worse

I did something this last week that I immediately regretted and continue to feel bad about – wanting to help but honestly feeling as if the situation was worse after my arrival than before.
I’m asking for your thoughts in what I could have done differently.
Thinking about it, I have started to see the experience as an analogy for how aid/development is generally given and received in Africa.

The situation:
I was in a little village about an hour and a half outside Kampala, checking on some options of places that I can bring the participants of the upcoming TEDC conference. A friend of a friend was kind enough to offer me a ride back to Kampala, and so as a thank you I wanted to buy something to share with him.

Funny enough, we drove past the “American Super Market” American Super Market in Junja(which was run by people from India) so in addition to taking a picture, I went inside to look for something to share. I got some peanut m&ms, and just outside the store gave some to this friend, a girl he was talking to, and then just to be nice also to the guard sitting outside the front door.

Before I knew it, a dirty little pair of hands attached to a cute little dirty orphan popped out in front of me in a motion of wanting some too. orphans

My first thought was compassion, “Of course I want to do something nice for this little guy, when I have been given so much and he has been given so little, due to no fault of his own.” Just as I went to pour a couple in his hands, I was jostled as another pair of slightly bigger dirty hands pushed the other ones out of the way in order to try and catch the candy. Then another pair of dirty hands attached to a cute little dirty orphan joined them, and another, and another, until in what seemed like a matter of seconds, I was surrounded by hands and orphans. orphans 2A lot of them had left their places sitting on the street near the building and now surrounded me. (someone told me nearly one in four children in Uganda is an orphan, mainly due to AIDS – although most of them get taken into live with extended family, these ones looked like they lived on the street)

I quickly counted heads (15-20) and how many candies were left in the bag (about 11) – not enough to go around.

I looked over to my companion for some advice or help; he just shook his head at me (like “stupid mzungo”) and walked quickly across the street to the car to start it because he was in a rush to get back to Kampala.

I obviously looked confused and at this point the kids were kind of pushing each other for spots at the front so that they didn’t get left out.

My first thought was to simply do nothing and keep the candies to myself so that it would be “fair” (or at least equally unfair for each of them) – but that thought made me feel selfish and guilty.

I was trying to think quickly but my friend was already in the car and it seemed like more and more anxious kids kept coming over and surrounding me.

So I just light tossed the bag towards them while I broke free of the crowd and hurried across the street to get in the nice, comfortable, clean car.

I looked back just once to see what happened, and instead of the candies being spread as equally and fairly as possible among all the orphans, they had fought and struggled over them until one or two of the bigger kids won all of them and the rest got none.

By then we had driven away.

Maybe you can see now why this situation keeps bothering me.

My question for you:
What could/should I have done differently?

Feel free to give simple answers or ones in which you creatively think out of the box. And don’t be afraid to hurt my feelings either, I’m asking for your honest thoughts.

After I get some answers to these questions, I’ll share a bit about how it seems like an analogy for current aid/development situations in Africa in general. But for now, I’m just interested in how you think I could have done things different with this particular incident?

Meeting Mandela

Meeting Mandela

Being in Africa, and reading about so much corruption, I reflected Mandelaagain on meeting Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Time magazine (in their July issue) did a cover story on 8 lessons from his leadership principles. Coming across an interesting book in the Amsterdam airport about the history of Africa deepened my realization of how unique of an individual and leader he was. Much of the history of the African continent is a sad stream of leaders who have used their positions to exploit their people. In the case of Nelson Mandela it seems that the potential for absolute power did not lead to absolute corruption.

I read his biogaraphy “Long Walk to Freedom,” visited Robben Island, Clint Rogers and Nelson Mandelawhere he was a prisoner for over 20 years, and was later lucky enough to meet him at his home in Qunu shortly after his term as president had ended. His warm, welcoming personality and his self-depreciating sense of humor make him easy to like. His lack of bitterness over the harshness and struggle Clint Rogers and Nelson Mandelahe went through makes him easy to admire. Sure he’s not perfect, but how many other political leaders do you know of where people will spontaneously make up songs about how much they love him/her? I heard those songs on the streets of South Africa, and still hear people throughout Africa and the world praise his name – and I think for good reason. He is definitely one of my favorite world leaders.

Do you have any favorite leaders? If so, why?

The Questions We Ask: Reviewing 10 years of research on Cultural Attitudes Towards Technology and Communication for CATaC 2008

I wonder if anything has more impact on our future than the questions we ask?

First, if we take it on more of a micro-level, imagine going into any random meeting. You will see things differently and have a different experience if you are asking “How can I get out of this meeting as quickly as possible?” vs. “What meaningful things can I learn and/or contribute during this time?” vs “How can I make sure I don’t embarrass myself in this meeting like I did last time?”
The questions we ask reveal some about the assumptions we take into the situation, and also have an impact on the consequent experience we have.

As another simple example, when meeting a person imagine asking: “What does he/she think of me?” vs. “What is his/her life like?” vs. “How can I make this person’s life a little better?” vs “Why am I even talking to this person?”
Depending on which question(s) you are asking (consciously or subconsciously) you will most likely have a different perspective, experience, and outcome.

As I was conducting a review the last 10 years of research on papers presented at the bi-annual CATaC conference (Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication), I was again impressed by the questions we ask in a research context. They are all laden with assumptions (usually unstated) and have an impact on how the research is conducted – including what end up being the findings and recommended future research.

For this paper we looked at:
• Who is asking the questions? (where are they from, what discipline do they represent, who do they work with)
• What questions are they asking?
• How do they go about finding answers to their questions? (what literature do they cite, what methods do they use, what population do they sample, etc.)
• What answers do they find?
• What suggestions do they have for future research?

Additionally, I kept asking myself, what assumptions might they be making in the questions they address?

Even working with great colleagues like Javier and Brooke, it was a ton of work (reading at least some sections of all 199 papers) – but perhaps one of the best things I have done professionally or personally. I now have a better idea for what has already been done in this field, what gaps there are, and what lines of inquiry have been more fruitful than others. On another level, I am more conscious of the assumptions behind the questions I ask and the potential impact they might have. I wonder, out of all the possible options, are these really the most valuable questions?

Your thoughts/reactions?
• In your personal and/or professional life, have you ever had an experience where you noticed that when you changed the questions you were asking it altered the way you saw the situation?
• Do you ever stop to examine the assumptions you are making which led to the questions you are asking?
• Of all the questions you could ask, why did you pick the ones you are asking? Do you think they are the most important or valuable ones you could be asking or is it for some other reason?

As a side line of thought:
• Do you think we ask ourselves enough questions? Why as we age do we seem to lose some of the curiosity of children and ask less questions?
• If not all questions are created equal, how can I lead myself to asking better and better questions?

In memory of a true teacher and friend, Dillon K. Inouye: his thoughts on the central role of our profession

In memory of a true teacher and friend, Dillon K. Inouye: his thoughts on the central role of our profession

Most of us have been lucky enough to have had at least one great teacher enter our lives who somehow resonates with us and who changes the way that we look at ourselves and the world – awakening us from a sleep we did not know we were in.
Dillon Inouye Dr. Dillon K. Inouye, who passed away a couple days ago, was that kind of a teacher, mentor, and friend for me – literally changing the course of my life through the things I learned in his classes and from his example. Whenever I had a tough professional or personal question I could go to him and was constantly inspired and uplifted by his insight and perspective.

In honor of this great man, and also good teachers and friends everywhere (regardless of your profession), I wanted to pass on this link. It is to an article Dr. Inouye authored on Indiana University’s IDT Record concerning his perspective and invitation on what the central role of Instructional Design and Technology could be, and I think it also applies to all service oriented professions (as well as life more generally).

“Help: Toward a New Ethics-Centered Paradigm for Instructional Design and Technology”

“How should we define Instructional Design and Technology (IDT)? What is the meaning of our discipline? What is the meaning of our profession? A first step toward answering this question would be to determine which of our many goals and purposes is our central, or ultimate, end. What is our central mission and toward what should our efforts be directed? Until we could agree on a central concern, defining our field would be impossible. An inability to define IDT would be unfortunate, indeed, for no other success could compensate for a discipline’s failure to understand its fundamental nature and reason for existing. “If one does not know to which port one is sailing,” said Seneca, “no wind is favorable (1969).”

This article invites the discipline and its profession to consider a new alternative for the central concern of IDT. To establish a context, it first reviews three traditional centers of concern. It then proposes a fourth alternative so apt and so obvious that it is almost invisible. The article then uses Aristotle’s categories of the rational intellect to highlight the principled differences among the four centers; and finally, it explores some general and specific implications of the shift in focus for the discipline, the profession, and the constituent subfields of both.” http://www.indiana.edu/%7Eidt/articles/documents/ethics.htm

Although my friend and mentor Dr. Inouye is now gone, I know I will continue to learn from and be inspired by the things he has taught me in the many years to come (as well as laugh at the memory of his corny jokes). I’m sure I will also pass on the best things I learned from him to those that I am lucky enough to teach. Perhaps that is at least one mark of a great teacher – which Dillon Inouye truly was.

The bones of 5 million: the underside of Paris

The bones of 5 million: the underside of Paris

Yesterday, I met a good friend at the Eiffel Tower, Me at Eiffel Towerand we spent the day visiting some of the main attractions above ground in Paris (Notre Dame, Victory Arch, Louve, Angelina’s chocolate shop on, etc) – and enjoyed some of the vibrant life that filled the streets.

For a section of the day, however, we also took some time to see the catacombs, which quietly wind for nearly 300 kilometers beneath some of the lively streets above.
Hiking 25 meters underground, we came to an enclosure under the city of Paris that was dimly lit, moisture dripping occasionally on us Catecombs of Parisfrom the low ceiling (which I had to duck at certain points as I walked) – and along the walls it was filled with rows and rows of bones – from approximately 5 million people!

For some reason, seeing the remains of so many people who once were alive, breathing, working, playing, etc – triggered a cognitive/emotional reaction. It wasn’t spooky, but did make me pause and think deeply.

It just poignantly struck me again how short life really is. More Bones
It made me re-consider what it is that I really want to do with whatever stretch of years I have – hoping I at least do more good than harm during them.
I thought about how much of the things I worry about on a daily basis might not matter that much in the long run – and how grateful I all the good things in my life (e.g. health, friends, family, laughter, faith, opportunities to learn, chances to contribute to things that are worthwhile, etc.)

Next time you are in Paris, you should consider a visit to the Denfert-Rochereau Ossuary (“The Kingdom of the Dead”). I am informed that at least it is better than the boat ride through the sewer system below Paris (which someone told me you can also do).

Teaching Web Analytics in a Web 2.0 Way – Part 2: A report on the semester

I just got my student reviews back from this last semester (see below), and so I thought it would be good to give you a follow-up report on the Web Analytics class (ISys 590R) I was asked to teach. I talked about my unique approach to teaching this semester in a previous blog entry.

In this entry, I wanted to report on how that strategy paid off, and what I would do differently next time.

In the class we:

  • covered some of the basics in eBusiness, SEO, online marketing, and the role and value of web analytics in it all,
  • dissected web analytics implementation methods and discussed the strengths and weaknesses in each,
  • participated in hands-on consulting experiences and data analysis using Site Catalyst (through the Omniture Web Analytics Competition) and Google Analytics (through required personal blogs, and in our case study),
  • received exposure and personalized feedback to the experts who are on the cutting-edge of the field (through reading and commenting on expert blogs, guest speakers, participation in the Omniture Summit, and participation in the OWAC competition).

My two goals for the class were:

  1. create a sharing atmosphere where each person considered themselves a learner and a teacher (through in and out of class hands-on, immediately applicable projects and assignments),
  2. get students thinking like experts through as much association with as many as possible.

As a result of this class:

  • many in the class have received job offers (several with Omniture, and several others with companies they have worked with during the semester as a result of their new skills)
  • several in the class who have their own e-businesses have seen an increase in their profitability (some with really cool stories I could tell you)
  • overall relationship with some of the major experts in the field has been strengthened
  • during the OWAC competition 4 of my students placed in the top 3 teams, wining over $6,000
  • several students said it was one of their favorite classes at BYU
  • on the last day of class, the students gave a standing ovation (of course they were already standing because they were leaving, and maybe just clapping because they were glad it was over! 😉

Here are some examples of constructive comments that the students in my class last semester made on the anonymous university class evaluation form (they liked the course and the teaching style, but wished for a bit more structure):


Clint is a great professor. He is engaging, inspiring, and just overall, a nice guy. He did a great job of bringing experts in the field into the classroom. He was extremely respectful! Thanks Clint!


Great class!


Clint is a great teacher. I like his teaching style. We’ve already talked about this, but I think the class needs a little more structure.


This is was one of my favorite classes taken at BYU and the teacher was one of my top 3 favorite teachers I’ve had in my 6 years at BYU.


First Clint was the best prof. that I have ever had in any collage class to date and Clint has left a high standard for any teacher to follow. He made himself very available out of class and maintained great communication out of class via email, and in class. He bent over backwards to get industry leaders in the field to come in and speak with us. WOW Clint is a fantastic teacher and is very open to feedback, almost more welcoming to negative feedback than positive. This great teacher was also aided by the fact that this is a great course which BYU is lucky to have. It will soon be a class at all university’s with any business school of any reputation. I am an electrical engineering major and was happy to come to jump the fence to come to this class. I would love to take Web analytics part 2. I took this class for the subject not because it at all helps me toward by ee degree or strategy minor. That is how important it was to me. I don’t regret it one bit. Two thumbs way up, for the instructor and the class.


This is the best class I have ever taken at BYU. It really helped prepare me for my career. I loved the Web Analytics competition. The professor did a great job making class interesting and keeping everyone involved. I learned a ton.


Maybe it’s the nature of the class but it seems like there was no way to see if a students schedule would be conducive to this class. I understand that during the competition we were busy but then it seemed like after we were done the class was scatter brained. Not the teacher just the class. It seems like assignments were assigned when the teacher felt like they came up, in the sense that as we were talking about different things suddenly he would say, oh great, an assignment! Then we were required to do it. It would have been nice to have a little more structure.
I did love the class though. I felt like I learned a lot and I loved having the guest lecturers. Thanks.


Good class . . . could have used a bit more structure to it, but excellent instructor!


I really like the professor, but I think the class was a little too loosely structured. I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to worry about my grade and I could focus on learning. However, there wasn’t much of a syllabus/course schedule that helped me know what was going on. He did send emails, which helped, but they were only for the next class period or two.

They are much better comments than the first time I got student ratings (about 3 years ago) – so it is nice to see some improvement 🙂 ). As you can see, however, the loose structure of the Web 2.0 approach still left students feeling a little lost. So, in consideration of ways to improve –

  • I think there can be a little more structure and guidance, without encroaching on the overall teaching approach (e.g. give a little more details of upcoming events and assignments, request specific things to be blogged about instead of leaving it so much up to students, require in the first couple weeks for students to post a comment or question on an expert blog, etc).
  • The other thing that I think would help is to start the consulting experience we do in the class before the OWAC competition, allowing data to be collected during that time, and then analyzing it and giving data-driven recommendations after they have their experience in the competition. This might also give the class a feel of a little more consistency throughout the semester.

It was very fun to teach ISys 590R this semester. I thought it was both personally and professionally rewarding. I hope those students keep in touch – if they keep learning at the same pace it will not be very long before they are the recognized experts in the field.

I also have some more exciting ideas for how to improve even more the tie with experts through the Web 2.0 tools – but perhaps you will have to wait until next semester to find out what those are… 🙂

The Ideal Mindset for Intercultural and Interfaith Communication and Collaboration

The Ideal Mindset for Intercultural and Interfaith Communication and Collaboration

Through a recent dialogue I have been having online (with someone who is trying to convert me to their world view) – I have more clearly got an idea for what I think is a more helpful mindset and approach to intercultural or interfaith communication. It is a sensitive issue, and I am sure I have made tons of mistakes already in my attempts to build trust and collaboration among different people – so I am very curious what your thoughts are too.

The ideal in my mind is if people go into a situation/conversation/collaboration with the idea that the two or more people (with different perspectives and from different backgrounds) can come up with a better solution than either could on their own. So, in practical terms, that Africans and Europeans, Chinese and Americans, Mormons and Catholics, Muslims and Hindus, Men and Women, etc., etc., etc. (or any number of combinations) working together could come up with a better overall solution than either could on their own.

I now realize that some things help foster the effective collaboration of people with different perspectives, while other things make it very difficult. I’m curious what you think too.

Here is just one thought –

What to do: If the situation is set to invite each person to go into the conversation looking for what the strengths of the other persons perspectives are, and searching for how the best in what the other person believes/perceives can be utilized to the overall benefit of the relationship – that seems to help inspire trust and make for healthy productive collaborations – where a lot of open and interesting learning and innovation can occur.

What not to do: If, on the other hand, either party begins the conversation by feeling it their duty to try and prove something (either the superiority of their own perspective or the faults in the other persons perspective) – assuming the world would just be better if everyone saw things the same way that they did – I think this pushes the conversation into a situation that is less than helpful. I think it is very helpful and healthy to talk about differences and alternative perspectives (especially after a core of trust and respect has been established) – but this ethnocentric/condescending approach (consciously or unconsciously assuming the world would be better if everyone saw things the same way as you) seems to:

  1. – push the conversation into defensive mode, where each party begins to look for the flaws and holes in the others approach/perspective,
  2. – closes off the participants to a greater richness of life that comes from seeking to learn, love, and listen, with no strings attached.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree?

What do you think helps for the most productive interfaith/intercultural communication and collaboration?

Differences in Perception, Logic, Reasoning

In memory of Ruth Sowards – one of the greatest

In memory of Ruth Sowards – one of the greatest

The problem with making friends with older people is that they don’t stay Clint, Ruth, and the cake she got for my birthdayaround very long, leaving the broken-hearts behind of those who deeply miss them. The blessing, however, of knowing someone like Ruth Sowards is that her quick wit, profound wisdom, and genuine love has left such a deep impression that it will live on in my life (and the thousands of others who she has touched for the better) continuing to inspire us to be better people regardless of what side of the veil she is on.

I met Ruth Sowards through Colonel Butler, and instantly fell in love with her sense of humor and Ruth Sowards and Colonel Butlerher eyes that sparkled. In some of the darkest days for me over the last four years, she offered me invaluable wisdom, hope, strength, and laughter which lifted my spirits. She made the dark days brighter, and the sweet moments sweeter. I remember as we were eating diner together one day, she leaned over to me to ask what my goals in life were. I thought for a moment, and told her that my main goal was to have integrity. At first I thought she was going to say something like, “Oh, come on – you have integrity” – but her wisdom and wit was sharp as always. She just wryly smiled, nudged me and said, “Why do you have to be so different from the rest of us?”

Especially as Colonel and her aged in years, he would visit her almost every day until his passing. When I was in the country I was lucky enough to be able to go with him on many of those visits, easily coming to understand why thereRuth and friends were so many people that loved Ruth. One woman confidently told me that if I just kept listening to people like Ruth, I would turn out OK. After Colonel’s death, Jeremy and I tried to fill in for him and visit her every day possible, but last week she took a turn for the worse. The instant I found out about her condition and new location I dropped everything on a Friday night and went to go see her.

Tucked in the bed of the nursing home room, she looked like she was in a deep sleep. Her daughter asked if I wanted to hold her hand, and when I touched her gently her eyes weakly opened. At first she looked blankly at mRuth Sowards and Grandma Pughe, and I wondered if she would recognize me at all. In a few short moments, however, a bright smile came over her face, and looking at me (with a familiar sparkle in her eyes) she asked her daughter what she was doing hanging around with people like this! With strength she grasped my hand and pulled me close so she could give me a kiss and tell me she loved me. She propped herself up to tell me she loved me more than she ever had and share with me a few more words before she drifted off again into a deep sleep. I came to find out that the local Bishop had also come to visit her a little before I did. As he was getting ready to leave, he held her hand and told her that he was going to be leaving now. As she lay there dying, she stirred long enough to tell him to make sure and call her if he needed anything. So characteristic of Ruth!

Over the next 7 days, her grasp got weaker and her words more unrecognizable… As she would sleep, her children would share with me stories about her life that would make me laugh and leave me feeling inspired. Lincoln and RuthAlthough her physical strength was weaker each day, my recognition of how truly amazing she is got stronger. Her father died when she was young leaving her mom to raise 4 children through the depression years. Her only two brothers also died when she was fairly young, one in a car accident and the other died in World War II. She ended up marrying a great man, and raised her family while running a golf club, boy scout meetings, an investment club for women, and many church relief society activities, just to name a few of causes she was devoted to. As a woman of compassion, anyone was welcome and felt welcome in Ruth’s house – but as a woman of strength (and without pretense) no one was too high and mighty to avoid her firmly correcting them if she felt they were doing something wrong. The investment group she started with other women invested early in a company despite her husband telling her that he was sure it would fail (he called it “the greasy spoon” but we all know it now as McDonalds). She knew and was respected by the most well-known in the area (many of whom she had held when they were babies – maybe making it OK for her to tell them off if they needed it) and she was equally friendly with least well-known in the area. It didn’t matter if you were a leader of a corporation or a little child from next door – she somehow saw the best in you and helped you see it too. And especially important, she absolutely loved her husband and raised wonderful children. How on earth she did what she did in her life is amazing to me – and how lucky I felt to be counted as one of her friends.

That is part of what made it so difficult today at about 8:00pm when she quietly passed away into the next life. Her only sister, who was in a similar condition, joined her only a couple of hours later.

  • Ruth’s funeral will be at 3050 Mojave Lane, Provo UT 84604 this Monday, April 21st, at 11:00am (click here for a map). The viewing will be at Berg Mortuary the night before from 6:00pm-8:30pm.

Ruth – you will be deeply missed. This world is a better place because of the laughter and love that you filled our lives with. God be with you ’till we meet again.

For those of you who knew Ruth, do you have any favorite memories, stories, quotes of her that you could share?


Here are some pictures from the funeral.

Ruth’s Funeral

Moving to the Resting Place

At Grave Side

We will miss you Ruth

Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney animation studios: How to create a successful multidisciplinary, innovative team

Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney animation studios: How to create a successful multidisciplinary, innovative team

I heard Ed Catmull, innovative president of Pixar and Disney animation studios, speak on Thursday at BYU. He spoke about a topic that I have been thinking a lot about lately – how do you create the best situation for a multidisciplinary team to work on Ed Catmullsomething that has never been done before?

He started with a comment made to him by a producer: “It is not finding good people that is our problem, it is finding great ideas.” Ed Catmull argued why this statement is wrong. He gave examples of great ideas in the animation studio that did not work with a certain team, but another team took them and made them hugely successful. His point was that the most important thing is to create a team that works well together, especially when you are doing something that has never been done before.

Here are some of his ideas:

  • Everyone needs to understand that they are equally valuable and important (e.g. neither the programmers, the artists, or the managers could feel like second-class citizens)
  • Things will go wrong when you are the first people to do something new, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, just find ways to handle them well. “We are in the job of doing something new,” Catmull said, “Our measure is not whether we avoid different things. It’s how we respond to things when they go wrong.”
  • Don’t let everything that is good mask the things that are not good – do a “postmortem” analysis, a review of each project to discuss what went well and what could be better.
  • Managers are simply responsible for helping the team merge well.
  • “I’ve always believed that you shape the management team around the talent rather than try to force people into a certain way of doing things.”

Brent AdamsI also heard Brent Adams speak this semester on the same topic. He has been the driving force behind BYU’s very successful multidisciplinary computer animation program. In the past few years 1,500 animations hPajama Gladiator addave been submitted to the student Emmys, and BYU students have impressively won 5 out of 12 best computer animation awards and 2 of the 6 student academy awards.

He said where education has typically been an “individual sport” (with even group projects not being designed very well) -the advantage in this world will always go to those who can out-innovate and out-collaborate their competitors. Brent gave some very valuable ideas for designing multidisciplinary teams to work well in creative collaborative thinking:

  • Flexibility – approaching the problem from many different directions
  • Fluency – ability to generate LOTS of ideas (if you want to have a good idea, have lots of them)
  • Novelty – originality, uniqueness, “I would have never thought of that”, innovation
  • Definition – being good at defining the context, constraints, etc.
  • Roles – design roles and responsibilities which allow people to play to their strengths.

“Successful innovation is the union of convergence and divergence processes – weaving in and out when coming to an appropriate situation.” (paraphrase)

Aside from how much I like both the Pixar and BYU animation movies, my interest in this all stems from the fact that I think some of the most innovative teams in today’s world will be both multidisciplinary and cross-cultural. I am interested in finding the best technologies and techniques to reduce the miscommunication and increase the innovative potential from having such a rich combination of experiences, expertise and perspectives.


Does anyone have any good ideas about how to create an effective, innovative team?

Has anyone been a part of a team like that? If so – what made it work well?

Flag at half staff for my best friend

Flag at half staff for my best friend

Flag at Half StaffOne of the first times that I met Colonel Eugene Haynes Butler, an 80 year old retired air force fighter pilot, he said to me: “You know one of the biggest problems with your generation?” I waited for a totally different remark than the one which followed. After a short pause he said with a smile, “That I am not a part of it.” (then laughing his unforgettable laugh)

If you have ever met someone who is full of compassion, humor, and seems always able to make any situation they enter better by being in it – then you might have an idea why it was so easy to love and want to be around Colonel Butler, with his unique combination of being confident (e.g. “the best fighter pilot ever”), colorful (e.g. calling bad drivers on the road “thoseYoung Colonel as Pilot perverts!”, always adding either “Mr.” before your name or “baby” at the end of your name – for example, “Speak to me Mr. Joey” or “Hi Jeremy-baby”), and compassionate (in too many ways to name). Over the next few years we ended up forming a friendship that has changed me in ways which words can not do justice – who I am because of him is forever changed for the better.

Just try to imagine for a moment having someone walk into your life who then begins to do everything in his power to make you happy and successful, who introduces you to all of his favorite people, who teaches you things about generosity and true friendship through his everyday example, who makes you laugh every day, who convinces you that he would do anything he could for you, who talks about how great of a person you are to everyone he knows (even when they get sick of hearing it), who wColonel Butler and Meants to get to know everything he can about you, and who (even knowing your weaknesses) still would defend your name to the death – all the while making you feel like it is you who is doing him some great favor! And then to see first hand how he was also able to do this for countless others in various degrees without making you feel any less special!

If you can even begin to imagine what that would be like, then you will know why it was so difficult for me to go to the intensive care unit of the hospital on Thursday to see this friend of mine unconscious in a coma and on life support, then within 25 hours watching him peacefully slip away into the next life.

I have the burden and honor of speaking at his funeral this Wednesday, and then trying the rest of my life to somehow live up to his personal example and his belief in me.

One thing he always joked about was his own death, and I have wondered since his passing why he was so fearless of death? Being Easter yesterday, I thought specifically of how he repeatedly said his favorite song of all time was Amazing Grace – and the few times he would open up and share with me his feelings about God (not in a contrived, self-righteous way at all – but with a tone that was totally void of pride yet still confident, grateful, and secure).

For so many reasons, I am not worried about him now – I believe he is in a much better place and that one time in the future I will be able to see him again. It just is so hard to think of life without him for now.

If you ever come to Provo, look aroundColonel by a River and see if you can find a framed quote posted in several of his favorite places…

“Once in a great while, a certain somebody comes into our lives who mirrors our thoughts, lifts our spirits and brightens our hearts. And all of a sudden, life has new meaning and greater purpose than ever before.” (Marieta Donaldson)

(In honor and memory of Colonel Eugene Haynes Butler, war hero, true friend, and loyal patron of Chuck-a-Rama)


Here is a link to the speech that I gave at his funeral: The poetry of Colonel’s life


Here is the memory video I created in his honor. (If you can’t view it, then click here.)


Here are some pictures from the day of the funeral (click on title to see picture):

Placing Flowers on Casket

Bagpiper Playing Amazing Grace

A Fighter Pilot’s Casket

Headstone of an Everyday Hero

Why would you want to be a Catholic monk?

Why would you want to be a Catholic monk?

That is the question I was able to ask several times as ISt. Louis Abbey lived this last weekend with monks in a monastery at the Abbey of St. Mary and St. Louis. It might seem strange to meet someone on a plane, keep in touch via letter off and on until 10 years later you ask if you could go across the country to visit them for a while – but in this case, that is exactly what I did.

10 years ago I sat next to a most remarkable man on an airplane traveling from the UK to the US – I was 21 years old and returning from 2 years of being away from home as a Mormon Patrick Barry and Clint Rogersmissionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Patrick Barry was 80 year old man who had spent most of his life as a Catholic Priest and monk after the Benedictine order. We had a great conversation (very interesting, open, and edifying), the end of which he we mutually agreed to pray for each other and keep in touch.

Since over the last year I had been thinking, talking, and writing a lot about interfaith communication, collaboration and innovation [feel free to join the FaceBook group on this topic], when I was writing my Christmas letter to Patrick, I wondered why on earth I hadFather Augustine Br Cassian and Clint Rogers not ever gone to the monastery to visit this wonderful man and learn more about what his life and work was all about, and asked him if it would be possible and appropriate for me to come visit. He responded warmly, and when the flights were cheap I bought my ticket.

When thinking about visiting a monastery, I had no idea what an enjoyable trip I would end up having… [to be continued…]

Hero from Hotel Rwanda spoke at BYU: “Don’t stand by, stand up, and do what you can”

Paul Rusesabagina spoke on Tuesday at BYU. I liked how he titled his presentation: “Hotel Rwanda: A story yet to be told” – because the story is not over yet, and each of us can be a small part of making it a better story than it otherwise would be.

In both Rwanda and Burundi there was a genocide of nearly a million people in the last two decades (15% of the population). Paul Rusesabagina stands in stark contrast to the ethnic violence as an example of someone willing to risk his own life to stand against the prejudice and senseless violence that erupted there.

He argued that the majority of the ordinary people do not hate each other so much, but that very poor leadership will take advantage of differences in order to divide and conquer.

He shared some powerful and sobering stories of the past and current situation.

For example, imagine trying to rescue dozens of people from an ethnic group (different from you) who are being called “cockroaches” and exterminated – police stop your car, they call you a traitor, and demand you to take their gun and shoot everyone in your car or else they will shoot you. You know they are serious because you see dead bodies scattered around you. What would you do?

Paul Rusesabagina faced this exact situation, he did not back down, did not give in, and through quick thinking was able to tell the guards that he understood they were tired and frustrated, but that there was an alternative situation, another option to solve the problems they face. He said he learned through this experience that as long as you can get people to speak with you, then you can always negotiate an alternative course of action. He was able to save the lives of not only these people, but over a thousand others who took refuge in the hotel that he managed.

Towards the end of his speech he encouraged all of us there: “Don’t stand by. Stand up, and do what you can, do what you can to help Africa. You can do something.” He said that if you don’t stand up for what is good, then the world will fail, but that we are the hope of the world if we do stand up. He said that if you want the world to get better, you can make it better. If you want it to stay the way it is, it will stay.

The question I ask myself is:

How can I stand up? What best could I do that would actually make a difference?

Listening to him made me think about the conference I am helping organize in Africa (Uganda) this summer – Technology for Innovation and Education in Developing Countries (TEDC 2008). It seems like a small drop in the ocean of what could be done to assist those in disadvantaged situations, but at least it is something.

I am always keeping my eyes and mind open for other meaningful things that I could be involved in, or even just be aware of and support in some way – so if you can think of anything, then let me know. I feel like getting involved in things that help are usually reciprocal and end up benefiting all involved.

A great man and a personal hero, President Gordon B Hinckley, died today at age 97

A great man and a personal hero, President Gordon B Hinckley, died today at age 97

It is strange to have never met a person, and to still feel so close to him/her, like that person has made such a difference in your life, and even as if they are one of your most trusted friends. Gordon Bitner Hinckley was one of those people for me. His words have entertained and inspired me for most of my life, and without a doubt my life is better because of him. He will be missed.

Some clips from the press release of his passing:

“President Gordon B. Hinckley, who led The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through twelve years of globalPicture of President Hinckley expansion, has died at the age of 97…

President Hinckley was known, even at the age of 97, as a tireless leader who always put in a full day at the office and traveled extensively around the world to mix with Church members, now numbering 13 million in 171 nations.

His quick wit and humor, combined with an eloquent style at the pulpit, made him one of the most loved of modern Church leaders

He was a popular interview subject with journalists, appearing on 60 Minutes with Mike Wallace and on CNN’s Larry King Live, as well as being quoted and featured in hundreds of newspapers and magazines over the years. During the Salt Lake Olympics of 2002, his request that the Church refrain from proselytizing visitors was credited by media with generating much of the goodwill that flowed to the Church from the international event…

President Hinckley received a number of educational honors…

President Hinckley was awarded the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America;

was honored by the National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) for his contributions to tolerance and understanding in the world;

and received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In 2004, President Hinckley was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in the White House…

President Hinckley wrote and edited several books and numerous manuals, pamphlets and scripts, including a best-selling book, Standing for Something, aimed at a general audience. In it he championed the virtues of love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness, mercy, thrift and industry, gratitude, optimism and faith.”

I liked this tribute, from a well-known CNN broadcaster:

Opening a Discussion: (1) How to frame good research questions in Educational Technology, and (2) How to match them with an appropriate methodology

Opening a Discussion: (1) How to frame good research questions in Educational Technology, and (2) How to match them with an appropriate methodology

Question MarkI have been involved in a lot of interest and discussion lately about

1. How can I frame good research questions in Educational Technology?

and then

2. How can I match them with an appropriate methodology?

There are a lot of sources you could use to answer these questions (and I am interested in what other people know in response to these two questions too, and what are the best resources you can suggest to others).

As a starting point for the discussion, here are two short articles which helped clarify some things in my mind as I was preparing to conduct my own dissertation research.

1. Explore, Explain, Design

2. A Model of Technology Capable of Generating Research Questions

For any who are interested in participating in an online discussion about these questions, please post your questions in a comment response to this blog post. Also please post any insights or questions in response to these two articles.

I have also invited the author of these two articles (Dr. Andy Gibbons – very well known in IDT) to be available to help read and respond to some of the questions/comments that you post, according to his availability. Potentially we will also have a chance to do a live online meeting with him at some point within the next couple months (I will post more as I know it).

This discussion is intended to help any who are in the process of deciding what and how to do their research. I have a feeling that we can all learn a lot from this discussion.

A Sad Day in Finland

Most people already know the sad news about why the Finnish government ordered a day of nationwide mourning today.

Click here to see associated press article

Today I was at a house meeting where several people were talking about how to work through the grieving process. While he was talking, one Lutheran minister mentioned that one in four deaths of males in his congregation here in Finland were due to suicide. He suggested that for many reasons we need to do better at sharing with each other, even sad thoughts and emotions, and generally we need to be more concerned about and connected with each other.

China Shakes the World: The rise of a hungry nation – Book and Trip Review

China Shakes the World: The rise of a hungry nation – Book and Trip Review

I am currently in the Helsinki airport, returning from a great trip to China. One of the books that I read during my visit was China Shakes the World, by James Kynge. I had been to China three times previously and could sense the scope of what is happening there, but it wasn’t until I read this book that I felt like I got a good macro-picture idea of the forces inside China and interacting between China the rest of the world.

As soon as I get back to Joensuu, I want to briefly summarize some of the thoughts and my reactions regarding the following four topics:

The size and scope of industry in China

The strengths of China

The weak spots of China

The challenges and questions in the future for all of us

Clint in Chongqing

(Me at Chongqing, on the Yangtze River – city talked about in Chapter 2 of the book. Perhaps in the coming decade Chongqing might become the largest city on earth, with nearly 32 million people currently in the immediate municipality)

Greetings from Rome

Greetings from Rome

Picture of Rome

Rome, Georgia – that is. (notice the American flag in the picture).

I was here on a two and a half day stop over before Europe, attending a conference at the beautiful Berry College. I took this picture on my run this morning, mainly because it had columns and looked like the most Italian-like building I saw (which probably tells you how much I know). I wish I would have taken more pictures though – what a beautiful place!

China and India Rising: The End of American Economic Supremacy?

I heard Brian Reynolds, second secretary/vice consul at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, speak at BYU Wednesday about the rising economies of India and China.
He wanted to emphasize his title (the end of American economic supremacy) is a question, not a statement. His disclaimer is that his opinions are his own, not representing the department he works for.

But he has worked extensively with the state department in both China and India. It was a great presentation, but I won’t duplicate all my notes here. I’ll just point out a couple of interesting things about each area.


13 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) – USA

10 trillion GDP – China

4 trillion GDP – India


India has labor resources that have remained untapped. India focuses primarily on education – families and extended families sacrificing a ton to get children to receive an education. The goal is to put the child in a position to receive a job that makes them competitive in the global market, but there are not enough jobs for them to have in India – so there is a lot of frustration and underhanded things. Corruption is a big thing.

In India, the high-paying jobs are not in the manufacturing as much as in the service industry (similar to the US). Lots of managing off-shore site call centers. Very transitory work environment – lots of turnover, not a lot of job loyalty.

Work visas are frequently given in the US for Indians who qualify for jobs that have been advertised but not filled. They come with expectation of earning great wealth – then they are surprised to see the cost of living is so much higher. Still, they see the jobs more and more as entitlements for their hard work and education. Americans may not feel the same way.

These people are very smart, intelligent, competent at jobs. If not hired here, American companies will often go there to hire them. This is a hot button with Globalization.

India has a bureaucracy that is incredibly difficult to navigate- payoffs, bribes, old laws.


First off, the scale of things in is huge!

Thee are no “summarizable, identifiable characteristics of China” – as the scale and complexity and change is so great. There are only very loose generalizations. Many business people come to China and are amazed at the opportunity and at the same time overwhelmed by the bureaucratic mass.

There are more people speaking English in China than in the US (430 million speaking English or taking it right now).

Already China is losing some advantage – in certain areas there is a labor exhaustion so companies need to bring more labor in. Other countries (Viet Nam, Indonesia, other SA countries) benefit from difficulty of costing and keeping labor. Cost of labor goes up every day in China. An offer for 10cents a day more will cause you to switch jobs.

Do we exaggerate the rise of China – when they still have out-of-date technology, and other issues?

Are there better uses for China’s boon than spending a lot on the military?

Information technology is changing attitudes in China. People can more easily share opinion, find better work, and all this alters feelings about situation. It is interesting that there is no concept of communism in the strictest sense from the average Chinese worker – they feel they deserve more if they work longer, are more educated, have more experience, etc.

Another interesting example: there was a television program similar to “American Idol” called “Pretty Singing Girl” where people could text in their vote of who they thought was best. After about three episodes, the government shut down the program, because supposedly they did not want to send the message that the mass of people should be deciding what was best.

Unfortunately, China has passed up the US as the largest polluter in the world.

30 million people fall below the poverty level – they look for work and find low-paying labor jobs in cities, and still live beneath the poverty level.

Early days – economic decisions were a lot more limited in China. Now there are a lot more choices.

In China, 30-40% of income is saved by the average family. In the US – it is more like 0%. Their ideas for social entitlement are much different than ours. The 1 child policy is a big thing, with a lot of spin-off issues – much pressure on whether that child be able to support parents… The average Chinese worker in their 40s will be supporting 4-6 people in their retirement years. Does this cause an influence on things like female infanticide (because you want your one child to be a male – in order to support you and carry on family name, etc.)? Now there is a surplus of 40 million young men – who can not find a woman to marry – is this associated with crime, prostitution, etc?

There is a lot of concern over trade deficit. There is a lot of concern over work visa (and zenophobic reactions).

Statesman, CEOs, other VIPs go to China and try to help come up with policy.

The exchange rate has been 8.41 for RMB. People argue that it is way to high – that it has doubled its value. One of the things that moves the Chinese economy along is that things are so cheap. Lots of involvement in trade – difficult market for the US.

IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) violations – pirated dvds, etc. Perhaps this is the biggest economic concern from Congressional VIPs. Software manufacturers, Hollywood, books, etc – all are violated if they have any economic value in Chinese economy – they will be copied. There is now the 500 law – if you don’t have more than 500 illegal copies of the software, etc…you will not be prosecuted. Very difficult to enforce. When they do enforce, there is a lot of hype about it for the cameras, but not much happening beyond cameras.

A big goal of Chinese govt. is to sustain growth.

There is a disparity in countryside vs rural areas in China.

Industrial growth, service sectors are growing.


So that was what he talked about.

I personally find both countries, India and China, to be so much more than sources for labor or exportation/importation – but what are the best ways to minimize the dark sides and encourage each to further develop as places of incredible human potential and vibrant thought, places where valuable innovations will come from, and places where if developed, supported and trusted can contribute in many ways to help make the world a safer, better place?

Maybe it is naive of me, but I’m not as concerned with economic supremacy as I am with other things. I adhere to the abundance mindset (that there is enough and to spare) and try to steer away from the scarcity mindset (that only certain people or groups can have, and that they have at the expense of others). It is true that many Americans seem pretty complacent – thinking that just because we have been in a certain position for all of our living memory, then that means we always will be. Well, it looks very likely that America will not be in the same position, and I do not think that is all bad. I do think we are in a great position to take the best parts of America (of which there are many), and contribute those with the best parts of the rest of the world (including India and China) to create a new future that is a lot more synergistic than protectionistic.

Anyone agree or disagree?

Another example of the importance of not neglecting International Differences – i.e. Accounting Standards

Another example of the importance of not neglecting International Differences – i.e. Accounting Standards

I was sitting in on a lecture given by Dr. Albrect, one of the top accounting experts in the US, and paid particular attention to his unique perspective on the international trends in accounting standards.

Accounting is the life-blood of any business (as it monitors and measures the cash flow) and standards are absolutely necessary for having common reporting practices. For years the board that creates the accounting standards in the USA (the FASB), and the majority of university programs and accounting professionals assumed that the American standards in accounting would end up being the world’s standards. Well, recently and quickly it looks like the tides are shifting more toward the standards created by the more recently established IASB (International Accounting Standards Board). Although nearly 80% of the standards are the same, there is a huge need right now for people to understand the differences.

If I wasn’t afraid of boring you, I’d be tempted to give an exposition on all the fascinating international issues in accounting: with more jobs going overseas to less-expensive workers, subsidiaries and products being bought in foreign countries, products being created in one country and “bought” by a subsidiary of the same company in a different country in a way to minimize taxation by having a majority of the profit recognized in the country with the lowest tax rate (e.g. Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, etc), translation and transaction issues with fluctuating exchange rates, etc., etc., etc. – more and more international issues present themselves than ever before.

In the 1950’s most everything a US company bought, produced and sold was all done in the US.

Today, with an engineer in the US costing about $80K/year vs. one in the Philippines costing about $10K/year or a programmer in the US costing about $75-85K/year vs one in Eastern Europe costing about $7K/year – it is easy to see how even the workers of US companies will increasingly be individuals in other countries. Immediate cost savings in salary is obvious, but other difficulties arising from things such as cultural differences and expectations in work environments, communications and relationships are less obvious.

Dr. Albrect shared a specific example of how England, Ireland, and Canadian accountants debate “ad nauseam” with accountants from the US over standards in education and certification of accountants. Whereas the US puts a lot of emphasis on a major exam that is a standardized test and 1 year of experience to receiving the CPA certification, formal education and big tests means less in these other countries – instead a lot more emphasis is placed on a 3-4 year apprenticeship model towards becoming a chartered accountant.

GlobeWell, this entry has been a mesh of a bunch of issues – but the essence of it is (1) Americans need to be a whole lot more sensitive to international issues than they are, and (2) that the network of people who we work with and/or receive even daily services from will increasingly be of an international flavor (I read recently a post on how perhaps even fast food ordering will soon be outsourced internationally).

My goal is to look at the way in which technology is connecting us all in international collaborations – and the ways in which cultural differences can be turned from liabilities and into assets – for all of us.

Paul Phillips of Touch Clarity (now VP of Behavioral Targeting at Omniture) spoke yesterday on Decision Automation

Machines really are able to act more intelligently due recent discoveries in mathematics!

Paul Phillips’ presentation was fascinating to me as I could instantly see so many connections in how the application of decision automation can significantly improve multiple areas of e-business and online learning.

Much of the history of communication has been finding ways to do the same things we have done in the past – but more efficiently. For example, the focus is usually on how to get information to humans more quickly and efficiently. But the problem is humans only have a certain “bandwidth” – and we now face information overload (e.g. Paul estimated that 70% of his work day is spent responding to emails).

Paul pointed out how certain domains allow for the computer to receive information/data and make decisions more effectively and quickly than if a human needed to receive, interpret, and execute action on the data. Obviously certain decisions won’t and should never be made by a machine, but with certain things it just makes sense to let the computer do it faster and more effectively than any human could.

The domain he picked for this lecture is online advertising, although it could apply in a number of areas. It is true that if you go into a store or restaurant multiple times, most likely the employees there will remember you and customize their service to your needs. Most web sites do not…yet.

The mathematical algorithm (much of which has been invented in the last 7 years) which makes this possible allows the computer to take into account huge amounts of data (6 “buckets” of variables) which are used to predict and display the most likely messages or creatives to lead to conversion (in the case of online advertising) while at the same time constantly testing (and making alterations based on the) risk that something else might be better. In other words, the computer is constantly using the what it predicts will be the best thing in the immediate situation (specific person at a specific time in a specific place with a specific known history) while simultaneously measuring and monitoring the risk that it might be wrong and something else might be better.

The results are measurable too. There have been astounding uplifts in conversion rates of certain sites that have already employed this method (sometimes over 100% uplift) when compared to random selection of messages/creatives.

I’m currently in the process of studying the mathematics and methods behind decision automation and will continue to post what I am learning…