Thursday, August 23, 2012

Change and Education

We all know that change in large organizations are often painfully slow.  This is good news for those who want to keep everything as it is, but for those innovators that want to catch the next wave it is frustrating.  But what happens when a whole industry changes?  We have seen these major changes take place in industries in  the past: the automobile industry and TQM, the office and the personal computer, and of course the Internet and World Wide Web.   There is another paradigm shift taking place and that is in education.  Until recently technological advances have simply added value without changing the paradigm.  Now there is a growing convergence of technology and young entrepreneurs that is leading to a major shift in education thinking and delivery.  This is far bigger that the debate about Internet education vs brick and mortar.

Does free sound good?  One of the catalysts to the major shift has been the willingness of top Universities to offer their professors' courses online for free.  Would you rather take a course from the Jr. College teacher or the person who is defining the field?  While some of you might like the former, many professionals and others are choosing the latter.  Initially these super courses were offered through the institutions they came from: MIT, Harvard, Stanford etc.  But now another shift is taking place as consolidators move into to offer courses from many institutions.  Coursera is now a major player in this move.  Read the email below of what they are doing as we move into the start of the school year in the US.

Dear Coursarians,

It’s been a wild month—launching 12 new university partners, kicking off Coursera Meetups with a massive BBQ, finishing our first peer-graded course (Human Computer Interaction) and announcing that over 1 million students have signed up to take courses. We also know that we are still very much in our early days. There is still so much that we want to do to improve our platform to make it an even better learning experience for you and still so many courses that we hope to offer.

We are also excited to welcome you back to school in a big way with 29 classes starting between now and the end of September. From Gamification, to Statistics, to Modern Poetry, to Big Data, to Social Network Analysis and more! Grab a friend, find a local study group and learn with students from all of the world through the forums.

Happy back to school!
Andrew, Daphne and your Cousera Team |

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Board Less Founder

I continue using the work of Carter McNamara to help guide me as a leader.  This is especially true when it comes to Board governance.  The following in its fullest can be seen at: McNamara 

One of the challenges we have in Africa is the lack of understanding concerning the purpose of a Board.  We all know the frustration of watching a founder or CEO have a conflict with his/her board and then fire them.  Of course this is unethical and illegal, but it happens all the time.  A real board assumes responsibility for the ministry at the broadest levels.  The Founder, CEO, Executive Director is to be submitted to the board.  This means that the board has the moral right to fire the leader if needed.  It is not supposed to happen the other way around.  This also means that the Founder, CEO, Executive Director, Leader, cannot be the Chairman of the Board as this presents him/her with a conflict of interest.  But do not listen to me, hear with McNamara says..

An email said:

My organization is 2nd in my life only to my family.  I also feel responsible for the integrity of the organization and for protecting it from changes that would endanger that integrity.  This organization works to create programs that bridge educational gaps between and about indigenous cultures.  A lot of what we do is very sensitive and, if mismanaged, could do more harm than good.
The idea of hiring the wrong person for the job of ED when the time comes is terrifying to me.  However, the idea of giving up my position on the Board is even MORE terrifying.  Having been involved with other organizations that … became oligarchies full of power-struggles and politics [and having] watched those organizations sacrifice the quality and purpose of their programs because the politics became more important or because someone “found a shortcut, cheaper method, etc.,” that placed “efficiency” over quality.


You sound like any mama protecting its cub, and we would expect no less of someone who cared enough to begin the process/organization in the first place.
The answer to your specific question, right now — where you can maintain the direction and focus of your organization, and still derive compensation from the process — is to help your board become the “mature” group that will assume the governance role and help ensure funding, while you resign your board seat and become the ED (only).


I agree that someone being the top of the Board AND a paid staff member could create a conflict of interest.


Not “could.”  It is a conflict !!
If you can create a board that will do what’s needed, and continue to support your vision, you can give up your board role and become a paid employee.
It sounds like you’d benefit from conversation with a consultant who specializes in helping NPOs with needs like yours – look around, wherever you’re located, there are likely to be folks with the expertise you need.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Education and Transformation

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” 
― Plutarch

Education is in the throws of the greatest change in decades.  The promise of the "computer" to become an educator is beginning to reap the promise it has held out since its earliest days.  But how that is happening might surprise you.  I remember years ago when the computer came on the scene and the teacher was expected to exit.  Well, that has not happened and will not in the near future.  But what has happened, as Daphne Koller tells us, is the ability of one teacher to teach 100,000 learners in one class.  Watch the video from below.  It is a window into the future of educational change.  Koller shares with us the amazing growth of, an online site for courses from major universities...and they are free!  It is well worth the 20 minutes.

But what I am more interested in is what is not being taught.  Skills and knowledge are needed to advance science and careers.  The computer age brings to us new and wonderful ways in which we can learn from some of the greatest minds teaching today...and its free!  But what it has not been able to do in any broad way is bring about spiritual transformation.  While I believe that the computer and online education can add to the process, it cannot be the process.  Spiritual transformation, at its simplest, is the process of spending time with Jesus so that Jesus will be part of us over time.  The danger that Christian education faces is one of emphasis not technique.  If Christian schools take advantage of this new age, and they should, without understanding the essence of Christian education as spiritual formation, they will develop highly educated and, maybe, morally sound men and women without spiritual backbone or connection. Christianity will slowly fade into the background to take its place as a "nice" belief without any of the revolutionary actions called upon by Jesus.

Knowledge and skills are essential.  But if we are to live out the Christian life as Jesus wants us to then we must surrender all and let Him build those skills and knowledge on the foundation of the transformed life.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How to be Happy

I have never met anyone who said, "I want to be unhappy!"  Everyone I meet wants to be happier.  There is some good news and bad news.  Let's start with the bad news.  Recent research reveals that happiness in genetically linked.  This means people are born with a happiness "set" point.  Ever wonder why some people seem to be happy all the time and not effected by most things in their lives?  Or why others seem to be a bit on the dour side (we call them Eeyors).  No matter what happens they are expecting it to get worse.  Turns out that we are pretty much born with a happiness set point that is melded into our personality.

And the good news?  There are things that can effect the happiness point.  Actually there are three things that have significant impact on it.

Seems that the anticipation of something that we want has a way of increasing our happiness.  It is Friday and pay day.  We feel a slight rush as we anticipate receiving those hard earned wages.  Or we are saving up to purchase that new Ipad and getting close.  This anticipation is a happiness builder.  The downside is that shortly after receiving what we want our new found happiness fades away in the wind.  Seems the anticipation is the happiness trigger.  Closely connected to this is the happiness that comes from dopamine release.  While anticipation and actually receiving something longed for releases dopamine, addiction causes it to hang around and actually flood areas of the mind bringing intense pleasure. The down side is what scientist term hedonic adaptation.  Ever long for a piece of chocolate?  After eating a few pieces it begins to lose its appeal.  Hedonic adaptation causes us to get use to certain levels and then requires more of something to bring about the same sense of pleasure.  This is basic addiction.

But there is another way to increase your happiness.  Ever started working on something or playing a favorite sport and then find yourself so engulfed that you lose track of time?  Scientists call this flow while athletes refer to it as being in the zone.  As you move into the zone or stay in the flow your basic happiness increases.  It also increases as you anticipate being in the flow.  This is one good reason to find those things that you can do well and then seek to do them more often.  In Ephesians 2:10 we discover God has things for us to do.  I believe that as we find and "flow" with these we will increase our happiness.  Tied to this is that happiness increases as you "flow" with others.  Relationships in the process increase the impact.

Finally happiness increases as we reach out beyond ourselves and help others with no expectation of reward.  Perhaps a Greek Proverb says it best:

Civilization flourishes when people plant trees under the shade of which they will never sit.

God has intended that we become part of others by reaching out and helping where nothing is expected in return.  This benevolence is part of us that needs to be exercised.  Over time it benevolence atrophy can decrease its potential to increase happiness.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Look Like a Leader!

What does a leader look like?  If you are like Samuel in 1Sam.16 you think of a leader as tall, handsome and fit.  But the Lord pulled him up short as he was trying to discover the next King of Israel.  Rather than picking the one that "looked" like a leader God held out for the smallest, youngest, and least likely in Jesse's family.  God taught Samuel an important lesson:

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”   1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) 

But once you are chosen and have dawned the mantel of leadership responsibility, how do you carry yourself?  May seem like a simple question, but people do relate to you based on their perception of you.  This is not good or bad, just reality.  Here are five things to consider from the writers at Inc magazine.

Click Here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Henry Drummond and Transformation

Henry Drummond was born August 17, 1851in Stirling Scotland and died March 11, 1897.  While not well known in our day, he was a moving force in for Christianity during his short life.  A graduate of of Edinburgh, Scotland, he was a minister, world traveler, mathematician.  You can learn more about his life from Wikipedia.
Phil Hodges, partner with Ken Banchard handed out a small pamphlet entitled The Greatest Thing in the World and other Addresses.  This is a wonderful little booklet describing the power of love.  You can read  it as a pdf file at: Greatest Thing.

But I found another article that I believe is even more powerful for our day and time.  It is entitled The Changed Life.  In this short very readable essay Drummond makes the case that spiritual transformation is as natural as a rose plant producing roses.  His thesis is beautifully simple: transformation is the outcome of spending time with Jesus.  He starts the article by describing four traditional ways of transformation that do now work.  After that he warms to his basic premise that transformation follows from time spent with the one who transforms.

In a day and age where men and women are seeking all kinds of ways of sanctification Drummond draws us back the Biblical model God designed for that purpose.