Thursday, December 01, 2005

The End of the Beginning

Officially that was the last posting for this course (Univ Maryland DMGT720). However, I have learned a lot about the creative process of writing and the real power of hte mind to generate ideas when it is forced.

Freewriting is definitely something that I will use again in the future. As mentioned in a couple of the entries, I used frewriting to create a fast first draft of a chapter for the book Dynamic Modeling. Each chapter was written by a different author. Half of the authors did not meet the deadline for their manuscripts. Freewriting helped me be one of the half that did meet the deadline.

It has been a great learning experience.

What I Plan to Do

So, now we know what I will read during the break. But what will I do? First, I plan to spend more time on my bicycle. The refreshing wind does not feel the same sitting behind my computer as it does on a bicycle the first thing in the morning. Second, I will actually spend more evenings with my family. I might even take my wife to dinner a couple of times. The Saturday after I return from the f2f class is my daughter’s birthday party. So I will be at a skating rink trying to manage 10 middle school girls. That will be a lot more fun than reading about data collection methods for qualitative research. Third, I plan to look around me and wonder … what should I do with my time? Because we spend so much time studying (10-20 hours per week), we tend to forget what it is that normal people do after work every day. I do not recover from that immediately. It takes so time before I stop sitting at my computer wondering why it is not ordering me to read or write.

Actually, one of the reasons I am in this program is that I enjoy learning new material more than most of the other things I could be doing (“most”, not “all”). So these breaks remind me that I really do get a lot out of what we are doing in the DM program and that it is a better choice than watching terrible TV (nearly all of it), cleaning the house, working the yard, mindless shopping, etc.

So I do not have a huge plan for what to DO over the break.

What I Plan to Read

One of the toughest things about the DM program is that you are so busy doing homework and reading for homework that you really cannot read the things you like. I have collected a number of books through the semester that I plan to read over the 6 week break. I have more than I can get through – but that is part of the pleasure of it. Here are the books I am looking forward to right now:

1. Halo: The Fall of Reach. This is an SF novel that uses the Halo computer game as its theme. I started this because I am creating a seminar to teach to High School students and thought Halo would be a good theme for the presentation. Turns out the book is not too bad. There are 2 others in the series, but I am not sure I want more of the same armored heroes fighting evil alien hordes. Have you every wondered why an alien race who is much more powerful than us would be evil? Why not nice and helpful the way Earth people are represented in the movies? “They want our water!” is the common reply. Well, I am sure they could not have become advanced enough to travel through space without a plentiful supply of the raw materials to sustain life.

2. First In. This is the story of the CIA’s first moves into Afghanistan. It was recommended by an old government guy that I know. He said it is fascinating.

3. Seeing What’s Next. This is Clayton Christensen’s 3rd book on innovation. I read his material and turn that into conference presentations. In January I am speaking about the “Disruptive Influence of Game Technology” at the GAMES Synergy Summit. This will be the 4th conference presentation on disruptive technology. I have been able to place Christensen’s and other authors ideas into the context of the military simulation and computer gaming industry and everyone wants to hear those ideas at their conferences.

4. HBR on Innovation. This is a collection of old HBR articles on innovation. Many of these are “classics”. Also directed at my conference presentations.

5. The Harvey Girls. When we were visiting the Grand Canyon we learned the story of Fred Harvey establishing “Harvey Houses” across the west. This is the story of the girls who were hotel and kitchen staff in those hotels and how they tamed the west by marrying the wide cowboys and turning them into farmers and ranchers who would support a wife and children. There was also an old movie of the same name starring Judy Garland. We got that from NetFlix and watched it. It was good, fun, corny.

6. Harry Potter. I read an occasional Harry Potter book. The newest movie was so good, that I might want to read the book version of it.

That is all I have and certainly more than I can get through.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bleeping Attitude

So if I my bleeping attitude is programmed unconsciously by me, then I can reprogram it. That aligns with the ideas of Norman Vincent Peale and the horde of positive thinking people that followed him. It sounds like “unconscious” mental programming is only unconscious because we are too busy doing other things to notice that it is happening. It does not mean that it is beyond our reach, just currently beyond our attention.

Reprogramming first requires becoming aware of your attitude and then tracing that to the behaviors that are programming it. From there, I suspect that it is best to select replacement behaviors rather than forcing out existing behaviors and leaving a void.

This is where the bleeping movie might come in very handy. The metaphysical or paraphysical world that it describes (true or not) is an alternative to the concrete world we usually deal with. Reprogramming can be assisted by access to nontraditional ideas that force people to stop looking at the world from one point of view. That in itself is valuable in making change. If you cannot release your current ideas, opinions, and mores, then there is little room for change. In fact, your current state is a function of those very ideas. It might be that you have encapsulated a combination of these that can only lead to the kind of behavior you have right now. It might be impossible to change without changing the ingredients that you allow into your mind and body. This is an area where religious conversion is effective. It changes the ideas you allow into your head and it changes you daily practices. Therefore, it almost has to change your attitude and perspective. It is just like changing the ingredients in a soup, it has to taste different. Same for the metaphysical ideas from the bleeping movie.

What the bleep do we know

I watched the movie “What the bleep do we know”. It was interesting and surprising. I work with a woman who is completely into all of these types of ideas and practices. She knew the movie instantly and had read books by many of the contributors. I am more skeptical. Many of the ideas are certainly true, but applied in a new light in the movie. Other ideas will require more verification.

Specific ideas that I caught were:
· The emotions and behaviors that you exhibit strengthen neural pathways in your brain. Therefore, repetition created your mental state. Getting out of a previous state (or rut) requires repeatedly behaving different until the old pathways weaken and new ones are strengthened. This is encouraging because it means that changing personality is possible, though not necessarily easy.
· Humans become dependent on a number of chemicals and practices to deal with stress. Reprogramming can also break those addictions and give you the opportunity to take on new behaviors (and probably new “good” dependencies or addictions).
· The idea of changing the structure of water by taping a word onto the bottom was highly questionable. I do not see any way that the water can be influenced by the pattern of ink on a piece of paper. For this to happen, it would mean that energy would have to be transferred from the person writing the label, stick to the ink, and then be transferred again to the water. I need a lot more convincing to believe this.

Finally, at the end they gave the credentials of the people who were interviewed. Many of these were very credible – notably professors from Stanford and Cornell. Two who were not so credible were the chiropractor from Atlanta and the woman who channeled wisdom from a spirit named Ramatha.

Web site

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Freewriting in Greek - What does the mind do?

When using the computer, does it matter whether the displayed text is in readable English or symbols – like Greek? Lets find out …

In thoeyr our freewrting is different if we hand write than if we type on a computer. Psychologically we process differently when we are hand writing than typing. I think that is true. Handwriting is a specialized form of artwork. It is "drawing characters", not just pecking them off of a keyboard. Wihout some reflection it is possible to elieve that there is no difference. But when you actually practice both you quickly notice a significant difference in what you mind is doing in the two cases.

So I wondered if it would make a difference to change to font to Greek symbols and write an entry. Certainly, I still have the keyboard to look at as I am doing right now. But, MS Word does not do spell chaeck in Greek. So there is no feedback that tells me to fix a speklling or grammar error. The Greek symbols also stop me from looking at the text on the screen and revising what I will say.

Having done just this short section in Greek, I can say that this form is unique from normal typing. Because you cannot read it, the words disappear into the computer and you just feep flowing. Once they are donn, it is very difficult to revise, because you cannot see what to go back and change. I have already noticd a number fo spelling errors that have slipped past too fast for me to corrent.

When writing the mind is doing an interesting combination of thinking, typing, reading, revising, and editing ... all at the same time. I suspect that typing or writing in the ....
Right there someone walked in and interrupted me. I cannot go back and look at what I was writing. If I don;t remember what word I was on, then I cannot continue the flow.

Freewriting in the dark (whether typing or handwriting) would be yet another modified mind/body process.

This was an intersting experiment. Must go now.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Freewriting Topics

This assignment is supposed to do two things – (1) get us to realize and practice how freewriting can break a writers block and actually reveal buried and valuable thoughts in our own heads, and (2) allow us to explore ideas in research methods. For me, it has done #1 very well. I had not realized what a great cauldron of ideas was sitting on top of my neck. I thought it was just a good place to display a UM hat. However, it is has not been so successful at #2. During the first week of class we identified the 3 major methods of research – qualitative, quantitative, and mixed. Since then we have spent the semester circling these topics and adding more layers to them. However, I soon ran out of new topics to explore in this journal. I could have rewritten on the same topic after learning more. Also, many of the textbooks we are using are dead boring. They go on, and on, and on about simple ideas. I am now sold on the value of qualitative methods, but in spite of my experience with the texts. Those books (esp. Northcutt and Patton) make me think they have an inferior method and they have to write long and boringly about it to try to justify it. Thank heavens for Creswell and Punch. They really rescue qualitative methods from its own proponents. Reading papers that use a qualitative method has been must more valuable than reading books on the topic. It is clear that some questions have to be created first qualitatively before they can be proven quantitatively.

As I read the chapters in the textbooks, I am seldom struck by a really interesting or new idea. Too often I am lulled into boredom and just keep swimming until the end of the chapter. I must admit that when I get to my dissertation, I may find these books invaluable references – I that might just be a polite way of saying they stink … which they really do.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving Weekend - More Homework

Most people look forward to the long Thanksgiving weekend so they can relax, overeat, watch football, and be with family. We did all of that too. But now that it is Friday, I am looking forward to 3 days with no work responsibilities … free time ... that I can use to finish the last 4 homework assignments for the Fall Semester.

1) Drake Case. I have a nice outline of ideas for this case. I plan to get a first draft of the text written today.
2) Statistics Project. I have been doing statistical analysis on my data set for a month. I can see the patterns that I want to pull out and the model that I want to make. But, I need some big block of time to organize and write that material down.
3) Statistics Assignment. There is one last assignment that is due in a week or so. Time to get the reading done for that and start on the problems. I think Denise has already done this one.
4) Freewriting Journal. While I was working in Canada, I fell behind in my journal by 3 days. I need to do those entries this weekend.
5) Drake Case Presentation. After I have the Drake Case written, I have to prepare a presentation for the class. This has to be done before I fly up there on Thursday night.
6) Statistics Project Presentation. I have to create a summary presentation on the statistics project for next Saturday. First I have to make it with Powerpoint, then convert to Impatica, then post on the 725 WebTycho site.

That’s all between now and the end of the semester. Oh, of course, that does not count the reading and posting to WebTycho sessions.

I think I will go back to bed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Homework - Middle School vs. Doctoral Studies

Over the holiday weekend there are two people in our house that have homework. My 12 year-old daughter has to create a science project. Hers requires a stand-up tri-fold project board, pictures, text, and a model of the water cycle. She has to search the Internet for pictures, write text about the water cycle, and build a clay model of the cycle. I am the other one. I have 5 or 6 assignments to start or finish this weekend. I have to research questions in management using books and papers from a digital library. However, I do not have to make anything from clay. So my hands will remain clear, but I won’t have anything to demonstrate in class on Dec 2nd.

Remember show and tell? You always had bring something to hold up – I have since learned that those are “tactiles”. Well, now that we are doctoral students it seems that we spend little time on tactiles. We don’t have time to mess with anything but documents and words. There is little time to apply what we have learned. Between semesters I often find an outlet for my new knowledge. My new understanding of Innovation and Change have become the topics for a number of conference presentations. I can hardly wait for the end of this semester when I can organize some of this into a series of presentations.

My daughter often throws a fit if her assignments are not going well or if they interfere with the rest of her life. Because she has parents there seems to be some reason that she can project that frustration onto us – it is own fault. But as an adult learner, it is difficult to direct my frustration outwardly. Whose fault is it that I have too much homework? Apparently my own, because I decided to sign up for these two classes. So I can only get sad or tired when the work gets heavy.

I think doctoral work would be much more rewarding if we had tactiles. We could build little office buildings with clay, popsicle sticks, and matches. Maybe we could collect bottle caps and make a mural of Jack Welch or Lee Iacocca. If that is too silly, then maybe we could create exercises in which we apply our new concepts to our own companies or to those in the news. Maybe we could attempt to solve GM’s current problem with sales, unions, and retiree benefits.

I am going to play with clay for awhile – the blue looks really nice.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Canadian vs. European Insecurity

Though the Canadians I was working with wanted to be unique from Americans, they did not exhibit the national insecurity that comes from many Europeans. When workign with Europeans I often find that they are eager to point out that their country has invested something or has some social feature that is superior to the U.S. It is not sufficient that that feature be good, in their eyes there is some reason that it must be better than the U.S.

The strangest of these came from a Dutchman. He went into a little speech about why The Netherland’s money was superior to U.S. money. Their bills were printed in different colors and multiple sizes. Working will bills that were all green and all the same size was just inferior in his mind. Though this is certainly an area in which anyone could have a personal opinion, it is no basis upon which to measure the value of an entire country.

In Canada, an interview on television mentioned the color of their money being a distinguisher between the two countries.

In a recent conversation with a professor form Finland, he wanted me to see his Nokia telephone which was produced in Norway and emphasize that it was very advanced, but not yet available in the U.S. He also felt that he was doing research that was leading the world, especially the U.S.

Personally, I do not believe that I engage Europeans with a superior attitude. However, it would be very easy for me not to notice this bias in my speech. I assume that they are reacting to an image of the U.S. that they have built up over many years. Perhaps their media is projecting an arrogant image of the U.S. Certainly in International affairs the US behaves with a great deal of arrogance and disregard or the opinions of the rest of the world.

An American comedian performing in Canada may have said it best. He thanked them for their kindness because it was so rare to find anyone outside of the US that liked America right now.