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Where do ideas come from? June 7, 2012

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, family coaching, Family Crisis Group, FCG, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, shared vision, Systems Thinking.
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I was watching a YouTube video of Tony Faddall addressing the question, “Where do ideas come from?” For Tony the answer was FRUSTRATION. I think that’s a great source for someone involved in engineering. My daughter was in the Apple Store a couple of weeks ago with her new iPad. What she wanted to do is create a document and have it be on a cloud so she can update that document from any computer where the file resides. I’m a writer so this seemed elemental. But currently it can’t be done in a transparent fashion. The tec helping her said that he understood her concept and it was a good idea. Well Duh. We all live with frustration in our daily lives and it is getting worse.

I’ve noticed over the last year a disturbing trend in large corporations. For instance, our KitchenAid trash compactor has been broken most of time while my maintenance contract was ticking away. The rest of the time we just sat thinking about calling the repairman. So when I got the renewal contract in the mail I called KitchenAid service and told them the situation and suggested they should give me another year on my contract for free. Now what I just did was ask the person on the other end of the phone to walk to the moon. So, the answer I got was “Impossible.” No way. We don’t do that. Ever.

So with the challenge set, I went on a mission to get the “impossible” done. I called supervisors and got the same Impossible. Now my wife had been around with them before so she had a number for someone in the corporate office. I called her and suddenly the impossible became possible.

This super negative ‘there’s no way in hell’ attitude seems to be permeating business. When I ran Dickinson Theatres I’d ask the receptionist to direct all complaint calls to me the President/CEO. I had fun solving their problems and keeping a happy customer. I guess that’s old fashioned.

Frustration? Yes it breeds ideas and sometimes a smart person may solve the problem if he/she doesn’t get fired for doing so. Now I’m a creative guy. I write movies, short stories, books and do photography. These ideas come from a bit different place. What I say is, the day dreamers in the room will probable have an idea and do something great. Those who couldn’t daydream if they tried need not apply.

I find my ideas come from a convergence of information that at first may not look related. I also love the “what if…” game. The point is creativity is not just the property of a few but the property of all no matter if it’s computer design or programming or painting or writing a novel. Here is a good LINK to start.

For you writers out there a fun tool is The Observation Deck.

The number one biggest helper in the creative department is curiosity. My computer defines curiosity as a” strong desire to know or learn something.” Curiosity may have killed the cat but it truly is the well from which ideas flow.

Control June 17, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, family coaching, Life Coach.
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It’s Friday and a wonderful rainy Friday to boot. As I woke this morning I mourned the fact I couldn’t stay in bed and enjoy the sound of the rain and just relax and think. This is becoming a huge problem not only for me but all of us I fear.

I met a friend for breakfast then came home to sort through tax issues before going in to work. Work is something I’m trying to move to my home. Having an office these days is silly. It’s an expense that returns little value and mostly is a pain due to landlords who are rude and ungrateful. I have plenty of space in my home to work and Starbucks or Panera for my meeting rooms.

The real problem I have (and I don’t think I’m alone) is time and its organization plus managing my to do list. The reason is the constant flow of interruptions. In 7 Habits we talk about actions we take being broken into 4 quadrants. The idea is if we can spend more time in planning and preparation then we’ll reduce the emergency issues that eat away at our time. Urgency. I think maybe the world has driven us beyond this simple idea. It isn’t simple urgent issues that beg for my time and my control over stopping urgent issues isn’t just a matter of better planning and preparation. It now has become the decision not to play in this relentless world of immediate gratification.

I write an email and expect an answer immediately. I text and wait for the reply. I am accosted with volumes of blogs I’m made to feel are essential to my success as well as leaving comments, blogging myself and doing everything just right to build my “social presence.” All of this could fall under planning and preparation when it feels totally urgent and might just be a total waste of time.

Confusion is what has been created in the world today. I look at my kids who are in college and high school and they are knee deep in a world that exercises more control on them than they have on themselves.

I think maybe it is time to look at our models of time management and recreate them to match the chaos that is the environment we currently live in. I look at my father-in-law’s life (now in his 80s) and he has none of this chaos not because it isn’t all around him but he doesn’t choose to respond to it. Kids growing up in it right now are wiring their brains to contain this chaos but at the price of personal relationships and times of reflection and peace. Instead they withdraw into activities that are time wasting. Escape I think. Excessive sleeping, television, texting and general disconnection to real life and the social and political realities around them.

How to change this? A total reboot of the social system? Abandoning the Internet? Something must change and maybe it is one person at a time deciding your problems are not my problems. I start my day doing what I want. Phone off, no email running, and looking at my to do list with intentionality. Planning to do email for thirty minutes or so before lunch and again at 4:30 in the afternoon. Ignore text until lunch time. No Internet except for directed activities needed to fulfill my to dos.

If this leaves Facebook not visited today, so be it. My “social presence” isn’t important to the real work I want to accomplish today.

When Life Is Chaos! May 24, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in Change, Hope, Systems Thinking.
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It’s really funny (or aggravating) when life decides to take a detour from where you think you are going. I’m in the middle of a huge detour right now. These trials are upsetting and aggravating primarily because you think you have a handle on life and a focus on what you want to create and how to do it. Then life happens. Out of your control some system or person decides to throw you into chaos. Like when I came to work the other day and I turn on my computer only to find my DSL line from AT&T was suspended with a message telling me to call them now!

My world grinds to a halt as I wait on hold for 30 minutes. When I get a person I ask what the frozen DSL line and nasty message are all about. She, in the best of self-righteous ways, tells me I haven’t paid my bill and if I would like to take care of that she could help me and unfreeze my DSL line. It took all the patients I had not to take this woman’s head off. I counted to 10 then asked her, “Didn’t you receive a check?” She tells me to hold and clicks off. A dangerous thing to have happen after a 30 minute hold time. She clicks back on sounding meek and not nearly as self-righteous. She said, “Yes, I have a check for xxx amount and your current balance is xxx and everything is just fine. She will get my DSL back up and have a nice day.” Click.

This is what is passing for customer service these days. I have had Shell call me telling me I’m so past due and they want a credit card number now. Oh sure, I just give anyone who calls all my credit card information. I asked for statements to be mailed to me so he asked what my account number was (now he called me) and since I don’t use gas cards I said I didn’t have a clue. What came next just blew me away. Suddenly I didn’t have an account with Shell. This was the most confusing call. I asked how I could owe anything if I don’t have an account? He didn’t know and hung up.

One of the best calls I experienced was one I made. I was going over a credit card bill and noticed a charge for AAA auto club. I can’t remember ever signing up for that. Currently I drive a Mercedes and it comes with roadside assistants. I called the number listed on the bill and got a marvelous customer service lady. I said that there was a charge from AAA and I never order it so I want it off my bill. She began to argue with me that I did order it. It was an automatic renewal. I just love auto renewals because it is near impossible to get them stopped. Finally I asked when the charge was started. She said 1985 so I told her I wanted a refund from 1985 to the present for all the AAA charges. She hug up on me!

Now that just doesn’t work on me. I called them right back. Of course I got a different person and this guy was very nice and helpful. The last lady had removed the charge after she hung up on me. I told this gentleman what my experience had just been and he was very sorry, took an incident report and promised it would be taken care of. We parted friends.

Citi Corp calls day and night because I’m past due on my bill for $8. They spent more than $8 collecting that debt. These companies are so reactive now that they alone can create a lot of chaos which in the end does them more damage than good. A sign of the times I guess.

I understand people are hurting now. I’m one of those people. I don’t care what Washington keeps saying this “economic recovery” seems very unreal. This is a time for compassion and looking for ways to put together deals with customers that help the company get paid and doesn’t over burden the customer or charge an exorbitant interest rate. But do they do that? No. Conflict is what they like and the customer feels shame at being in this position and the company doesn’t have a clue that when you shame a person you have just hurt yourself as well. The person shamed will either strike out at them or strike out at himself. Both actions have negative consequences for the company.

And so it goes. Business in the 21st century…

And so it goes April 22, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, executive leadership, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, shared vision, Systems Thinking.
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There was a full moon this week. I’ve run into other people who have said the same thing. That’s the origin of the term lunatic. In the Victorian era when many of the college campus size asylums were built they called them lunatic asylums. Now that work lunatic has taken on negative connotations like changing what you call it will change what it is. This exchange was invigorating and made me think! I enjoyed John’s view and hope he felt the same. Life’s to short for anything else.

my answer:

This is an interesting view on life and I thank you for sharing this with
all of us. As for a manual I really meant a copy of the 7 Habits book. I
agree that the imprint of infancy, the first 18 months of life, does leave
a basis for making choices in life. I just feel sometimes we don’t know
what it is that happened in the past that drives the choice today. These
events may be unrelated to current stimulus you are encountering. I suffer
with PTSD. There are two kinds 1) sudden onset and 2) Grand Canyon. The
* may never become activated so it doesn’t pose a problem but if it is
activated then searching for the root cause so memories can be properly
integrated can be a real trip. This is what I have and I’m here to tell you
it is no fun.
Principles govern. I believe that. Fight natural law and you will lose. Our
task is to bring our personal values in alignment with natural laws. An on
going process and a reason I keep compasses everywhere. When a plane takes
off from NYC bound for LA it spends something like 60% of its time going
the wrong way and needing attention from the pilot or auto-pilot. Scary
thought. Thank you for sharing your view. I’ll file them away with the
other info I collect on these subject.
Best regards,
Wood Dickinson

Questioning the 7 Habits April 20, 2011

Posted by wooddickinson in 7 Habits, Change, consulting, executive coaching, Hope, Life Coach, Neurobiology, Systems Thinking.
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I wrote a small comment on a LinkIn group for 7 Habits that challenged two of the core ideas Dr. Covey teaches. First the theory of Determinism and second that Habit 1 “Be Proactive” isn’t real. This started with a question posed by Phyllis, the leader of the group.

It took me a whole year to read and digest the book–7 Habits of Highly Effective People. How long did it take you and what did you learn from it?”

What I wrote was this: I read the book in 1993 and started teaching it in 1994. I’ve come to the realization through a continued study in human behavior, psychology and neuroscience that much of what the 7 Habits proposes is false. Indeed there are some great common sense ideas in the book but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago. Sad that success forces one to forsake continued research and hold to poor behavioral models just because you can’t say, “I was wrong, here’s how it works. I think. We know so little about the true functioning of the brain that saying you understand how the mind works is just a joke. Let’s be serious. Just the minds consistent use of metaphor through language cuts us off from The Real. We can never see anything as it really is. If we could we couldn’t withstand it and surely we’d die. Read the book “Into the Wild,” for an example.”

Then I received a message from a member named Ravi: On 04/18/11 10:05 PM, RAVI GOROWALA wrote:

Wood Hi,

Would you like to elaborate on  “but there is no such thing as “Be Proactive” and deterministic psychology was thrown out 10 years ago.” For me this is important as I have never come across this kind of criticism and being open minded I would like to explore this further.”

I started to answer his question and I found it was going to take a bit more space than what I usually use on LinkIn. I decided to answer with a blog post so everyone can ponder it. I might mention that I am working on a book that will update the 7 Habits type framework into modern day theories and practices. The ideas here are part of that work.

Dear Ravi,

I’d be glad to explain my views. I was very deep into using 7 Habits personally and in my company. I started my own journey in 1993 and have read and listened to the 7 Habits probably 50 times then in 1994 I started teaching  it. I taught 100s of people.  I helped in designing and implementing what is now called “7 Habits for Associates.” I was profiled in Dr. Covey’s book “Living the 7 Habits.” Now to your question, I have kept up on changing psychological models over the years. I do this to advance my own development.

The theories of determinism are really poorly represented in the 7 Habits. Dr. Covey talks about 3 of them, Environmental, Genetic, and Psychic. In the study of human behavior there are at least 9 major deterministic theories. The basic set is:

Causal Determinism: This psychology is based on the assumption that there is an antecedent for every event to happen.

Logical Determinism: This is the outcome of the notion that whatever is proposed about the past, present or future fall in either of the categories: True or False.

Metaphysical Determinism: As per this determinism, every event is caused by necessity and for a reason.

Biological Determinism: This thesis is based on the belief that all behavioral patterns and desires are controlled by nature through factors such as genes.

Nomological Determinism: As per this psychology, the future events are to some extent propelled by the combination of nature’s laws and events factoring the past and present.

Psychological Determinism: This is a view that is purely based on rational thinking and human instincts that control our desires.

Behavioral Determinism: This ideology is purely based on the reflex actions that have been governed by the environment and surroundings.

Environmental Determinism: This psychology is based on the theory that physical conditions of an environment determine the culture of a region. To be precise, every human instinct is controlled by the stimulus response theory.

Fatalism: This is a significant determinism psychology that says everything in the universe is governed by fate and there is no control over it.”   quoted from http://www.buzzle.com/articles/determinism-psychology.html

Beyond these theories you also need to factor in Reciprocal Determinism Psychology and Free Will Determinism Psychology. I’ll let you dig those up on your own.

Now to tell you why these models fail I’ll quote a blog entry I came across that I thought was particularly insightful. You have to remember that determinism on the surface is a philosophical question. The scientists can try to quantify it and catalog it but at the end of the day it’s still philosophy. I can just as easily build a case for Jacques Lacan’s philosophy of psychoanalysis and philosophy as explained by Slavoj Žižek, who translated Lacan’s work and added to it by using popular culture.  Language itself serves a need for building metaphors of real objects so when we look at the world we see it through a screen of language.  Artists many times attempt to pierce this screen and peek into “The Real” and bring a bit back in their work for the rest of us to learn from. To live in “the real” would kill us. Again, I reference “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

Arguments Against Determinism

Determinism for me is irrational. Here’s why.

Published on February 9, 2004 By EFalgui In Philosophy

I have been thinking about the reasons why I am so against determinism. For me determinism is just plain wrong in the sense that we have no choice in anything that we do. Another thing is that if everything is already plotted out then doesn’t that destroy the point of taking responsibility for our actions.

People argue that if God is all knowing then how would it be possible for people to have free will. My response to this is that God knows all the paths that are possible. Because there is more than one possible path to life, we have the power to choose our own way without taking Gods omniscience into question. Anyway I have been thinking of some more arguments and these are a few I found against determinism.

Determinism is self-defeating. A determinist insists that both determinists and non-determinists are determined to believe what they believe. However, determinists believe self-determinists are wrong and ought to change their view. But “ought to change” implies they are free to change, which is contrary to determinism, since how can one change what is already determined. =P

Determinism is irrational. C.S. Lewis argued that naturalistic, complete determinism is irrational. For determinism to be true, there would have to be a rational basis for their thought. But if determinism is true, then there is no rational basis for thought, since non-rational forces determine all. So, if determinism claims to be true, then it must be false. Do you get it?

Determinism destroys human responsibility. If God is the cause of all human actions, then human beings are not morally responsible. One is only responsible for a choice if there was free will to avoid making it. All responsibility implies the ability to respond, either on one’s own or by God’s grace. Ought implies can. But if God caused the action, then we could not have avoided it. Hence, we are not responsible.

Determinism renders praise and blame meaningless. Similarly, if God causes all human actions, then it makes no sense to praise human beings for doing good, nor to blame them for doing evil. For if the courageous really had no choice other than to show courage, why reward it? If the evil had no choice but to commit their crime, why punish them? Rewards and punishment for moral behavior makes sense only if another did not cause the actions.

Determinism leads to fatalism. If everything is determined beyond our control, then why do good and avoid evil? Indeed, if determinism is right, evil is unavoidable. Determinism destroys the very motive to do good and shun evil.

Determinism is unbiblical. Theistic opponents to determinism offer several objections from Scripture. Defining free choice as “doing what one desires” is contrary to experience. For people do not always do what they desire, nor do they always desire to do what they do (Romans 7:15-16)”  Source Located at – http://boogerschnot.joeuser.com/article/7155

This is all philosophical of course but it does show the common sense reasons why determinism is a failed concept. It’s easy to google the decline of determinism and read about the current state of affaires. I’d recommend google scholar so you can find credible sources of information based on research.

Now, Habit 1 Be Proactive. Before there was 7 Habits this word was rarely used.  The first time it appeared was 1933. Now it’s a cliché.  Proactive as it’s really defined refers to some form of anticipation of actions before they happen and this anticipation can guide choices that improve the chances of more effective outcomes. A proactive choice is installing a sump pump before the rain floods your basement or planning what you’re going to do when on your next vacation now, not when you get there.

To act with proactivity as Dr. Covey explains it is tied together with the idea of stimulus and response. If a certain event happens you don’t react instead you create a space between the stimulus and your response where you make a choice as to what your response will be. I’m not saying that certain people have the capacity to think before they act but I don’t think it is a learnable skill.

According to psychologistWorld.com:   Stimulus Response Theory

“Stimulus Response Theory is a concept in psychology that refers to the belief that behavior manifests as a result of the interplay between stimulus and response. In particular, the belief is that a subject is presented with a stimulus, and then responds to that stimulus, producing “behavior” (the object of psychology’s study, as a field). In other words, behavior cannot exist without a stimulus of some sort, at least from this perspective.”

Now please note that in this citation the comment “at least from this perspective” is used. That’s because there isn’t any hard evidence that a specific stimulus will produce a specific response. I’m not talking about things like, you smell good food and you suddenly want to eat or you are drowning so you fight and flail around even hitting rescuers. Certain actions or say reactions are part of the brains Default Network. This network kicks in to help moderate certain actions. You see two 5 year olds playing tug of war with a bottle of ketchup and don’t think twice about it but if it was two 25 year old males you would become alarmed. The Default Network doesn’t start functioning until about age 13.

Reactions that happen outside of this Default Network happen because of special circumstances in a persons life. Look up B. F. Skinner and the Skinner Box. Back in the 60s this was the truth. Like Pavlov, you ring the bell and the dog drools and comes to eat. The problem with this is, sometimes they don’t. Why? Well Skinner et. al. really didn’t want to deal with that issue so they relegated these events to error. But there was a reason that it happened. It’s cognition.  The rat thinks, “I don’t want to run this maze right now.” The rat has no self-awareness so it can’t tell you why but we do.

Back in the 70s and 80s maybe later the feeling was the rat was making a choice. This proves a connection between stimulus and response. But that’s not true. Everything is a choice, after a fashion, but the reason for the choice may have nothing to do with the stimulus itself. It just appears that way. I hear a tornado siren and run to the basement. Another person hears the same siren and ignores it while a third person runs outside to see if there really is a storm. None of these actions are a direct response to the siren. They’re a response to an emotional state that is hard-wired into the brain due to past experiences.  I may not be able to do anything but run to the basement. Events in my life started the wiring in my brain that built a pattern of behavior and all the proactivity in the world won’t change it. If this is predicated on an unnatural fear of storms then I have to make a decision that this reaction bothers me and I want to change it. Then I probably go through exposure therapy to ease the emotions, allowing me to clip the wires and put in new ones. Once that’s done I don’t run to the basement unless I want to.

Neurobiology is showing us that the brain has a lot of plasticity and this process of rewiring is possible.  Dr. Covey tells us to use our imagination to grow proactivity then use that proactive muscle to change how we respond to events around us. Ask yourself this question, if I smoke can I make the choice, at the moment when I want a smoke, to not have the cigaret? Ask any smoker. I used to smoke and I’m here to tell you I decided to cut all the wires connected in my brain that brought on the urge to have a cigarette. This had to happen well before I was in the heat of the moment and it hurt. It took two years to get over the habit. I didn’t smoke during that two years The nicotine addiction was nothing compared the the brain rewiring I had to do so I’d never smoke again.

Enough examples, I hope you get the point. There is no being proactive. What there is initiative. Through the use of my initiative I was able to stop smoking. What I do is look at the current theories of human development, interaction and actions that are supported by science not opinion. For instance one of the mainstays of 7 Habits is the “Maturity Continuum.” The idea that we mature along a continuum which begs the notion of growth is a major part of the material. But I challenge that because we are born into the most important interdependent relationship of our lives. Babies are dependent and independent and interdependent and it happens all at once. No continuum.

There are a lot of good ideas in the 7 Habits but it is rusty and today you need to separate the wheat from the chaff. For a lot of people that isn’t easy. I commend you in seeking beyond and growing as an independent thinker.

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