Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

LinkedIn: The Lego Data Story

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

You know, YCISL and “Lego” (the pieces) have been together since the start. We’ve had our Lego Exercise since our first workshop in 2011. We’ve used it to demonstrate creativity, visualization and team collaboration.

In my LinkedIn newsfeed this week, I saw a graphic that uses Lego pieces. I managed to trace it back to a company called Hot Butter Studio and a photographer named Brandon Rossen. The LinkedIn version is an extended modification of the original and I found yet an even more extended version on Reddit in an article titled “The Lego Data Story, adapted from original image by Monica Rosales Ascenio.

I find the LinkedIn version thought provoking when it comes to design thinking. In our YCISL ITW-DTI design thinking workshops, we are using an asking questions method to acquire pieces of information that subsequently get architectured into a story worldview. This model also fits well with our Divergent-Convergent Thinking Feature List exercise where we gather as many options as possible, categorize them into priority levels, and use select attributes to differentiate for innovation.

I feel the “Explained with a Story” step enters the emotional intelligence realm by applying resources with purpose and meaning. The prior four steps (data, sorted, arranged & presented visually) are essentially analysis steps and would be considered part of the knowledge intelligence …and as per the YCISL KI + EI -> LI formula, we need to flex our EQ to achieve leadership and success.

If we also remind ourselves of Sir Ken Robinson’s thought that “In fact, creativity — which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value — more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.”…we also can appreciate the Actionable (Useful) extension of this graphic because the energy we put into our own creativity is intrinsically motivating when we receive feedback that we are serving something of value (further credit to Richard St John’s thought “…you’ve got to serve others something of value.”)

CNBC: “How Common Core Broke U.S. Schools”

Monday, August 9th, 2021

My YouTube feed today presented a video posted by CNBC titled “How Common Core Broke U.S. Schools.” The description for the video reads “First implemented in 2009, Common Core was an ambitious initiative to revolutionize the American education system. National leaders from Bill Gates to President Obama supported the idea and it cost an estimated $15.8 billion to implement. Years later, research showed the new curriculum had minimal impact on student performance. So why did Common Core fail? Can a common curriculum be successful for all students?”

Around 2010, my kids were in middle and high school. Race to Nowhere was making headlines with special screenings in communities and raised awareness about stress and anxiety in schools. I also recall two other programs with imagery-filled titles, “Race to the Top” and “No Child Left Behind,” that were adding fuel to an already burning problem. They were both huge funding efforts which by-passed Rory Sutherland’s fourth quadrant and the Ministry of Detail. Common Core apparently was also a product of this funding movement and, according to the CNBC report, failed to gain traction…ever.

The video reports on resistance to change (probably resulting from a poor elevator pitch) as well as crosswinds such as adoption of computers, e-textbooks, cultural shifts, and socioeconomic tides. This was the time when educators were discussing teaching framework alternatives that were working, but policymakers were fixated on testing, test scores and accountability. While Common Core didn’t really cause more damage to an already hurting K-12 educational program, it essentially helped the education industry grow at the expense of student learning…quasi-equilibrium so to speak. Entering college students were less well-prepared and colleges started having to offer more remedial catch-up courses (related to tuition increases?). Degree programs of study either got extended because instructors were stretched or terminated early because students couldn’t get past lower division courses. On top of this, government policy was driving increases in college enrollment and the value of an undergraduate degree declined (supply & demand, I guess).

The Common Core isn’t necessarily a bad idea. In fact, it’s a great idea. The issue may have been with the innovation & design thinking process. In YCISL-speak, the Common Core did not seem to possess emotional intelligence or intrinsic motivation. SAT/ACT, Subject tests and AP tests were the de-facto standards of achievement…and not interfaced with actual school learning. The knowledge gaps that Salman Khan had referred to were going to get worse.

Standards-based examination tied to school learning is in place almost everywhere in the world…except in the US. Standards-based education programs even have overseas influence (that is, outside the country where it is the national program). We also have the International Baccalaureate (IB) program which is standards-based and intentionally available by design for adoption internationally.

A greater disappointment lies in the poor outcome of the Common Core despite the sense and awareness that was sparked by Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDTalk “Schools Kill Creativity.” Maybe the next challenge should be Common Core 2.0 for 10% of the cost of the original Common Core. Some thriftiness might get some wiser moves.


WSJ: Making Senses

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

There was a special insert in the Friday July 8, 2021 issue of the WSJ titled the “Future of Everything.” In the center spread was an article titled “Making Senses” by Angus Loten & Kevin Hand. The article widened my mind scope on the “smart” and “eco-smart” project themes that are a part of the YCISL ITW-DTI workshops being offered this summer. Advances in sensory devices and dataset building with the alignment to human preferences should find amazing applications in sustainability design thinking.

Transparency. We are very familiar with computer vision and image recognition, but most of this is with regards to shapes and little else in terms of physical characteristics. The advancement described in the article about transparency will lead to better depth perception and recognition of vessel contents.

Taste. The need for sensory systems in food storage (eg, refrigerators that can detect bad food) is taking a long time. Let’s hope the advancements in “electronic tongue” technology means we are near the point where we can greatly reduce wasted food. A premium market for this may be in wine since wine can improve or decay depending on various factors.

Touch. I have seen many fascinating videos of product assembly lines and food production lines to know that there is a lot of mechanical tools involved. Upgrades to these and other applications could help healthcare as well as more common needs.

Smell. The AI sensory application to robotic noses and identifying vapors can be used in enhancing or neutralizing odors. There are so many places where pleasing odors could enhance productivity and removal of objectionable odors could reduce distractions.

Hearing. Noise cancellation hearing devices are quite popular presently. Ever tried using one during air travel? Isolating voices using AI could process sounds so that no idea is lost among the “chatter” and everyone is heard. Ever been to a call center?

The common thread in these advancing areas is the collection of reference data. Even so, there is so much variability that it is challenging to consider anything as a reference. Things change very quickly and conditions can tweak channels. For example, in the food waste application I mentioned above: how much reference data would be needed to tell whether it’s time to discard your jar of sauerkraut?


SCMP: Chinese university professor complains ‘lower IQ’ daughter is ‘mediocre student’ due to poor primary school results in viral video

Thursday, June 3rd, 2021

 PRNT 101: Introduction to Parenting. Introduction to the parenting of children emphasizing modern soft-skill engineering principles: object-oriented design, decomposition, encapsulation, abstraction, and testing. Emphasis is on good parenting style and the built-in facilities of parenting languages. No prior parenting experience required. 

This is a YCISL analysis of the article “Chinese university professor complains ‘lower IQ’ daughter is ‘mediocre student’ due to poor primary school results in viral video” written by Alice Yan and published by the South China Morning Post on June 1, 2021. This article refers to a video showing a person, presumably Associate Professor Ding Yanqing, sharing his experience parenting his daughter and lamenting her school performance. A video of a news broadcast on this story is posted on Baidu.

I am relying on the translation into English that is reported as quotes in the SCMP article.

“I tutored her every day. But she still finds it difficult to study. There is a big gap between her scores and that of the second-last student.” This reminds me of Daniel Pink’s TED Talk “The Puzzle of Motivation” where he said “When I got to law school, I didn’t do very well. To put it mildly, I didn’t do very well. I, in fact, graduated in the part of my law school class that made the top 90% possible.” The question that should be asked is whether the student was (1) in a class that would allow her to succeed; was she placed correctly? (2) in a school that would allow her to succeed; was the teaching a good fit for her learning? (3) in a place that would allow her to succeed; are there any non-academic co-factors?

“I am at a loss: this is destiny. I can’t do anything about it.” So he might be at the bottom of the parenting class? If anything, this should raise empathy. The other possible thought is that he is actually responsible for this outcome. Was there any attempt at prototyping? – “fail early, fail fast” as I like to suggest during prototyping – to consider several promising candidates and invest energy and resources wisely. I would also suggest that he reflect on what successes he encountered in this experience. Finding the positivity in failures is crucial to avoid worse outcomes.

“…force her to study or do homework.” In the YCISL, we use the idea of oblique change forces as well as setting up for an exploratory time period (Gamestorming framework). Is his daughter in peak mental and physical health? Are there distractions? The parenting question is what can you integrate with the need to study and do homework that would have a better chance at better learning? A 15-minute nap? A nutritious snack? A caring “how was your day?” chat? More information is needed to analyze this properly…perhaps she has a love of learning for certain subjects, but not others? How much sleep does she get? Does she have active listening filters?

“My daughter is definitely not a wonder child. Her IQ is far lower than both of us.” Any idea about her EQ? And have they all really been tested for IQ? Is it possible that he has a parenting bias because he has a daughter, not a son? Reminds me of the story about Gillian Lynne told by Sir Ken Robinson in his “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” TED Talk.

“No matter how outstanding you are, your child may be just an ordinary person.” Hmmm…humility appears not to be one of his strong points. I wonder if cultural toxicity is unusually high in his worldview.

“Ding admitted it was 95 per cent likely that his daughter would not be able to achieve scores good enough to be admitted to PKU in the future.” Ummm…did you ask your daughter whether she wanted to go to PKU? You also never know. I am at Stanford now…but I am quite “ordinary” and happy.

“Parents should identify their kids’ unique qualities in different aspects other than academic studies. They should find a path suitable for the kids to develop and assist them in that direction.” Finally, some good advice. But let’s add some design thinking to this statement. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? The Who? should be more than just the parents and kids…it needs at the core to also include the school community as well as social support network. The Where? needs to identify the places where the love of learning thrives. The When? should be addressed through optimized time management that promotes well-being. The What?, Why? and How? is up to each family to explore in their own worldview.

Here is a suggestion for parents in similar situations: Find a list of careers. Imagine your child in those careers. Are you able to accept that your child may be in that career? Can you imagine them being happy in that career? This is just a conditioning exercise. Whether the careers are feasible is not of concern for this purpose. Let’s try to picture a worldview with our children succeeding in each of the ways told to us by Richard St John in his TED Talk “8 Secrets of Success.” Another one of the YCISL “Simple, but not Easy” practical designs.

I will also share a thought that Assoc. Prof. Ding shared this story so publicly because of his academic interest in “reforms of Chinese compulsory education” (listed on his PKU web page) and was actually trying to stir and spin with connection to recent governmental reforms in education. This might explain the narrow thoughts early, and the final “good advice” thought.

LinkedIn: Post by Anthony J James of “Fluidity” by designlibero

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

In my LinkedIn feed today, I noticed a post by Anthony J James commenting “Innovative design idea” about a dish drying rack with sections for small plants that would be watered by water that drips from the drying dishes. My reaction was “cool” idea and a wonderful idea using the convergence technique we use in the current YCISL ITW program.

But wait! There was more… There were negative comments aplenty. Many comments were based on lack of understanding and a resistance to the product idea being able to replace the traditional dish drying rack (fixed mindset, I would diagnose). Here are a few examples:

“What about the soap? Would that not be toxic to plants?” Careful how you use the word “toxic” because there are several beneficial plant applications for soap. You can also discard lightly soapy water into your garden (ever washed your deck or patio stone?) without harming the plants.

“Nice try, quite ingenious except lots of plants grow spores, mold, fungi, and insects larvae form their ecosystem and not ours.” Ummm…are you suggesting not having houseplants at all? Or would you like to have a 6 ft social distancing requirement from any plant?

“The person who designed it doesn’t wash dishes.” One of those responses that is most likely incorrect. Perhaps not the way you wash dishes.

“No herbs raised on detergent water will ever taste good or be good for your health.” Reminds me of the Mister Boffo phrase “Unclear on the concept.”

“It is likely that there will be trace of chemicals present in water, that might affect the plant?” Tip: The water you use has chemicals in it. Be it from water treatment, natural atmospheric dissolved gases, dissolved minerals from aquifers, etc.

There were many encouraging comments too. Mostly on the external form design which I agree is cool.

But what struck me is the lack of productive commentary. I don’t usually comment on LinkedIn, but since this product touches on so many personal and YCISL interests, I wrote:

“Iterate this idea. Forget hydroponics. Many houseplants (ie, indoor plants such as the ZZ shown) need humidity rather than constantly wet roots. The LECA balls would provide support and a porous way for humidity to rise to plant. Would suggest removeable bottom tray for periodic cleaning. Other applications would be micro greens or seed starting using seed starter mix where constant moist but not wet needs to be maintained, but would recommend pre-filter such as activated carbon.”

The idea is to collaborate, not object or discourage. Use your expertise, if you have it to share. Wonder out loud, if you like – but imagine the possibilities rather than close your mind. The surprising thing is the LinkedIn titles the negative commenters had; eg, Concept Designer, Team Builder, Entrepreneur, Consultant, and so on. Evident absence of growth mindset.

I would also further share that this product is called “Fluidity” and a full description can be found on the designlibero web site. First, note that the design is dated 2012. Then now also note this article dated November 23, 2020 “Scotts Miracle-Gro completes acquisition of company that makes home-grow kits” which reports how AeroGrow, the maker of the well-known AeroGarden, was acquired. The hydroponic countertop product was already finding a place in kitchens and other places around the home (let’s also remember the countertop composting worm bins!) where nature is succeeding over germaphobia. So I do feel there is a design genius within Fluidity. It just needs iteration based on constructive feedback and focus group testing.

If this was a YCISL DEZIGNBLÄST design project, we would be fully supportive and encourage iteration through further design thinking and divergent-convergent thinking. In the feature list exercise that we do, we would build Smart-app support, sustainability factors such as use of solar cells, and positivity in form and function. Then our students would craft a story to go along with this must-have product.

Just think…if this was made for college students living in a dorm. They would have just a few dishes, want late night snacks, and stress-relieving plants to look at and take care of. Find that early adopter to help you tell your story in a positive worldview.

PS. The other lesson is not to take criticism too harshly unless you have found reason to trust your critic. Do they have growth mindset and positive mindset skills (remember, it takes work)? Do they have emotional intelligence and an ability to brainstorm self-edit-free? Test their ability for active listening and mindful push/pull/centering.

WSJ: Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern.

Wednesday, March 17th, 2021

Back in 2018, I wrote a comment about a WSJ article titled “The Gatekeeper Tests.” Today, I read an article in my March 13, 2021 print copy WSJ titled “Standardized Tests, Ancient and Modern” (it is titled “The Ordeal of Standardized Testing” in the WSJ online edition; strange as this is reverse of the positivity in titling lesson that TED has followed) by Amanda Foreman.

The article tickles me a little because it tries to show a history of standardized testing systems – set in wholly negative circumstance. And it’s more of what is not mentioned as parallels in testing historically that bemuses me. Even today, the SAT (and ACT etc) are obviously more Big Business than Education in a present when superior alternatives are readily available. If the motivation (or better put, raison d’être) for standardized testing is actual academic ability and accomplishment, then the purpose works, and the autonomy and mastery elements join in too. This is consistent with the various historical settings described in the article.

It’s a tool. And if used correctly and applied correctly, can be quite valuable. And like most tools, they need periodic improvements and refinements. And if I use the YCISL idea of precision vs accuracy-based education, standardized testing could use the same paradigm shift.

Think about all the forms of testing that exist today. Would anyone think their test would improve if they followed the SAT model? From tech QA to chemical analysis to sports performance to transportation to whatever else…, the SAT model is the one you need to face away from.

NYT: Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

I came across this article through LinkedIn today. The article lists various ways to re-engage with each other especially during this time of un-shakeable stress. “Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations” is an Opinion article by David Brooks dated November 29, 2020 on

The author’s suggestions make sense to me and I will undoubtedly be spending some time thinking how to turn these into YCISL workshop actions. But because I am currently engaged in a series of Popcorn with Colin discussions on creativity, in particular a tribute to Sir Ken Robinson’s epic TEDTalk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (originally titled “Schools Kill Creativity.”), I will dwell on the suggestion to “Ask Open-Ended Questions” and the timeliness of this for the online learning pivot.

This idea fits into the Divergent-Convergent Thinking and Asking Questions component of the YCISL Innovators Toolkit series. Open-ended questions (or problems which are inviting of innovative solutions) have the potential to stimulate and strengthen creativity. So the task is not to simply ask an open-ended question, but to frame a worldview that accommodates various perspectives and past experiences. We need to use design thinking in creating open-ended questions.

I haven’t had much practice at this, but let’s give it a few application attempts.

Here is a Physics homework problem I found on the web:

Gravitational Potential Energy GPE = mg∆h
12. A 5.0 kg mass is initially sitting on the floor when it is lifted onto a table 1.15 meters high at
a constant speed.
a. How much work will be done in lifting this mass onto the table?
b. What will be the gravitational potential energy of this mass, relative to the floor, once it is
placed on the table?
c. What was the initial gravitational potential energy, relative to the floor, of this mass while
sitting on the floor?

What if we changed this question to “Place a dumb bell (or other object) on the floor. Lift it onto a table at a constant speed. Use a scale and/or tape measure, if desired. It’s ok to estimate.”? Would this be too challenging? Could this be a more fun application-type question that helps the student use visualization as well as experimentation skills? Not all the questions would have to re-framed this way. But it does give a more first-person real world feel about how science applies to things we do on a daily basis.

And here is a Chemistry homework problem I found on the web:

Coffee cooling
A mug of coffee cools from 100 ℃ to room temperature, 20 ℃. The mass of the coffee is
m = 0.25 kg and its specific heat capacity may be assumed to be equal to that of water,
c = 4190 J. kg-1. K-1.
Calculate the change in entropy
(i) of the coffee
(ii) of the surroundings

What if we changed this question to “Your morning mug of coffee/tea/water cools to room temperature. Use a scale and/or thermometer, if available. Otherwise estimate.”? Hopefully, everyone has been aware at some point that a hot beverage gives off warmth and gradually cools. There is also the intrinsic motivation factor (that we are fond of in YCISL) where we involve mastery, autonomy and purpose (added through the use of another Innovator Toolkit skill: Filling & Crossing Gaps).

As another example, I require online seminar logs for a seminar course at Stanford. This is for proof of attendance. But instead of asking for a summary of the seminar presentation, the question is “Describe in 2-3 sentences how this talk connects with or relates to your interests, or your MS studies.” In general, most responses will be quite different reflecting perspectives and background. This makes it more interesting and informative for me. Note though that some students find this open-ended question challenging and defer to the seminar abstract as a basis for their thoughts – as opposed to internal stimulation and connections.

Re-reading the examples above, there is probably more fine-tuning possible to engage each other better. An example is to use the Positivity Innovator Toolkit skill and “garnish” the problems with emotionally positive words and uplifting expressions. “Your delicious morning mug of…

A good topic for future discussion.


WSJ: Universities Abandon Reason for a False Idea of ‘Empowerment’

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

This is a commentary on “Universities Abandon Reason for a False Idea of ‘Empowerment’” by Aaron Alexander Zubla which appears as an opinion article in the Saturday/Sunday, August 15-16, 2020 print edition of the WSJ.

I empathize with the thought that the new requirement is inappropriate…albeit perhaps with a different worldview.

Looking at the CSU Press Release CSU Press Release “CSU Trustees Approve Ethnic Studies and Social Justice General Education Requirement” and California Assembly Bill No. 1460 which addresses this ethnic studies GE requirement at CSU, this appears to be a case of lipstick on a pig. The stated case for academic (scholarly) and social benefit is overly optimistic…it could have the opposite effect too. Why isn’t there instead a special task force that addresses the issue at all levels of society (and globally in-between)?

Let’s return to the WSJ article…

To answer my own question about why place this un-promising requirement in a university setting, it seems to be motivated by image-based appeasement. The WSJ article describes this as “another sign of the politicization of universities” and laments that “For decades the humanities have tilted progressive.” While this matches the motions in my worldview, my perceptions of the direction are slightly different and tend towards a comedy of errors as opposed to an evil plot.

CSU could have simply offered courses in the history or political science departments to add courses which relate to sociological race issues. GE already includes these courses. The idea that a dedicated 3-unit course will benefit student scholarship is like a car salesman’s sell (they try to go over every single feature hoping that one will click – instead of listening and responding in a precise manner). And even if 10% of any class cohort retains, how have they been empowered? Knowledge without EQ is not empowerment.

How else is my worldview different? I think the scope is not sufficiently global. What if the requirement included international relations and global studies courses? What if it went beyond social justice and the direction of political winds? The challenge is not so much to become aware of the strife, but more so one of looking for positive lessons. I predict that these courses will be negatively-toned which is the switch-flipper to off for most people…especially those already with many distractions. Which makes me think…should this also include courses from the psychology department.

One last comment on the idea in the article that non-humanities subject areas (eg, medicine, accountancy and engineering) are set in supported applicable fact alone (the author uses the word “truth”). Not so. Social justice has entered these programs as well. However, they may be better models than what is being instituted by CSU where students can apply critical thinking as to whether these social issues are important. There may be no choice but to align in a GE course. Even so, how many will have learned anything?

Inc.: Google’s Plan to Disrupt the College Degree is Absolute Genius

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

This is a comment on the article “Google’s Plan to Disrupt the College Degree Is Absolute Genius” by Justin Bariso (founder of EQ Applied).

The worldview that this article describes is over-stated and did not apply emotional intelligence despite that being the author’s area of expertise.

  1. Social awareness tells us that there already are community colleges and vocational schools which offer certificate programs. Many of these programs require hands-on experience and serve that need. There are programs which could be completed remotely – even asynchronously – but these students are not competitive in terms of readiness and experience. With a certificate, one may be able to find a job in the certificated field, but the impression from the certificate alone will be less competitive. There may be exceptions for those who, along the way, gained invaluable personal experience and insight.
  2. Self-awareness tells us that there is a reason why some students do not go to college and why some do not thrive in college.
  3.  The Self-management lesson is to supplement your career plan with such a certificate program, but not rely on it. In this way, a certificate program (and MOOCs too for that matter) are not substitutes for a college degree (actually, I’m now referring to graduate degrees because undergraduate degrees are not as practical as they used to be). Would you be able to get into a good graduate school and excel with a certificate? Since times may change, the most appropriate answer would be “Maybe, but unlikely.”
  4. The Social management side of this is how you figure out the value of college vs certificate when you are at the branch in the road. If you are in the top 10% of your graduating high school class, would you have good reason to believe that a certificate program will get you to where you want to go? The smart thing to do may be to try a certificate program as a gap year program then choose where and what to study in college if you are not presented with better options. It’s an investment choice.

There certainly isn’t any disruption with the certificate. The real disruption was the promise made to people to get them into a college although they didn’t need it. This move to pack in more students lowered the base standard of college education and has made it more challenging to prepare students well. This drove up operational costs and created a job applicant pool that was as generic as ever.

And “genius”? About as genius as the term is used at Apple Stores.

Japan Times: Coronavirus crisis offers chance to update Japanese schools

Monday, May 11th, 2020

I found the Japan Times article “Coronavirus crisis offers chance to update Japanese schools” written by Louise George Kittaka and published April 20, 2020 to be an interesting push for more educational technology especially in this time of school closures and online remote teaching.

From the article, I understand that there are schools in Japan which still largely utilize paper-based learning and that some view this as a disadvantage especially during this pivot to online. As a person who still prefers to read newspapers in print form, I believe a move to digital learning content is not the only solution as much of the article suggests.

I have made past comments on the issues with integrating educational technology and the lackluster value they present. As with technology in most cases, the quantity may be raised, but the quality is unlikely to improve. This lack of quality upside from edtech results in widespread frustration in chasing technologies, equipping teachers with something that works from end-to-end, and user experience. The use of iPads in US schools is an example of over-promise and under-deliver.

As a proponent of more EQ in teaching, YCISL feels there is instead now a significant opportunity to reflect on changing the educational process, not just its tools. Will we find that students who learned best in classroom settings remain equally achieving in an online setting? We already know that learning performance is dependent on a variety of factors such as learning styles, pace and group settings. It is the detection of these factors and ensuing customized teaching methodology that would offer the greatest benefits. We need to boost the awareness and management skills of teachers and students, and generally broaden the public appreciation for EQ in education.

For all the panic and fear that has spread through reactions to the virus, education has been severely impacted and we need to be caring for its resiliency, recovery and general good health.