Dr. Helen Rothberg is a sought-after consultant to CEOs and entrepreneurs. Her most recent publication shoulders the tradition of popular business classics. It is being compared to Leadership Is an Art and What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School. Her scintillating contribution to the field was not learned in the school of hard knocks; it was learned in the school of hard drinks. In her book she reveals the insights of leadership she developed while working as a bartender and restaurant manager. Dr. Rothberg finishes each chapter with a recipe for a creative cocktail that embodies the lesson. Mix it perfectly, contemplate, and savor.
“Leading an organization is knowing when to stir or shake things up,
blend or serve neat.”
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The education system is out of sync with our phase of evolution as a society.
Evolutionary psychologists remind us that in the beginning we were hunters and gatherers- constantly looking around for nuts and berries, scouting protein and being vigilant about threats. Our bodies were always in motion as were our senses and eyes.
When we became agrarian, we learned how to dig holes, drop seeds, and tend to them according to the rhythms of the seasons. Our current educational system still has its roots here. We expect our students to sit in a classroom, focus on an educator and a board or a screen, to memorize and to splay back what is learned. Dig holes, drop seeds.
The challenge here is that many students are like hunters and gatherers again–reared on videos, apps and games that change images in nanoseconds, who communicate in 140 characters at most. They connect in small bites while constantly monitoring the environment (their smartphones). It’s hard for them to tend to their seeds when they are once again attuned for the hunt.
So what now? As educators, we need to create an ecosystem for hunters and gathers. This means variety in how we share information, stimulating student minds by engaging their eyes, and ears, and bodies. Instead of teaching from a podium, or a board, educators need to navigate the room, speaking from different places so that students will have to move and track. Stopping next to a student to ask a question, giving them the option to pass the question onto another or and take the next one keeps them aware and engaged. Receiving a high-five for a good answer keeps them trying.
Educators need to craft more challenging and interesting projects to engage student propensity to “hunt” for relevant information and “gather” from across multiple perspectives. Then, they will not be waiting for the seed to germinate and grow. Instead they will be producing tight, integrative critical work. Yes, this is more work for educators, and for students. And, these hunters and gathers are the future leaders of our tribe. We need to evolve together. We need them to put down their smartphones and think.
This discussion is relevant for any undergraduate, graduate, or executive student, for any poor soul that sits through class after class, meeting after meeting, conference after conference.
I was the victim of 4 crimes as a student:
Sitting through a class where I was so bored that I wanted to poke my eye out with a pencil.
Feeling that I might as well have been a stuffed dummy because the professor prattled on, not even trying to engage anyone but his/her own mind.
Knowing that the only thing I got out of a class was fulfilling a “requirement”.
The most heinous crime, building off of the “required” one, was the notion that my suffering was meaningless, that there was no use- either existential or practical- to whatever it was that I was fighting to keep both eyes in their sockets and open for.
These experiences are the foundation for Rule #1:
If you don’t want to come to class don’t. There are many of you and one of me. That’s hard enough work. If you do choose to attend, SHOW UP.
This doesn’t mean sitting in a chair and playing with your phone (that is addressed later in Rule #5), or surfing with your computer. That doesn’t count as being PRESENT. Do your work ahead of time, drink caffeine if you must to stay awake, and be ready to partake in whatever I am serving that day.
My job is to be engaging, relevant, insightful, and entertaining. If people are yawning and clock-watching I am not doing my job. Because I do not take attendance, I have to earn people’s presence every time I step in front of a room. I have to SHOW UP too.