Category: Social Interaction/Collaboration

7 Secrets to Effective Teamwork (as Reported by Hundreds of Teams)

What do effective teamwork and Russian literature have in common? Why is successful teamwork so much like a happy marriage? How can you make teamwork more effective? Let’s start with this premise: Happy teams are all alike; every unhappy team is unhappy in its own way. Have you heard of the Anna Karenina principle? It’s derived from the famous first sentence of Leo Tolstoy’s seminal novel: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way…………

Source: 7 Secrets to Effective Teamwork (as Reported by Hundreds of Teams)

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Older Workers Need Further Labor Market Improvements

Older workers in particular need the labor market to continue its growth streak. Employers added 312,000 new jobs in December 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is welcome news, but the labor market needs to continue improving, so that older workers will see real economic security. Additional job gains could make it easier for unemployed older workers to find a new job. And continued job market growth could further shrink inequalities in job market outcomes for older workers, for instance, by race and ethnicity…..

Source: Older Workers Need Further Labor Market Improvements

How To Experience The Taj Mahal With No Tourists: A VIP Guide To Agra, India – Jim Dobson

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The cows blocking the winding dirt road ahead would have been a sure sign to turn back for the average visitor, but in India, locals are more resilient than that and they simply find a way around the crowded situation. We were in a private luxury car arranged by the amazing Micato Safaris taking us from Delhi to Agra on a four-hour drive. Our guide, the sophisticated, charming and well known Hem Singh was confident that the approaching wide open and empty toll freeway would make the drive a breeze. Before we knew it we had arrived in the humid, sweaty, dusty and overcrowded city of Agra……..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimdobson/2018/10/28/how-to-experience-the-taj-mahal-with-no-tourists-a-vip-guide-to-agra-india/#49e7b4466649

 

 

 

 

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7 Ways to Achieve High Levels of Classroom Productivity – Lee Watanabe-Crockett

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When it comes to classroom productivity, the ideal classroom is a happy one. It means students are creating solutions and projects that have meaning and purpose. They gladly take initiatives and assume responsible ownership of class time. Above all, it means students are loving their learning.

Achieving high levels of classroom productivity means making sure students are interested and invested in tasks that develop higher-order thinking and problem-solving abilities. Not only are they involved in constructive pursuits and being given mindful assessments, they are learning independence and accountability and having a blast doing it. Now that’s learning with a purpose.

The joy a teacher gets from knowing students look forward to coming to class is indescribable. It’s one of those things you have to experience to understand. The good news is every teacher can have that feeling. These classroom productivity tips are applicable to many classroom environments. Hopefully, they help you in yours.

7 Pathways to Better Classroom Productivity

It’s easy to confuse productivity with speed of output. That’s not the essence of being productive. We can complete 100 trivial tasks in a day and say we were productive, but is that really true? What do we have to show at the end of the day? What have we done besides waste time on unimportant matters? Can we say “I really accomplished something today” and mean it?

Productivity isn’t about “getting stuff done.” It’s about getting stuff done with purpose.

You can always tell the level of interest students have. It can be used to help you measure productivity levels:

  • Are students focused and engaged?
  • Are they happy and attentive?
  • Are they asking deep, meaningful questions?
  • Are they excited about showing the results of their work?
  • Are they talking about their work with peers and parents?
  • Are they challenging themselves and each other to improve?

These are all traits of a productive classroom. Granted, there’s no specific formula for higher productivity. You can, however, use critical observation to decide what approach you could use

1. Build a Safe Space

Everyone deserves the chance to learn in a supportive environment. This applies to both intellectual and emotional classroom elements. Any classroom should make every student feel welcome. Maybe this means a time for peer-to-peer orientation. You can give students time to get to know each other and connect personally.

It could also mean creating a class mission statement of some kind. The focus of this would be things like:

  • We always support each other in and out of class
  • We always encourage each other and remain kind
  • We are a judgement-free classroom where all are welcome
  • We show we care by setting an example for the whole school

Begin learning adventures with the notion that learning is meant to be enjoyable. Part of this is creating a comfortable and supportive classroom. Anything that impacts a student positively in your classroom will help boost their productivity. Take some pointers from Brian Van Dyck, a middle school teacher in Santa Cruz.

2. Give Students a Say

Students are no different from anyone else. They like to know their opinions count for something. Letting students weigh in on how to use their class time can be valuable to fostering a productivity mindset. Don’t worry, this approach doesn’t mean they’ll waste time without supervision. You can do this while still keeping the structured direction central to any classroom. Open with questions geared toward productivity with breathing room:

Open with questions geared toward productivity with breathing room:

  • How do you feel your time would best be spent on today’s work/assignment?
  • What’s the one part of (insert project here) that you feel you need to focus on?
  • If you’re ahead, how can you help someone else with today’s work?
  • What do you think should be done first, and last?

Obviously, you as the teacher have the final say. That said, some heartfelt answers from students can help you choose how best to spend the class time.

3. Focus on Guiding Questions

As the work begins or continues, keep them thinking. Our modern students love to be challenged. Keep them guessing and thinking by asking about their projects. Show an interest in what they’re doing.

  • Why did they choose to approach the project this way?
  • What speaks to them about it?
  • If they’re stuck, how can they switch direction?
  • Do they feel there is any way they can make it even better?

4. Always Be Available

From time to time, students will struggle and this will happen on many different levels. When it does, they’ll need support and encouragement. They’ll get stuck, and that will give rise to technical questions, concerns, and doubts. They’ll feel pressure to keep up with their classmates. They’ll feel inadequacy, confusion, and frustration. They’ll feel like what they’ve done has been a waste. They’ll feel these things and a lot more.

Students are no different from anyone else. They like to know their opinions count for something.

Sometimes they’ll look for every reason to quit when they know they should go on. It will feel to them like the world is ending. It can happen with schoolwork and with personal matters. Eventually, it will likely all find its way into the classroom environment. Fortunately, that’s the heart of change.

With an open mind and the right words, you can turn that all around. Never be far away, because you’re still the best guide students have in their school experiences.

5. Encourage Collaboration

This is a hallmark of the modern student. They are natural-born collaborators and love working in groups. The secret to successful collaboration is when students are drawing on their individual strengths. They then find ways to harmonize those strengths in a group setting. A group work aspect to any classroom almost always means good things in terms of classroom productivity.

6. Offer Good Distractions

Every teacher knows that too many distractions in class can be harmful. Distractions, however, can be beneficial depending on the type. If they’re scheduled in the process, it’s even better. In this sense, they become more like rejuvenators and focus-sharpeners.

Here are some examples of beneficial distractions in class:

  • getting up to stretch, move around, and focus on nothing for a moment
  • eye/stretch/exercise breaks if working on computers
  • have students quickly check in with where they’re at on projects
  • story/joke breaks for some quick comic relief
  • schedule an assignment-related Q+A with a surprise class visitor

Here are some more great “distraction” ideas from Dr. Lori Desautels.

7. Let Students Self- and Peer-Assess

Self- and peer-assessment support comes from both students and teachers. Encouraging reflection and self-assessment adds a powerful dimension to learning. It reduces a teacher’s workload and lets students effectively demonstrate understanding. Students are honest in their assessment of their performance and that of their peers.

With this kind of assessment, students’ insights and observations are valued. It helps them understand the process of their own learning. It also reinforces the importance of collaboration.

Reflective practice is something both students and teachers should engage in. It lets you consider your actions and reflect on decisions. It solidifies learning concepts. It also helps you consider and plan future processes and actions.

 

 

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See How Many Times Your School District Has Been Investigated for Civil Rights Violations – Beth Skwarecki

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If you believe your school district or college is discriminating against students on the basis of sex, race, or disability, you’re entitled to file a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Sexual harassment and assault are also grounds for complaints. The office is supposed to investigate fully and, if necessary, recommend corrective action to right any wrongs.

But ProPublica reports that the Department of Education is now dismissing far more cases without taking action under Betsy DeVos than it did under her predecessors. To go along with their report, they have published a tool that lets you look up your school district or college to see how many investigations have been opened in the last few years, and how they were resolved.

The data doesn’t break out individual schools, so New York City’s entire school district shows up as one entry with hundreds of cases. But if you look up a smaller district, or a college, the data becomes more meaningful—two cases at in one Pennsylvania district I checked. Six at the University of Pittsburgh, but 15 at that same university’s medical school, which is listed separately.

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For the full details on what the cases are about, you’ll have to check local news or other sources; ProPublica only provides dates and some very basic information on the type of complaint and the nature of the resolution. But it’s worth checking to see what’s happening at your district that you might not have known about.

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What Do 90-Somethings Regret Most – Lydia Sohn

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My preconceptions about older people first began to crumble when one of my congregants, a woman in her 80s, came into my office seeking pastoral care. She had been widowed for several years but the reason for her distress was not the loss of her husband. It was her falling in love with a married man. As she shared her story with me over a cup of tea and Kleenex, I tried to keep a professional and compassionate countenance, though, internally, I was bewildered by the realization that even into their 80s, people still fall for one another in that teenage, butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of way.

One of the strange and wonderful features of my job as a minister is that I get to be a confidant and advisor to people at all stages of life. I’ve worked with people who are double and even triple my age. Experience like this is rare; our economic structure and workforce are stratified, and most people are employed within their own demographics. But because I’m a minister in a mainline denomination with an aging base, the people I primarily interact with are over the age of 60. I came into my job assuming that I, a Korean-American woman in my mid-30s, would not be able to connect with these people — they’re from a completely different racial and cultural background than me. It did not take long for me to discover how very wrong I was.

We all have joys, hopes, fears, and longings that never go away no matter how old we get. Until recently, I mistakenly associated deep yearnings and ambitions with the energy and idealism of youth. My subconscious and unexamined assumption was that the elderly transcend these desires because they become more stoic and sage-like over time. Or the opposite: They become disillusioned by life and gradually shed their vibrancy and vitality.

When I initially realized that my assumptions might be wrong, I set out to research the internal lives of older people. Who really were they, and what had they learned in life? Using my congregation as a resource, I interviewed several members in their 90s with a pen, notebook, a listening ear and a promise to keep everyone anonymous. I did not hold back, asking them burning questions about their fears, hopes, sex lives or lack thereof. Fortunately, I had willing participants. Many of them were flattered by my interest, as America tends to forget people as they age.


I began each conversation by asking if they had any regrets. By this point, they’d lived long enough to look at life from multiple angles so I knew their responses would be meaningful. Most of their regrets revolved around their families. They wished relationships, either with their children or between their children, turned out differently. These relational fractures, I could see on their faces, still caused them much pain and sorrow. One of my interviewees has two children who haven’t seen or spoken to each another for over two decades. She lamented that this, among all the mistakes and regrets she could bring to mind, was the single thing keeping her up at night.

I then moved on to the happiest moments of their lives. Every single one of these 90-something-year-olds, all of whom are widowed, recalled a time when their spouses were still alive and their children were younger and living at home. As a busy young mom and working professional who frequently fantasizes about the faraway, imagined pleasures of retirement, I quickly responded, “But weren’t those the most stressful times of your lives?” Yes of course, they all agreed. But there was no doubt that those days were also the happiest.

Their responses intrigued me. They contradicted a well-known article on happiness in The Economist, “The U-bend of Life.” The article went viral in 2010 and was a common conversation topic among my family and friends. Its counter-intuitive yet completely reasonable analyses seemed to resonate with my generation.

The theory of the “U-bend” came about as researchers discovered consistent findings from several independent research projects on happiness and well-being around the world. They concluded that happiness, pleasure and enjoyment are most tenuous during the middle ages of life, starting in our 20s with depression peaking at 46 — which the author described as “middle-age-misery.” The happiness of youth however, not only returned but was experienced at higher levels in subjects’ 70s. Researchers hypothesized that middle-age-misery was due to the overwhelming number of familial, professional, and financial demands during these years. Following a happiness dip in middle age, researchers concluded that we become more self-accepting, less ambitious and more mindful of living in the present moment (instead of the future) as we approach our 70s.

My interviewees’ responses contradicted the popular “U-bend” theory. Why? Perhaps happiness is more complex than we thought. Maybe our understanding of what makes us happy changes as we age. When we’re younger, perhaps we think of happiness as a feeling instead of a state of fulfillment, meaning, or abundance — which my interviewees were associating it with. Regardless, their responses came as a sobering reminder to fully appreciate and soak in these chaotic days of diaper changes, messiness, and minimal me-time. They may just end up being my happiest moments.


I was dying to ask if their spouses (of many decades, in most cases) were really the loves of their lives. As it turns out, this was true for some and not for others. In both cases, though, they kept trying to make their marriages work. I got the sense from their responses that after they had children, their marriages became much less important to their happiness than the overall nuclear family dynamic. This focus on the family unit, however, did not mean their sexual and romantic passion vanished. They still longed to be wooed and pursued. They still experienced intense attraction to people who were not their spouses and continue to experience intense attraction for others to this day. Of course, sex becomes more tiresome, as well as masturbation, but their desire for companionship is just as prominent as it was during the height of their youth.

Being old brought a lot of advantages: more time, more perspective, less hustling to be the best and most successful, and an urgency to strengthen the important relationships in her life.

My interviewees’ thoughts on beauty and aging were also varied — their physical appearance only mattered insofar as it mattered to them when they were younger. Those who were valued for their good looks or athleticism experienced much more grief in regards to their current bodies than those who derived confidence from qualities that were much less time-fixed. One interviewee, for example, was well-known in her community for being a writer and columnist in local newspapers. When I asked her if she was saddened by her aging appearance, she responded, “Well, I never thought I was pretty to begin with so, no.” The ones who did experience greater negative emotions about aging, though, shared that the peak of that grief occurred in their 70s and has diminished since then.

The same woman who told me she wasn’t bothered by her aging appearance also shared that she wasn’t afraid of death but of dying. I found this to be a profound distinction. She believed in an afterlife, as one might expect given that she belongs to a church. She felt sure that she would, in one way or another, be well taken care of after her time here came to an end. She is still very physically and mentally healthy, so it was that final leg of her journey that worried her. Would she be restricted to a hospital bed, just a mess of tubes and needles? Would she still recognize family and friends? Would she be in constant pain? Being old didn’t bother her until it affected the quality of her life in an incredibly detrimental way. In fact, being old, she shared, brought a lot of advantages: more time, more perspective, less hustling to be the best and most successful, and an urgency to strengthen the important relationships in her life.


The radical relationship-based orientation of all my subjects caught me by surprise. As someone entering the height of my career, I expend much more energy on work than on relationships. And when I imagine my future, I envision what I will have accomplished rather than the quality of my interactions with those who are most important to me. These 90-something-year-olds emphasize the opposite when they look back on their lives. Their joys and regrets have nothing to do with their careers, but with their parents, children, spouses, and friends. Put simply, when I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.”

My conversations challenged me. I certainly won’t be giving up my job to hang out with my family more because I also recognize that satisfying careers and financial stability are great sources of fulfillment — which, in turn, affect family well-being. But these different perspectives helped me focus on what really matters in the face of competing responsibilities and priorities. That sermon really does not have to be the best sermon in the world when my son is starving for my attention. My husband really does not need to get the highest-paying job he can find if that means I can spend more time with him.

Put simply, when I asked one person, “Do you wish you accomplished more?” He responded, “No, I wished I loved more.”

However, the biggest impact they left on me was not reprioritization but being okay with aging. I confess that prior to my conversations, I had an intense fear about growing old. This, I realize, was what motivated me to begin this research in the first place. I assumed the elderly lost their vibrancy and thirst for life. That couldn’t be further from the truth. They still laugh like crazy, fall in love like mad and pursue happiness fiercely.

 

 

 

 

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Knowers & Learners Quick Thoughts On Different World Views – Bruno Bergher

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My work these days involves spending a lot of time with early stage companies, where we’re racing against the clock to turn bold new ideas into usable products, and see if they work.

It’s a land where you’re knee-deep in ambiguity, and surrounded by a sea of unanswered questions. It’s an environment where short-circuiting feedback loops pays off big time, and where fast action is highly valued.

But with so much to do and so little time, teams often get into hard scoping discussions. There’s no way to know for sure in advance what a product needs to offer in order to be validated. I’ve noticed two different types of people emerge from those discussions:

  • The ones who want to be right
  • And the ones who want to learn

The ones who want to be right defend their ideas based on their experience, their seniority, on their unmeasurable powers of divination of customer behavior. They come up with dozens of possible failure cases, just to justify their more complex solution. They get married to their ideas and never let go, irrespective of what’s learned.

They say “trust me, I know what I’m doing”, “no, that won’t work” and “let’s just do it my way this time”. They breed self-doubt and disempowerment.

Then there are the ones who want to learn. They’ve realized that when you’re first building something, chances are you’ll be wrong about at least a couple things — and try to identify them early on. They try to keep projects simple, so they can be tested fast, even if they have obvious holes. They maximize their opportunity for learning, by focusing on the problem at hand, and not on who came up with the solution or how it matches the initial big idea.

They can still have a bold vision, and they still listen to their gut, but they’re open to being wrong and eager to find out what will work for their audience.

They say “this is what worked for me before, would you be up for trying it?” and “which option would let us learn faster?”. They breed progress and are fun to hang around.

These days I just try to surround myself with people who are open to being wrong (even if they’re right most of the time), and above all interested in learning the truth, whatever it may be. I interview candidates looking for that heart-warming balance of experience and humility, and only invest in friendships with people who are willing to review previously held ideas. And I try to constantly revise what are facts and what are simply my own assumptions.

What about you? Would you rather be right, or would you rather learn the truth?

 

 

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Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health – Jane E. Brody

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Hurray for the HotBlack Coffee cafe in Toronto for declining to offer Wi-Fi to its customers. There are other such cafes, to be sure, including seven of the eight New York City locations of Café Grumpy. But it’s HotBlack’s reason for the electronic blackout that is cause for hosannas. As its president, Jimson Bienenstock, explained, his aim is to get customers to talk with one another instead of being buried in their portable devices.

“It’s about creating a social vibe,” he told a New York Times reporter. “We’re a vehicle for human interaction, otherwise it’s just a commodity.” What a novel idea! Perhaps Mr. Bienenstock instinctively knows what medical science has been increasingly demonstrating for decades: Social interaction is a critically important contributor to good health and longevity.

Personally, I don’t need research-based evidence to appreciate the value of making and maintaining social connections. I experience it daily during my morning walk with up to three women, then before and after my swim in the locker room of the YMCA where the use of electronic devices is not allowed.

The locker room experience has been surprisingly rewarding. I’ve made many new friends with whom I can share both joys and sorrows. The women help me solve problems big and small, providing a sounding board, advice and counsel and often a hearty laugh that brightens my day.

And, as myriad studies have shown, they may also be helping to save my life. As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”

In a study of 7,000 men and women in Alameda County, Calif., begun in 1965, Lisa F. Berkman and S. Leonard Syme found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,” John Robbins recounted in his marvelous book on health and longevity, “Healthy at 100.”

This major difference in survival occurred regardless of people’s age, gender, health practices or physical health status. In fact, the researchers found that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits,” Mr. Robbins wrote. However, he quickly added, “Needless to say, people with both healthful lifestyles and close social ties lived the longest of all.”

In another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1984, researchers at the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York found that among 2,320 men who had survived a heart attack, those with strong connections with other people had only a quarter the risk of death within the following three years as those who lacked social connectedness.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center also found that social ties can reduce deaths among people with serious medical conditions. Beverly H. Brummett and colleagues reported in 2001 that among adults with coronary artery disease, the mortality rate was 2.4 times higher among those who were socially isolated.

In a column I wrote in 2013 called “Shaking Off Loneliness,” I cited a review of research published in 1988 indicating that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.”

People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.

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Absent social interactions, blood flow to vital organs is likely to be reduced and immune function may be undermined. Even how genes are expressed can be adversely affected, impairing the body’s ability to turn off inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and even suicide attempts.

In a 2010 report in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Debra Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez, sociology researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, cited “consistent and compelling evidence linking a low quantity or quality of social ties with a host of conditions,” including the development and worsening of cardiovascular disease, repeat heart attacks, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, cancer and slowed wound healing.

The Texas researchers pointed out that social interactions can enhance good health through a positive influence on people’s living habits. For example, if none of your friends smoke, you’ll be less likely to smoke. According to the researchers, the practice of health behaviors like getting regular exercise, consuming a balanced diet and avoiding smoking, excessive weight gain and abuse of alcohol and drugs “explains about 40 percent of premature mortality as well as substantial morbidity and disability in the United States.”

Lack of social interactions also damages mental health. The emotional support provided by social connections helps to reduce the damaging effects of stress and can foster “a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” the Texas researchers wrote.

Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of the 2016 book “The Happiness Track,” wrote, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

“In other words,” Dr. Seppala explained, “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

She suggested that a societal decline in social connectedness may help to explain recent increases in reports of loneliness, isolation and alienation, and may be why loneliness has become a leading reason people seek psychological counseling. By 2004, she wrote, sociological research revealed that more than 25 percent of Americans had no one to confide in. They lacked a close friend with whom they felt comfortable sharing a personal problem.

For those seeking a health-promoting lifestyle, it’s not enough to focus on eating your veggies and getting regular exercise. Dr. Seppala advises: “Don’t forget to connect.”

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