Problem-Solvers: Father Greg Boyle

Father_Greg_Boyle_and_Dennis_Sanchez

 Father Greg Boyle and Dennis Sanchez
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

Father Greg Boyle is a Jesuit priest who found himself in East Lost Angeles 20 years ago trying to find a way to serve its people.  What Father Greg came to do is to establish one of the most effective gang intervention programs in the country:  Homeboy Industries, which offers job training, counseling, tattoo removal, and a myriad of other services.  His organization has served 120,000 gang members, and Los Angeles Police Commission Chairman, Steve Soboroff, is on record stating that Homeboy Industries is a key part of the reason crime rates are down.

I recently read a transcript of an American Public Media interview with Father Greg.  He describes how Homeboy Industries came into being:

 . . . that was born as we began as sort of a job employment referral center, trying to find felony-friendly employers [laughter] and that wasn’t so forthcoming. So by ’92, we had to start our own. We really — so we couldn’t wait.  The demand was so huge and gang members kept saying if only we had jobs.  So we started Homeboy Bakery in 1992 and, a month later, we started Homeboy Tortillas in the Grand Central Market, a historic kind of area in LA.  Once we had two . . . 

“We couldn’t wait.”  “The demand was so huge.”
— Greg Boyle, Problem-Solver.

What problem can’t wait for you to solve?

Seeking intuition and creativity

Check out Alden N. Hyashi’s review of the recently published Keeping Up with the Quants: Your Guide to Understanding and Using Analytics (Harvard Business School Publishing) written by Thomas H. Davenport and Jinho Kim.  (“Thriving in a Big Data World” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review).  The book is written for executives who need to understand big data and its associated science and work with quantitative analysts (“the quants”) who do the actual analytical work.  Hyashi describes the book as providing a three-step framework for how to think like a “quant”:  framing the problem, solving the problem, and communicating and acting on the results.

keeping up with the quants

 

We’ve posted generally about reframing a question, such as here and here.  Davenport and Kim make the point that articulating the right question is critical to finding the data that will solve your problem, and that this takes creativity.  Or, as Hyashi so eloquently states, “An important point made in Keeping Up with the Quants is that this new era of computational prowess does not obviate the need for intuition and creativity, and that is especially true in the important first step of framing a problem.” 

Data scientists might be a helpful new variety of scientist in our world, but people who know how to ask the right questions to solve a problem are as golden as they have been since the beginning of time.

Positive Pschology and The Science of Character

Happy Weekend!  Today, please be inspired and informed by Tiffany Shlain and the Moxie Institute’s great eight-minute film, “The Science of Character.” Then, head over to check out these additional resources on the filmaker’s website or head here to take your free Character Strengths Profile from VIA Me! .

Problem-Solvers: DJ Patil

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Peter Brantley, Karen Gifford, DJ Patil and Tim O’Reilly
Photo by Jōichi Itō
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

DJ Patil was named as one of the world’s seven most powerful data scientists in Tim O’Reilly’s Forbes article of November, 2011.  He, in fact, co-coined the term “data scientist.” Most recently, he was named as a World Economic Forum 2014 Young Global Leader. What I particularly like about Dr. DJ Patil is his enthusiasm and promotion for projects that use big data to make the world a better place. In an article he published on LinkedIn today, he outlined some of the organizations other 2014 Young Global Leaders have started that capitalize on big data, including a company that harnesses the talents of data scientists to assist non-profits and a crisis text line for distressed teenagers that reaches them through their primary mode of communication. He also named government and health projects that will likely have beneficial impacts for millions.  

In a time when much of mainstream media focuses on data breaches, government spying, social media privacy issues, and use of data to target your political vote (all important topics!), it’s great to read and understand how we can use big data to help us, not just control us. There is much debate yet to be had about the acceptable uses of data, but we certainly can’t be fully informed if we only focus on the negative. DJ Patil reminds us that there are talented people who are both passionate about data and making the world a better place.

John and Doug, Gen Xers

Time on Gen X reconsidered

Yesterday, I came across a delightful blog written by a self-described “Gen Xer.”  John draws pictures and takes photographs of Doug (a truly creative monkey!), and together they explore work in the new world.  I found John’s writing thoughtful and warm and funny.  He has clearly thought a great deal about how to spend his life meaningfully, and he generously shares this journey through a series of posts called Find Your Path In Life Series and guides his readers through taking that same journey.  It IS a feel-good journey, but it’s more than that; John doesn’t dismiss the real obstacles and difficulties in balancing the need for security and safety with the need for meaning.  What he does do is to show that asking the right questions and engaging in creative problem-solving can move one forward.  His sense of optimism and spirit would be a great guide for anyone wanting to ask the questions that will move you.  Feeling restless in your work?  Feeling completely dissatisfied?  I invite you to try out a few of John and Doug’s exercises in the series.

Doug Does Life comes after a conversation I had recently with other baby boomers about the sense of “entitlement” post-baby boomers seem to exhibit in today’s workplace.  My friends included their own, hard-working children in the group.  But we all know the game has changed.  Post baby-boomers (Generations X and Y (also known as Millenials)) are living the writing on the wall, even as their parents encourage dedication to hard work as the most viable and probable path to success.  Gen Xers and Millenials can see for themselves that the late baby-boomers are having to continue that singular path of working ruggedly hard into their seventh and eighth decades, and they are rightfully asking why.  The payoff isn’t waiting at the end for most of us.  Seeking meaningful work, expecting basic health care benefits and a livable wage, and not promising the bulk of one’s hours of the day in exchange is asking for payment now, knowing that tomorrow’s payday will likely not come, no matter what has been promised.  It’s not a matter of entitlement or who worked, or is working, harder.  It’s a matter of recognizing the way things are and demanding respect in our economy.  We all value meaning and leisure and joy; the “youngsters” know to ask for it now, at the same time they are working hard and working well.  They are creating the opportunities, too.  While we baby-boomers are still trying to make the transition, let’s watch and take notes.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

a question-filled hiatus

Hello, Dedicated Readers!

How lovely to be back here again. A year’s break from writing was never imagined when I wrote that last post just over a year ago. But, I have been on such a journey this past year, a journey that may find its way in and out of these next months’ posts, because there were certainly many big and little, tangled and clear, simple and complex problems. Many questions were asked, pondered, and answered; some solutions were fashioned. And then the question, “Just what is keeping you from getting back to writing about ‘working well in the modern world’?” kept presenting itself evermore insistently. Answers were given, ad hoc testing was attempted, and finally we arrive at the answer of simply sitting down at the keyboard and floating these thoughts out to you.

Problems are questions. Questions are problems. Our ability to see and elucidate the questions and more questions and more and more is our never-ending search for understanding, meaning, love, the alleviation of suffering, the creation of abundance. We are blinded at each moment by many facets, the fact of our human self and our mind’s constructs being primary, and so we turn the problem this way and that, probing here, probing there; it is a lifelong task, indeed the never-ending task of humanity. If we are wise, we live the questions themselves, as the poet says. We find both our sorrow and our joy in the questions, our passion and our determination — in the questions. If we wait for answers before we began to live, we miss much of life altogether. And, then, when we are living the questions, in sorrow, joy, passion, determination, sometimes the answers, the resolution, the way comes to us and sits in our lap, quietly lights on our shoulder, wakes us suddenly in the middle of the night, or shows itself plainly under our microscope or in our notebooks because some blind spot has been finally adjusted. Passionate problem-solving is passionate questing and questioning, passionately living the problems themselves. How do we visualize a problem? We paint masterpieces that strike others in the human race over 100 years later with the agony of the human condition. We tell stories that are passed through the generations. We share drawings and thoughts and passions. Sadness and frustration. Discovery and abundance. This is passionate problem-solving. This is glorious life.

Back tomorrow.

Great blog post – check it out

Hello, Dedicated Readers!

I am going through a bit of a domestic crisis, so postings by “moi” are temporarily on hold. Today I offer you inspiration that came across my screen – another blog post by Darla Breckenridge of Green Mountain at Fox Run: Creating Space to Move from Reaction to Response. Ms. Breckenridge usually writes something that finds resonance with me, and she certainly did with this post. I hope you find it as inspiring as I did!

Back as soon as possible ~
Andrea