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! .
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 ~
Apologies to my readers for the week’s absence, and thank you for sticking with me.
I have been continuing to read about visual thinking, visualization, and modeling of problems, and I will report on my explorations in future posts. One of the things I am sorting through is the difference between great infographics (which I am finding an abundance of!) and great visualizations or models of problems. While the concise and effective presentation of information is a talent to be lauded — and I will bring you future examples — the visualization of a problem is a different beast. It struck me, on my ride home on the bus in our Chicago snowstorm yesterday, that there is a very talented group of people who visualize abstract problems most effectively: political cartoonists. For starters, check out Political Cartoons Every American Should See.
I confess I am in awe of political cartoonists and their talent. I cringe at every abstract word I choose in an intense game of Pictionary with my family! A quick search finds that there are many lesson plan resources for teachers wanting to use political cartoons and visualization to teach critical thinking skills. Following that lead backwards, what can we learn from political cartoons about visual thinking?
On another problem-solving topic, do you use sequestration, or something like it, in your own life to solve a problem? A problem of indecisiveness, or a problem of lack of consensus? Have you ever been not able to arrive at a decision, so take a little of this and a little of that and end up with nothing that works? Have you ever had an argument with your spouse, a friend, or a colleague, where you cannot agree on the best option, so you agree to take a “cut” out of both of the pieces/projects in which you are invested? Who wins? Is it fair? Does it move the issue forward? Does it “solve” the problem? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Since my first post on using visualization as a problem-solving tool, I have been out collecting visualizations of problems to share with you and reading up on the cognitive process of visual thinking. Yesterday, I came across this wonderful video of Sam and Friends, Jim Henson’s first television show, running on a Washington D.C. affiliate of NBC from May of 1955 to December of 1961. Kermit (yes, Kermit!) and Harry the Hipster talk about Visual Thinking. As expected from Henson, it’s imaginative and most delightful.
Technology is a common language of our time, and if we don’t “speak” it, we are not going to be part of everyday conversation. No one can afford to ignore technology because they’re not “that type” or it’s “too complicated.” Learn to talk or be left out.
It’s not as hard as you think. The resources are everywhere. Start by not ignoring the technology news, by asking friends about their favorite technology and what it does for them, and checking out web resources to add to your technology skill set. Here is a great one for today: ALISON’s Digital Literacy & IT Skills. There are over 137 free courses available!
Go grab some technology skills.
In 1972, psychologist Walter Mischel led a now well-known experiment (the Stanford Marshmallow experiment) studying delayed gratification. Children aged three and a half years to five and a half years were each offered a marshmallow (or another sweet treat), to be eaten immediately — or two marshmallows, to be given after they had waited 15 minutes when the tester returned. The experimental researchers noted that a minority of the children ate the marshmallow right after the testers left, some children tried to wait to eat the treat but were unsuccessful, and some children were successful in waiting until the testers returned and were given a second marshmallow. The researchers analyzed how long each child was able to wait and then, years later, were able to correlate greater later success with longer delayed gratification. Success was measured in descriptions by the children’s parents as to competency and higher SAT scores. Dr. Mischel and his team concluded that greater self control led to more success in life. Their conclusions continue to be examined in further studies, as to other variables that may correlate with delayed gratification and success.
While the cognitive processes of delayed gratification will continue to be studied (which I hope to examine further here), society holds positively the skill of delaying gratification, also referred to as self-control or impulse control. Indeed, it is easy to rationally see that greater rewards often come from controlling our impulses and taking the long view — whether riding out a year or two of low monetary return for a higher return on investment, giving up the taste of chocolate cake for a fitter body, holding our tongue during a heated moment to discuss the conflict more reasonably at a later time, working with minimal reward for years in order to become an expert in a field, or skipping the third cocktail in order to have a clearer head the next day. Passing up short-term gains for long-term rewards can serve us well. We appreciate the rewards more, can responsibly manage our finances and health, and forgo the frustration of never receiving what we truly want in life — whether a fulfilling job, a happy marriage, internal peace, or a myriad other worthy goals.
Fortunately, impulse control and the ability to delay gratification for longer periods of time can be cultivated and practiced. The more we practice, the better we get and the more rewards will come. Try starting with just one impulse you’d like to control better and practice this week using some or all of the following techniques. Choose something for which some longer-term reward can be seen within a week or few weeks; let’s practice on the “easy” stuff first!
Visualization can be a powerful tool for problem-solving. It’s used formally in many disciplines — from mathematics to architecture, and physics to landscaping. Indeed, visualization is one of the primary ways we study problems, design and plan, and arrive at solutions.
For those of us more linear, wordy types, illustrating or drawing a problem may not come naturally. But learning and practicing problem visualization can help us develop powerful skills. In future posts, we’ll be exploring visualization as a problem-solving tool on a more sophisticated level, but let’s start with basic charts.
While my problem visualization skills could use some development, I note that I use charts and graphs regularly, as well as arranging my words spatially to enhance my understanding of a problem and make plans. Consider the simple to-do list. We tend to use words to make our to-do lists, but we may also add symbols and color to add additional information. Further, most of us don’t write the word DONE at the end of each task after it’s completed, but draw a line through the words describing the task – a simple illustration that helps us quickly focus.
Do you have visualizations of problems — or know of others that you’d like to share? If so, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I would be glad to post them. I am building a library of sample visualizations, and with your permission, would love to include your work.