Children Learning – Lego – Master Builder or Emmet

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On February 8th, my family went and watched the Lego movie.  As we were watching the movie, I learned about the Master Builder and people who are like Emmet.   I pondered on what I just learned and I can’t help but draw a parallel as to how we learn when we’re growing up.    By that I mean, the education method that was used to help us be productive citizens someday.

I’ll start by describing Master Builders and how they are different from Emmet.  Master Builders are creative people who can create anything from any Lego parts.  They use their creativity to create new things without following instructions.   In a way, we can say that Master Builders hold no boundaries.  They can make anything that they imagine.   On the other hand, an Emmet lives life by following instructions.   They can create anything thing as long as it comes with an instruction.   They strive by being a great follower and can apply the precision needed to create things when an instruction is provided.   With instructions everything is possible.

As I look back at the educational system, I remembered that I had to memorize stuff after stuff with the purpose of either reciting it back or taking a test.    You’re given a grade based on your ability to repeat back what was asked of you to read and remember.   The challenge is: the retention of what you learn is rarely good if memorized.   The best lessons are those we experience and learn from.  Those are the ones that are committed to memory.   Later you’re asked to select a topic, but there are often strict guidelines.

While I appreciate the value the education system brings and the outcome it produces, I often ponder what else can be done to enhance the overall education experience.   Just like applying disruptive thought in technology to create new ideas or solutions,  I started to shift my mind set on how I want my children to learn going forward.    When my eldest was 2 years old, I decided that I would let her make certain decisions by giving her choices.   I continue to change that as she grows up with the intent of letting her expand her horizon and learn to make decisions based on the value and opportunity or possibilities.   Each year, I give her more opportunity to own the decision.     In the last year, she will select the courses that she likes with the gifted child program.   I often ask her why the course piques her interest and what she expects to learn from it.   The same decision-making opportunity was also extended to my little one, who is now 8 years old.    I often look at the little one as having to grow earlier as she gained a similar experience as the older one.

There was one scene on the Lego movie that caught my attention.  When Emmet fell into the hole and ended up in a place that he was not familiar with, he indicated that he did not know what to do, because there were no instructions available to guide him.    That scene reminds me of the education system that aims to practice memorization versus decision-based learning, which would be more impactful.    I believe the future will be better if the children of the next generation are given more creative opportunity to expand their horizon beyond traditional method of teaching.

I know that many people who will read this blog will not share my observation.

Do we want the leader of tomorrow to be a Master Builder Master Builder,

Emmet Emmet , or a combination?   Let me know your thoughts.   By looking at another angle of the equation, we can compare and contrast our experience.

Negativity – a dark cloud over your head

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320px-Dark,_CloudsWhether it is a sunny or rainy day, there is always something to be said—that it is too hot or it’s gloomy.  There are people who will never appreciate the gift they have in front of them, but rather focus on the negative side of the equation.    They could be blessed with a promotion, but would turn around and complain that they have more work to do and the need to manage others.   They fail to see the benefit that their career is progressing in the right direction.

In the workplace, the negativity often rubs off on the people around them.  As they spread the bad news and rain on other people’s parade throughout the day, people around them start to feel down and upset about their situation.   It seems like it is a habit or a behavior that the person will never acknowledge.  They often say, “I’m just saying the truth.”  The truth or your truth is the question.   I’m of the belief that when we are paid to do a job, we do the best job we can and make sure we earn the money being paid to us.  We don’t want to short change anyone.  But the negative folks often think that they are adding value.    The negativity ends up being a productivity drain, because people are preoccupied with talking about something negative that has no direct relationship to what they do.   As a result they miss deadlines and the team can become dysfunctional.

What’s the best way to handle this situation?

  • Check your own environment – Is there something wrong with the culture or group dynamics?  What’s the source of negative energy?  By conducting an internal analysis, you’ll be able to uncover the source of the problem and address it.  Owning the problem is the first step in preventing the negative energy from impacting your team.  You’ll also gain the respect of your team.  If this is an environment problem, you need to see the elephant in the room and stop avoiding the issue.  It will keep coming up and interfere with your work.
  • Ignore the source of negative energy – If no one acknowledges the source and pays attention to their stories, the source will realize that they need to take their discussion elsewhere.
  • Face-to-face discussion – Dealing with the issue head on is by far the best way, because the source of the issue might not realize that he/she is causing a productivity drain.   During the discussion, make sure to provide specific situations and focus on the fact.  Avoid the “I think,” “I perceive” or “in my opinion” thing when dealing with the issue. Stay on point and cite specific instances and let the person explain the motivation behind such discussion.   If the person acknowledges the issue, come up with a development plan to address and monitor the issue.
  • Get rid of the source – With fast-paced businesses that demand more for the investments, we need to get rid of any unproductive resource, because if they don’t pull their weight, other people on the team have to step up to cover the gap.

Negativity is a huge energy and productivity drain in every organization.   Unless it is addressed, it will continue to erode the camaraderie of your team until it destroys it.  More importantly, negativity affects the people on your team.  Worse yet, it will spill over into their personal lives, which in my opinion is why it has to be addressed.

So the next time you observe that there is negativity hovering like a cloud at work, what will you do?  Please let me know your suggestion on how to address this.  It is through sharing that we can make this world a better place.