Monday, July 30, 2012

Escaping the Taint of Scandal When combating corporate mistrust, truth is the ultimate spin.

by Robbie VorhausVorhaus & Company
Escaping the Taint of Scandal
When combating corporate mistrust, truth is the ultimate spin.

A lot of very hardworking, honest corporations took heat over the summer as a result of scorching corporate scandals à la Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and others.

Now is the time for all honest companies to understand the universal benefits of classic storytelling, which is the only way to establish collective trust.  Simply providing a standard information flow, with no point-of-view or value attached, leaves you susceptible to external interpretation, which essentially is someone else telling your story.

Chief executives need to communicate clearly and honestly what their company stands for to myriad audiences, including employees, investors, board of directors, their selling chain and industry influencers, because the financial numbers mean nothing without the trust behind them.  After all, when it comes to corporate storytelling, truth really is the ultimate spin. 
  • Verify.  Before pounding your chest proclaiming superiority because your company is untainted, confirm that it actually is.  If irregularities do surface, insist they are handled quickly, honestly and legally.  A new government order requires CEOs to certify the accuracy of their public financial disclosures.  Scrupulous executives will welcome this safeguard, which companies can use to demonstrate their integrity. 
  • Be prepared.  Routine media interviews regarding marketing initiatives, earnings or other topics can be opportunities to provide insight into your corporate governance.  Journalists are apt to take advantage of these high-level conversations anyway to throw in a question or two such as "Will there be any surprises from (your company)?" or "How are you reacting to President Bush's crackdown on corporate wrongdoing?"  Preparing answers to the most likely questions in advance will help you reinforce your track record of ethical behavior, financial transparency and commitment to corporate values that clearly dictate doing what is right.
  • Tell your story internally.  Employees need just as much reassurance that you are above board and solid as the rest of your influencers.  With formerly aspirational companies like WorldCom and Arthur Anderson laying off thousands of workers, concern over job security is high.  This can interfere with productivity and undermine corporate loyalty.  Now is a critical time for your CEO and/or other internal leaders to reinforce the company's ongoing pursuit of its business objectives while at the same time making it clear that unethical behavior will not be tolerated.  Also, as ambassadors to the outside world, employees will likely be asked if their employer is the next Enron.  Make it easy for them to give an unequivocal "no." 
  • Revisit corporate values.  You may think your corporate values speak for themselves but will a sampling of employees confirm this?  Create a culture where these values are reinforced every day and become as second nature as breathing.  To ensure everyone understands its expectations, DuPont posts "The DuPont Business Conduct Guide" in multiple languages on its web site.  First published in 1989, the Guide "provides information to guide employees so that their business conduct is consistent with the company's ethical standards."  Clear guidelines and values are equally important to potential employees as many job seekers are now conducting ethic audits, attempting to ensure the company they join will both value integrity and endure.
While the evolving corporate scandals raise questions of every organization, the squeaky-clean ones will see that this is really an opportunity to celebrate solid business practices and philosophies that draw closer its investors, employees, customers and other important influencers. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Confident Artist

The Confident Artist
by Gloria Hopkins

"Your writing is so convoluted!" barked the editor of one of my first articles. That comment cut me to the core because the editor was someone whose work I admired a great deal. I was insulted, indignant, hurt and mad. Through all this, I was determined.
Six months later I was hired by three of the web's largest nature photography sites to write for them. I put my head down, learned to write and in a short time I was being paid for doing so. Pretty great, huh?

Dealing with Rejection

I have been rejected by everyone. My writings, paintings and photographs have been rejected. My ideas and my dreams have been rejected. I have been rejected personally by those I thought loved me. I've felt rejection every way there is to feel it. But with each rejection I'm more driven than ever. This is for a couple of reasons:
  • I know that unless you need a great deal of improvement in your art, often a rejection is a simple matter of need. If someone doesn't need what you have, they're not going to pay for it. When the time comes when they need your work, they may remember and call you.
  • The key to handling the sometimes crushing emotions of having our work rejected is to grow a very thick skin and understand that its usually nothing personal. Every creative person is rejected at some point.
Let it Turn

A very wise photographer I know helped me through an emotionally difficult time. His advice for my grieving over a rejection was to let the pain turn into something else. We all have the mental power to do this and it does work. I was a little embarrassed because this person was several years younger but much wiser than me, but I'm glad that he was there. It is a coping tool that I use every time I feel the sting of a rejection.
  • Let the emotions of a rejection turn into something else: creativity, personal drive, a commitment to improve, as I did with my writing.
  • Work harder than ever on your craft, commit to not just improve but to excel and when you do, you will feel really great about yourself. This is how the confidence of an artist is born.
Always Improve 

Not only is it important to focus our energies in ways that will improve ourselves or our work, it is equally important to learn from our rejections. Pay close attention to the reasons that you were rejected. Don't try to escape from them or ignore them, and don't let the bite of a rejection roll off like water on a duck's back. It helps to embrace the rejections, learn from them and always strive to excel.
  • If you work hard enough on something and if you love what you're doing, there should be few personal reasons that you won't excel.
Confidence and Competition
The main reason that many artists are confident is because its almost a requirement. In the visual arts the competition is fierce. There are some really great artists out there making fantastic art everyday and we'll have to compete with many of them at some point in our careers. It takes a lot of confidence for some to do this, especially if we have no regular source of guidance, instruction or feedback on our work. To compete in the arts it helps that we have a thick skin as well as a healthy dose of self confidence and confidence in our work.
  • As we strive to build our confidence its important to retain our sensitivities. Often an artist's sensitivities are what make them great at what they do so it's important to not lose them. I always consider it a shame when a person becomes jaded, bitter or overly discouraged because of a bad review or critique. It's always better to embrace the opportunity for improvement.

If I haven't given you enough reasons to build a good sense of self confidence and to embrace rejection and learn from it, here is one final reason: with confidence comes boldness, a sense of adventure and experimentation in our crafts. These are the things that make an artist great.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Don't imitate. Innovate.

Don't imitate. Innovate.

The internet is contributing to lazy journalism. Sean McManus says journalists must remember to add value in their reporting
Often magazines and broadcasters publish circular emails forwarded to them by their readers and listeners. Apart from the risk of a copyright suit from whoever wrote the original email (and wouldn't you just love to take part in that test case?), it makes tired editorial. By the time it reaches print, many people will have received it by email. The search for fresh ideas has been replaced by many journalists with the search for easy copy.
Emailed information is difficult to verify too as ABC News, New York Times and The Guardian discovered. According to ezine Need to Know and Top Five, the Cantonese film titles they all published as fact were invented by contributors to Top Five's website. The full list of 15 was appended to a genuine Wall Street Journal article about poorly translated film titles and released on the internet by an anonymous prankster. They included 'Field of Dreams' comically translated as 'Imaginary Dead Baseball Players Live in My Cornfield' and 'George of the Jungle' named 'Big Dumb Monkey-Man Keeps Whacking Tree With Genitals'. ABC News claims that their Chinese correspondent verified the film titles as true.
Articles sometimes appear in magazines and newspapers that just reproduce the content of websites or circular emails, without tracing or crediting the creator. After the fight to defend freelancers' copyright, it is ironic that some journalists do not respect the copyright and creativity of internet authors, who often write for the love of it and publish their work for free. Magazines also often promote websites that just pirate photos and articles from print, missing the point that the internet's strength is its ability to share new ideas and not just repackage old ones.
As newspapers try to guide their readers through cyberspace, they shouldn't compromise on originality. Journalists should seek out new websites and fresh ideas and then report on them, not just republish them. Readers will often have access to the same (or better) online sources than the journalist has. Now that most information is freely available online, journalists must ensure more than ever that they add value to the information they distribute.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Media Magic

According to Gavriel Salomon, different media forms recruit, and develop, different cognitive processes. His seminal book, Interaction of Media, Cognition, and Learning, provides evidence for this premise. He demonstrates that repeated exposure to cinematic codes presented on film, such as the zoom technique, leads children to internalize these codes. In one experiment, eighth graders who watched a film that used repeated zooms achieved higher scores on a search task that required them to find details in a complex display. In fact, for eighth graders who earned low scores on a pre-test of the search task, viewing the film improved scores more than practicing the search task itself. Similarly, students who watched a film depicting the unfolding of a three-dimensional object significantly improved their scores on a test requiring identification of unfolded objects.23 Salomon's research also provides evidence that educational programs can enhance particular cognitive abilities. When Sesame Street was first introduced to Israel, school-aged children who watched the program improved on tests of attention and inference making. In a later experiment, second graders who watched the program for eight days in school performed better on measures of select cognitive skills than a control group who watched adventure or nature films.24
Daniel Anderson and Patricia Collins note, however, in a review of the effects of TV on cognitive development, that the benefits revealed by Salomon's studies are short-term, small, and specific to educational programs or instructional films.25Further, because Salomon's work suggests that internalization requires repeat, heavy exposure to particular media content, it is unclear to what extent cognitive skills would be enhanced in typical TV viewing environments.
Few studies have examined the links between television and spatial skills, and those that have are inconclusive.26 Analysts have conducted far more research on video games. These studies suggest that video games may positively affect a variety of visual spatial skills. Adult video game players, for example, have better hand-eye coordination than non-players.27 In one experimental study, spending fifteen minutes playing an Atari video game improved adults' performance (fifty milliseconds relative to controls) on a simple reaction time test.28 Children's previous video game experience has also been associated with shorter reaction times on color and shape discrimination and stimulus anticipation tasks.29
Several studies suggest that video game play may enhance spatial reasoning skills in youth.30 In one experiment, Patricia McClurg and Christine Chaille found that playing select computer games for five minutes, twice a week, for six weeks improved fifth, seventh, and ninth graders' performance on a paper and pencil mental-rotation task in which students view a three-dimensional target shape in one orientation and must indicate whether another shape is different or the same in a different orientation. In fact, fifth graders who had received the video game training scored higher than ninth graders who had not played the video games.31
Richard De Lisi and Jennifer Wolford found positive effects on spatial skills of playing the video game Tetris, which requires mental rotation. After eleven thirty -minute sessions of playing Tetris, third graders showed improved scores on a paper-and-pencil test of mental-rotation skills. Before the video game training, children in the control group, who played a game that required no mental rotation, and children in the experimental group earned similar scores; after training, the students who had played Tetris scored significantly higher than the control group. Only the experimental group received significantly higher scores on the test after training.32
A series of experiments by Shawn Green and Daphne Bevelier reveal that video game play yields improvements in several aspects of visual attention. Experienced adult gamers are able to track more items in an array of dynamic distractor items, to locate more quickly a briefly appearing target, and to process more efficiently an ongoing stream of information.33
In a recent analysis, Matthew Dye and Bevelier examined the relative visual attention skills of child gamers and non-gamers. Similar to the adult studies, the study found benefits of gaming for visual attention, including greater attentional capacity, quicker attention deployment, and faster processing.34
Not all video game training studies, however, have found improved spatial skills among players.35 In one study, adults trained on Tetris did not increase their mental-rotation scores more than controls, although advanced Tetris players did have superior mental-rotation skills, relative to Tetris novices. This finding, however, could be attributable to what social scientists call selection: individuals with superior mental rotation skills are more likely to play games like Tetris. A video game training experiment with seventh graders did not reveal improvements in spatial visualization, even though the same experiment improved spatial visualization skills in adults.36

Kaveri Subrahmanyan and Patricia Greenfield point out that the content of the game influences whether, and what, visual spatial skills are learned. In an experiment, fifth graders who played Marble Madness, a game that requires a player to guide a marble through a grid, increased their dynamic spatial skills significantly, as tested on a computer test battery; students who played a fill-in-the-blank word game showed no improvement on spatial skills. Children whose spatial skills were the lowest on a pre-test improved the most with video game practice.37

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Education for life, or for work?

The higher education white paper proposes that universities should train students for their future jobs. But not all academics are keen

Kim Hughes studies a bar of chocolate in the way that most of us would examine a diamond necklace. She has no thought of eating it, but admires its design and the effort that has gone into its construction. Having completed Nestlé's graduate training programme last year, she is now a "focused improvement specialist" charged with reviewing confectionery production systems.
Hughes competed against hundreds of other hopefuls in a gruelling recruitment process to gain her place at Nestlé, but acknowledges she was lucky to have graduated before her chances of finding work receded dramatically.
Latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that among the graduate class of 2010, only 62% were in work six months after leaving university, with a further 7% combining work and further study. This is an improvement on the previous year, but is still well below pre-credit crunch levels.
The universities minister, David Willetts, seized on the figures to justify proposals, outlined in the higher education white paper, to make universities work with employers to develop and "kitemark" courses, and boost enterprise skills training for students. He also pointed to the wide discrepancy between individual universities, ranging from a 100% employment record at the University of Buckingham to 78% at the University of East London, as evidence that poorly performing courses should be named and shamed, so that students could make informed choices about what and where to study.
However, many academics are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of training students for work. Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the elite Russell Group, says its member institutions aim to provide students with fundamental skills, such as problem-solving, analytical techniques, creative thinking and innovation, so that they are adaptable to new work environments. "Developing these high-level skills and qualities, rather than training for a specific job, is one of the vital roles universities should play," she says.
Professor John Brennan, director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the Open University, has studied graduate employability for the past 20 years and sees real danger in "training for work" displacing "education for life" in the student experience.
"Employability of graduates is a shared responsibility between employers and universities, but you really have to consider whether you are in the business of preparing students for their first job or for lifelong careers," he says. "I would say that in the UK, there is very often a four- or five-year transition period between a graduate leaving higher education and becoming established in his or her career."
In one research project, Brennan compared UK and German HE systems, concluding that graduates in each country might be at "about the same point" by their late 20s, the German having spent a long period in vocational higher education, while the Briton gained experience of employment after a much shorter degree course.
"There are real advantages to the UK system of having a short study period at university," says Brennan, "but you have to ask, what can reasonably be taught during a three-year degree and what is best left until graduates begin their career?"
Brennan is the first to admit that providing relevant work experience, such as placements and internships, can be of great benefit. The real concern, apparently shared by graduates, is the government's intention to allow businesses to influence the core content of degree courses.
Before joining Nestlé, Hughes completed a five-year course in biomolecular and medicinal chemistry at Strathclyde University, which included a year in industry. "Experience of the workplace definitely helped me to get on to the Nestlé training scheme," she says. "Even the part-time job I had as a student taught me more work skills than my course, but I don't see employability as something that should be taught in academic situations."
A report by Edge, the education charity, published shortly before the white paper, recommends that universities should consult employers on the design of degree courses and put employability at the centre of strategic planning.
According to the report, employers expect graduates to have attributes including team-working, communication, leadership, critical thinking, problem-solving and even managerial abilities, in addition to a knowledge of their degree subject.
"There is a tendency for employers to want their graduates 'oven-ready' and it is not fair that some are let down by their universities and are at a disadvantage to other graduates when applying for jobs," says David Harbourne, director of research at Edge, which commissioned Glasgow University to conduct the study.
"Some academics regard employability as a function of the university careers office and will not sully their hands with it. There is a balance to be struck, but you cannot argue that a student of English literature is not going to think about the job they are going to do when they graduate."
Some universities have embraced the principle of employability skills in their mission statements and websites. For example the University of Hertfordshire proclaims that "employability is at the heart of everything we do"
A different approach is being taken by AC Grayling's proposed New College for the Humanities in London, which plans to charge fees of £18,000. Its graduates will come away with a degree and a separate diploma for an additional course that includes practical professional skills such as financial literacy, teamwork, presentation and strategy.
Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, says many employers have only vague, or unrealistic, ideas of what they expect universities to teach. "For example, how do you teach teamwork?" he asks.
There are risks in allowing employers to influence course design, he says. "Sandwich courses were set up by universities working with industry, but many of them were popular with neither students nor employers. Students were put off their subject because, for example in engineering, they spent a year filing bits of metal in a factory, and it turned out most employers recruited engineering graduates from more academic universities anyway."
Professor Roger Brown, co-director of the Centre for Higher Education Research Development at Liverpool Hope University, says: "Universities should aim to provide a good rounded education that equips students for the rest of their lives ... The employability proposals in the white paper are dangerous nonsense because they are based on extraordinarily unreliable and poor-quality information."
But universities needn't worry too much, he says. "These sorts of ideas have been a theme of government policy since the 1980s and have never really been implemented successfully."

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Looking beyond disability: an employer's perspective

rteen years ago Susan Anderson received a spinal cord injury in a swimming lessonn and was diagnosed a C6-7 quadriplegic. Today she uses a manual wheelchair for mobility. She is employed as a revenue agent for the IRS in Laguna Niguel, CA. Anderson, honored as Laguna Niguel District's 1990 Disabled Employee of the Year, is a prime example of independence through employment.
IRS employs more than 2,500 people throughout the district, which covers most of Southern California. About 6% of these employees have identified themselves as having some type of disability.
"We have found three keys that are critical to the success of our program for disabled employees," says Jesse Cota, district director. "First, we must sensitize our employees to raise the level of disability awareness. Second, we must recruit qualified applicants. And third, we must promote qualified employees and insure opportunities for upward mobility."
The level of disability awareness must be raised to the point where managers and cowokers learn to "treat people as people." Once the work force is sensitized, new employees are far more likely to be accepted. To accomplish this, the Laguna Niguel District is in the process of providing all managers with classroom training designed to break down barriers.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Leonardo Da Vinci : The Success Story

Leonardo Da Vinci, one of the most famous personalities born more than five centuries ago, still being studied today and the subject of many controversies. Can you imagine what it must have taken an illegitimate child of a peasant women, when being illegitimate really meant something, to rise above the prevalent mediocre ambitions of the day and make a mark for himself?
Although we know him more for his world famous paintings, he was a multi-faceted man who was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and a writer – all rolled into one!
Was it easy for him to make such an accomplishment due to royal patronage? It would be wrong to assume so. He had to face many difficulties like false accusations of sexual misconduct for which the guilty was sentenced to death in the public! His failures were as grand as his success. ‘The Last Supper’ was finally spoilt when he painted it with some experimental medium mixture and began to disintegrate as soon as he painted it. Leonardo’s clay model of the Great Equestrian Monument for the Duke of Milan stood around for years until it was destroyed and the Duke finally made cannon with the bronze he had saved for the statue.
What was it that made a legend out of a small boy Leonardo from a village Vinci in Italy? It was his own code that he developed from the power of his intellect and determination. Early in his life Leonardo discovered the relation between intelligence, power and fame.
Leonardo’s life is a kaleidoscope of the magnificent ways in which the human intellect flowers when one uses the key of insatiable desire to learn more about the world around.
His quotations reflect the essence of his nature.
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
“Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!”
“He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.”
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
“Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.”
Today a million visitors a year come to visit the Museum of Leonardo and his birthplace to understand this legendary being.