Monday, March 26, 2012

Showing Up

If you want to learn to use a tool as a leader you need to use it as a participant. Go to and find an event to attend. Show up early and help the organizer set up. Ask them what passion drove them to start this project. How did the meetup tool help make their vision come to life.

Alternatives to meet up are Eventbrite and Plancast.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cool Tools

For a while I’ve been telling people: “Don’t focus on the tools; focus on the problem they are used to solve” and yet, I’ve created a site dedicated to tools and I’m giving you links like this one that randomly lists tools by virtue of their wow factor. (to be fair, the author is wowed by things that are actually useful): Cool Tools

Is it OK to look at tools without a problem in mind?


When you are working on a problem wouldn’t it be good to have a database in your head of effective tools and the kinds of problems they can solve? (Having a list in Evernote would be even better.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Fling Itself

As a Performance artist, I used the tools from my father’s shop for absurd purposes to rail against the rigidity of business. When I was in business,  I told people to stop looking at tools and look at outcomes instead. Now that I’ve created a “performance-art-like” exploration of tools, I’m trying to expand my perspective.

In this clip from my favorite TV show of the eighties, Northern Exposure, Chris, the resident philosopher is using a trebuchet to fling a piano, and he explains that it is not the piano that is important but the flinging itself. So is he focused on the tool and not the outcome? When you see the reactions of the other characters, you realize that this absurd act actually had an effect on people. That is the outcome.

That was TV though. Let’s try it in real life on a smaller scale. Stack up some empty soda cans (don’t forget to recycle when you’re done) and find an adjustable wrench. There’s something familiar and gratifying about the weird center of gravity of an adjustable wrench. Think of the monkeys in 2001 Space Odyssey. Now fling the wrench at the soda cans.

Your brain released chemicals twice during that experiment: once when you felt the centrifugal force of the wrench leaving your hand, and once when you heard the uncomfortable racket of the crashing cans. Did those feeling have value? Do you think you could make use of that effect some day?

Note: this episode was my first exposure to a Trebuchet and inspired this post

Monday, March 5, 2012

Real Life Heretic: George Siemens

George Siemens, a major proponent of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), brought together 3 heretical ideas to begin changing education:

  • Courses can be provided by academic institutions  to anyone in the world, free of charge.
  • Courses can be offered to an unlimited number of people.
  • The content of courses can be created by the learners themselves.
He uses whatever tools work and participants are encouraged to expand their use of tools to spread the reach of the course content. Here are some examples:
Here is a review that I wrote of one of his courses that I attended.