Thursday, July 28, 2011

Balika/Bal Mandal Go To Move #5: Active Learning

Atlas, it's time for your bathAs our balaks continue along their Summer Challenge, we thought we'd throw another bone in the way of another tactic to get them on their toes.

In the Sabha Challenge section, many “projects” that kids do in school are all provided within the packet:
  • Posterboard Projects
  • Shoebox Diorama
  • Jeopardy Review
  • Live Skits
  • Debates

Also, the Home Challenge is something for the kids to do on their own. Although much of this month may be review, it’s important that the balaks understand the correct message.

The key to many of these activities is how we present them. For example, the syllabus lists three prasangs about Bhagatji Maharaj for this week’s topic: Shram Yagna.

An interesting/creative way to do this is by taking the balaks to a place that will bring this prasang to life. For example, in the first prasang, Bhagatji Maharaj was near a little water tank washing dishes. You can take them in the kitchen, and tell them the prasang there. (Of course, you’d have to talk with the Kitchen Coordinator and ask them if they’re not busy at that time.)

Additionally, you can make them do vasaan seva for a little bit before telling the prasang, so they can experience the prasang. This tactic is called active learning and helps the balaks experience the prasang firsthand while giving them a reason to NOT sit still (i.e. move around).

Overall, the strength of this month’s ‘Summer Challenge’ packet definitely lies in the “learn-by-doing” experience, so let's capitaze on this strategy to make the most of their Summer Challenge.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Effective Communication

Everyone seems to have a take on what it takes to make a great speaker, so we try to take the shining lessons of all and see what patterns seem to stand out. In a recent article over at Productivity501, we saw the following.
  1. Be visual.
  2. Tell stories.
  3. What people hear vs. what you say.
While #2 is no different from what we've been stating in our posts, #1 & #3 caught our attention because they were different.

The article used this story to illustrate #1,
wealth of pennies
I once ran an IT department for a non-profit with about 200 employees.  In the work room we had a large color and a large b&w printer.  The cost on the color printer was about $0.15 per page.  The cost of the b&w was $0.015 per page.  I kept trying to ask people to use the b&w unless they had a compelling reason to print color.  When you are printing 50,000 toe 100,000 pages per month the $0.015 vs $0.15 made a big difference on the budget.  A few casual visits to the work room made it clear that no one was listening. A good percentage of the paper being printed on the color printer was b&w or had unnecessary color. 
I had my assistant get me 165 pennies to prepare for a meeting where I was going to try once again.  I took 10 sheets of paper, put them on the table and said, “Here is how much this costs to print on the b&w printer.”  Then I dropped 15 pennies on the table.  ”Here is how much it costs to print these same 10 sheets on the color printer.”  I then dropped 150 pennies on the table, making as much noise as possible and letting them roll all over the place and onto the floor. 
After that, people started being more careful.  Behavior didn’t change overnight, but there was a noticeable drop in the usage on the color printer.  Dropping the pennies on the table made an impression–something I hadn’t been able to do before using just my words. Showing is nearly always more effective than saying.
Made to Stick calls this concrete - taking something abstract and translating it to the tangible. 

As for #3, another story was used to illustrate the point:
After Obama won the election, the news crews were talking to people who were very excited about his success.  One person interviewed was a woman who made the statement that now she wouldn’t have to worry about putting gas in her car. Now she wouldn’t have to worry about her mortgage. I didn’t watch everything Obama said, but I don’t think he made any promises to pay mortgages or give away free gas. I do know he did a pretty good job of conveying a message of hope, but what that lady heard and what Obama said were not at all the same thing.
While this may be a bit of an extreme example, it is vitally important to remember that what you say isn’t the important thing.  What matters is what people hear.  In many cases those to things can be miles apart. All of us hear things through our own set of biases, assumptions and personalities. When you are communicating it is easy to be so focused on what you say, that you overlook what people will hear
It's important to take into account what our audience thinks lest we risk losing our message.

In any case, effective speaking is mainly about utilizing a set of core concepts - no matter however it's described or organized.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Getting a Ghosti Going

Warhol's Light BulbsWith the summer series on ghosti, we may have struggled to deal with a format that seems completely different from a traditional presentation.

Whereas in a presentation we have control, here we outsource it to our fellow audience in a ghosti. Hence, if we've put our audience to sleep, we'll know with the lack of responses garnered from them - maybe a reason why we fear a ghosti.

One tool though can put this fear to rest: curiosity. Curiosity is what gets a ghosti going naturally. People will speak up if they are genuinely interested in the topic at hand. In a ghosti, thus we need to compare each prasang to something our audience can relate. 

For example, let's say we want to depict the difference between paroksh gnan and aparoksh gnan to an audience full of gamers. Simply asking our audience about the difference will not make an impact especially since many of them won't know. Wet their appetites by contrasting a specific game, like Resident Evil, with perhaps reading a strategy guide (i.e. cheat manual). Just because we may know the full parameters of the game means nothing in the way of how our heart stopped at the sight of a bloody zombie.

To a crowd full of b-ballers, describe the crossover in the form of a step-by-step recipe. Compare that to what actual players feel when they pull off the move. Suddenly, the concept of paroksh & aparoksh becomes that much more concrete.

We can extend this idea to all of our prasangs as well, but it requires that we read over them and think about how our audience might relate to them. To butcher the prasang, read it out and ask, "What do you think?" To breathe life into the prasang, link it up to a concrete scenario, like we did with Resident Evil and the crossover.

Success or failure - let us know of other tricks of the trade to get a ghosti going.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Presenting Tips From Warren Buffet

Prov­ing that good writ­ing and presentation can be found any­where, writer Nancy Fried­man points to Berk­shire Hath­away CEO War­ren Buffett’s annual reports as exam­ples of excel­lent copy­writ­ing. These points are very much in lock step with Made to Stick and Resonate - this gives another point of view.

Fried­man sub­mits that we can learn to write bet­ter copy by study­ing War­ren Buffett’s annual reports, offer­ing these six tips, high­lighted after study­ing his annuals:
  • Tell sto­ries. Read­ing a Berk­shire annual report is like sit­ting across a booth in a diner with a great con­ver­sa­tion­al­ist pos­sessed of both intel­li­gence and insa­tiable curiosity. The second S in the Made to Stick SUCCES model.
  • Use vivid language. This makes thing both concrete and credible.
  • Talk about peo­ple. It’s one thing to say, as almost every­one does, that busi­ness is about peo­ple. It’s another thing entirely to por­tray those peo­ple fully fleshed and full of foibles.
  • Be gen­er­ous with humour. Every Berk­shire annual brims with jokes (includ­ing some groan­ers), drollery, and wit - this makes things unexpected.
  • Get to the point. “Be fear­ful when oth­ers are greedy and greedy when oth­ers are fear­ful,” Buf­fett writes. That’s an entire busi­ness phi­los­o­phy in twelve words. Simple statement.
  • Let your enthu­si­asm show. Emotion
Buf­fett wrote the won­der­ful pref­ace to the SEC’s A Plain Eng­lish Hand­book: How to cre­ate clear SEC dis­clo­sure doc­u­ments (pdf). He offers this “uno­rig­i­nal but use­ful tip”:
Write with a spe­cific per­son in mind. When writ­ing Berk­shire Hathaway’s annual report, I pre­tend that I’m talk­ing to my sis­ters. I have no trou­ble pic­tur­ing them: Though highly intel­li­gent, they are not experts in account­ing or finance. They will under­stand plain Eng­lish, but jar­gon may puz­zle them. My goal is sim­ply to give them the infor­ma­tion I would wish them to sup­ply me if our posi­tions were reversed. To suc­ceed, I don’t need to be Shake­speare; I must, though, have a sin­cere desire to inform.
That’s the key; pic­tur­ing your audi­ence as intel­li­gent non-experts. I think this is the same key idea when dealing with our kishores and kishoris - they are also intelligent non-experts. Thoughts?