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Monday, December 30, 2013

Family speaks out after mystery diner's good deed, encouraging note 12-30

Family speaks out after mystery diner's good deed, encouraging note


A family in Rowan County got an unexpected, and inspiring, note when they were out to dinner on Friday. A photo of the note is going viral.
Ashley England went to dinner at the Stag-N-Doe pizza restaurant in China Grove with her family on Friday evening, including her 8-year-old son, Riley. The family was sitting at the table when Riley, who has special needs, began to get "a little rowdy."
"He threw the phone and started screaming," she recalled. "The past few weeks have been very hard and trying for us - especially with public outings. Riley was getting loud and hitting the table and I know it was aggravating to some people."
Just when England was ready to leave, a waitress appeared.
"I'll try to do this without crying," the waitress told the family. "But another customer has paid for your bill tonight and wanted me to give you this note."
The note read: "God only gives special children to special people."
Riley is non-verbal and has been through three major brain surgeries for a severe form of epilepsy. The seizures started when he was 18-months-old, robbing him of his speech. His mom says he had more than 100 seizures a day.
Riley's frustration with being unable to speak, often leads to outbursts England says causes many to cruelly judge her son.
"Until a person has walked in the shoes we have walked in," she said. "They have no right to say one thing."
What they should focus on instead? Remembering the one thing she longs to hear from Riley.
"They take just a simple 'I love you' from your child for granted," she said.  
"Because you have never heard that from your son?" asked WBTV's Brigida Mack.
"Never," England replied, getting choked up. "Never."
England says the kindness of the mystery diner made her cry.
"To have someone do that small act towards us shows that some people absolutely understand what we are going through and how hard it is to face the public sometimes," she said. "They made me cry, blessed me more than they know - I felt like out of all the rude negative comments that we are faced with - these outweighs them. The people who care!"
She says she wants to say thank you to the person that paid for their meal and sent the encouraging words.
"Little did he know what struggles we had been facing lately and this was surely needed at that moment," she said. "Thank you!"

10 Extraordinary People and Their Lessons for Success 12-30



2013_LW_annual_Comp

10 Extraordinary People and Their Lessons for Success


From presidents to hip-hop producers to poets, the last page of every issue of Harvard Business Review is always an interview with someone who has succeeded outside the traditional corporate world. Here, some of our favorite lessons from the class of 2013:

Dec13-LW-O'Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on having long-term colleagues: “Treat people well. Don’t mislead them. Don’t be prickly. Don’t say things that are aggravating. Try to be as agreeable as you can be. Try to be helpful rather than harmful. Try to cooperate.”
NOV13-LW_Adams
Cartoonist Scott Adams on using his MBA: ”When the comic strip first came out, it showed Dilbert in a variety of settings—not just the office. I didn’t really know what was working, because I had no direct contact with readers… So way back at the dawn of the internet, I started putting my e-mail address in the margin of the strip… I found out that there was a common theme: People loved it when Dilbert was in the office, and they liked it a lot less when he was at home or just hanging around. So Dilbert became an office-based comic, and that change made it all work.”
OCT13-LW-Matsuhisa
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa on starting as an apprentice: “I was 18 and didn’t know anything about fish. My mentor taught me the basics. For the first three years, I didn’t make sushi; I washed dishes and cleaned the fish. But if I asked questions, he always answered. I learned a lot of patience.”
Sep13-LW-Michaels
Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels on hiring: “I wouldn’t choose anyone whose side I didn’t want to be on. It isn’t like we hire 12 and figure six will work. We don’t bring in anybody we’re not rooting for. Sometimes they succeed in week five, but for most people it’s two, three, four years before they become who they’re going to be. You have to allow for that growth.”
JulAug13-LW-Simmons
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons on meditating twice a day: “Every creative idea, every second of happiness, is from stillness…. But the way you move around the world has nothing to do with the stillness in your heart. Moving meditation—that’s what we have to practice. It doesn’t mean you have to move slow; you just have to see the world in slow motion.”
Jun13-LW-Palmer
Golfer Arnold Palmer on learning humility: “One time at Augusta, I was going into the last hole with a one-shot lead to win the Masters, and a friend from the gallery hollered at me, so I walked over and accepted congratulations. And then I proceeded to make six on the hole and lose. My father had warned me about that. I was told all my life not to accept congratulations until it’s over.”
May13-LW-Angelou
Poet Maya Angelou on courage: “One isn’t born with courage. One develops it by doing small courageous things—in the way that if one sets out to pick up a 100-pound bag of rice, one would be advised to start with a five-pound bag, then 10 pounds, then 20 pounds, and so forth, until one builds up enough muscle to lift the 100-pound bag. It’s the same way with courage. You do small courageous things that require some mental and spiritual exertion.”
Apr13-LW-Starck
Designer Philippe Starck on persuading clients: “I’m very good at explaining. I don’t work like a diva. I don’t say, “Oh my God, that must be pink,” and refuse to discuss it… I am cuckoo, yes. I am the king of intuition. But I am also a serious guy. I explain in a clear way. And then, even if it’s something that looks completely different than expected, something completely against mainstream thinking, clients understand. I explain that it might look strange but why, given the two to five years it will take for development, it will for so many reasons be exactly the right thing to do… And then the clients agree, always, 100%.”
Mar13-LW-Robinson
President Mary Robinson on being frank: “At every stage, it’s [a] passion for human rights that has prompted me to speak truth to power, to stand up to bullies, to be prepared to criticize even the United States after 9/11. People told me it wouldn’t help my career as high commissioner, but it seemed much more important to do the job than to try to keep the job.”
JanFeb13-LW-McCullough
Historian David McCullough on hard work: “When the founders wrote about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, they didn’t mean longer vacations and more comfortable hammocks. They meant the pursuit of learning. The love of learning. The pursuit of improvement and excellence. I keep telling students, ‘Find work you love. Don’t concern yourself overly about how much money is involved or whether you’re ever going to be famous.’ …In hard work is happiness.”

Building a High-Trust Culture,It Starts with Integrity 12-30

Building a High-Trust Culture,  It Starts with Integrity


Over forty years in business, I've been involved with more than 100 companies, done thousands of deals, and worked alongside countless leaders and team members in multiple industries. In that time, I've come to believe that the most important ingredient in a business’s success is, simply, trust.
Because it’s become fundamental to my view of leadership and running companies, I’m going to publish a series of posts here on LinkedIn about the value of trust: what it is, how to cultivate it, and how to protect it.
In firms where people trust their leaders and colleagues trust one another, there’s more innovation and better business outcomes. Mistrust and politics are expensive, time-consuming and dispiriting. When a company has a reputation for fair dealing, its costs drop: trust cuts the time spent second-guessing, worrying, and lawyering. Trust strengthens every part of any deal: its durability, its potential profitability, and its flexibility. Like most things, business works better when the energy spent on doubt, fear and suspicion are reduced.
Early on in my career I made a deal with a savvy and experienced investor several years my senior. As papers were being drawn up, I received a call from him. “I don't think you meant to set things up the way you did,” he said, referring to a part of the deal that was in his favor. He proceeded to explain to me how the provision could have left my firm in a bind. He was right, and saved me from a bad mistake. From this, we went on to do over a hundred financings together over several decades. Our level of mutual trust became so great that he’d wire money before the papers were complete. Later, I had a chance to sort through some troubled assets for him to ensure that he recovered his investment capital. I didn't need to, but I never forgot how he'd saved me as a young entrepreneur. Building genuine trust is a long-run investment.
Trust is as important for an established enterprise as for a two-person startup. When teams feel encouragement and support, rather than fear of retribution or embarrassment, they tend to take the kinds of risks that can lead to breakthroughs. In an organization where team members have earned the trust of their supervisors, they can have confidence that if they don’t nail something the first time, there will be a second. Empowered workers can sense they are trusted. For most people, the feeling of being trusted leads to an increased desire to be trustworthy. This virtuous cycle can take your team to great interdependent heights.
But in order for leaders to build and develop trust, it’s important for them to reflect on what it is, and how it works. In my view, there are ten key drivers of trust – from the way leaders display it, to the way team members develop it, and how it requires sacrifice, humility, communication, and accountability. Over this next series of posts, I'll explore why the sum of these key elements is fundamental to building a great organization.
Trust Principle #1: It Starts with Integrity
The foundation of any high-trust organization is the integrity of its leaders. Having integrity means, among other things, that the gap between what you say you're going to do, and what you actually do, is small. I call this a “say-do gap.” Leaders in high-trust organizations must serve as living examples of integrity and trustworthiness – and not just at the office and during business hours. Here are a few ways to think about personal integrity as a core building block of trust:
1) A business is only as trustworthy as its leaders. The people who run things must show – by their actions – the way they want business to be done, and the way they want people to be treated. Talking doesn't cut it. Leaders must embody the spirit they want the team to adopt. People pick up on phoniness. They trust authenticity. Just as kids look to parents for an example, team members watch their leaders. So, miss an opportunity to be that example, and you miss a chance to raise the level of trust.
2) Personal integrity matters. No matter a leader’s competence, charisma, or authority, she’s either trustworthy or she’s not – in all parts of her life. Trustworthy people are trustworthy when it comes to family, friends or colleagues. Obligations to show respect, to consider the welfare of others, and to keep your word don’t end when you leave the office. Leaders who fall short with commitments to friends, family, or close associates are unlikely to establish enduring trust with colleagues, suppliers, or customers. You just can't fake character.
3) Integrity is a habit. Leaders who strive to do the right thing under all circumstances know that being trustworthy takes effort, awareness and work. Trustworthy leaders have generally worked long and hard on their own character building. They’re often quite intentional about fixing things about themselves, about receiving feedback and about learning from it and making changes. In the same way a mechanic keeps a car in top running condition, high-trust individuals monitor and tune their behavior, always striving to do better by team members and customers alike.
Anyone wanting to build a high-trust organization must start by looking in the mirror. Personal character is foundational for interpersonal trust. And organizations in which leaders have integrity stand a much better chance of building trust from the top down, and bottom up.

Why I Have Become Pessimistic About Indian I.T.12-30

Why I Have Become Pessimistic About Indian I.T.


When Wall Street Journal and Forbes published articles, a few years ago, predicting the demise of Indian IT, I responded in Business Week that they were dead wrong. I said that the outsourcing market had a long way to go before it peaked; rising salaries and attrition rates were not a cause for long-term concern; and Indian IT would soon become a $100 billion industry. I was, of course, right.
Now I am ready to declare the end of the line for Indian IT. There are new $100 billion opportunities that could revitalize this industry. But from what I’ve seen, Indian executives seem incapable of steering their ships in the right directions.
It is not that Indian outsourcers have become less capable of servicing Western needs. It is that their customer base—the CIO and IT department—is in decline. With the advent of tablets, apps, and cloud computing, users have direct access to better technology than their IT departments can provide them. They can download cheap, elegant, and powerful apps on their IPads that make their corporate systems look primitive. These modern-day apps don’t require internal teams of people doing software development and maintenance—they are user-customizable and can be built by anyone with basic programming skills.
It takes decades to update legacy computer systems, and corporate IT departments move at the speed of molasses. So, Indian outsourcers have a few more years before they suffer a significant decline. They certainly won’t see the growth and billion-dollar outsourcing deals that have brought them this far.
The same advances that are changing the IT landscape are also creating new opportunities.
For example, advances in robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and 3D printing are making it cost effective to move manufacturing back from China to the U.S., Europe, …and India.
Take the Baxter robot from Rethink Robotics. It has two arms, a face that displays simulated emotion, and cameras and sensors that detect the motion of human beings that work next to it. It can perform assembly and move boxes—just as humans do. It will work 24 hours a day and not complain. It costs only $22,000. This is one of many such robots.
AI is making it possible to develop self-driving cars, voice-recognition systems such as Apple’s Siri, and computer systems that can make human-like decisions. AI technologies are also finding their way into manufacturing and are powering robots such as Baxter.
A type of manufacturing called “additive manufacturing” is making it possible to cost-effectively “print” products. 3D printers can create physical mechanical devices, medical implants, jewelry, and even clothing. The cheapest 3D printers, which print rudimentary objects, currently sell for between $500 and $1000. Soon we will have printers for this price that can print toys and household goods. By the end of this decade, we will see 3D printers doing the small-scale production of previously labor-intensive crafts and goods. In the next decade we may be 3D-printing buildings and electronics.
These technologies are becoming readily available and cheap, but America’s manufacturing plants aren’t geared up to take advantage of them. Most don’t have the know-how. This is where India’s companies could step in. They could master the new technologies and help American firms design new factory floors and program and install robots. They could provide management consulting on designing new value chains and inventory management. They could manage manufacturing plant operations remotely. This is a higher-margin business than the old IT services. And American’s would cheer India for bringing manufacturing back to their shores—rather than protest its taking their IT jobs away. We are talking about a trillion dollar market opportunity.
India’s technology companies can also develop sensor-based biomedical devices, cures for diseases by analyzing genome and health data, drone-based delivery systems, smart cities, digital tutors, and sensors to improve farming. Software and IT are the key to developing all these.
In my discussions with Indian CEOs, they all acknowledge the reality. They are becoming aware of what lies ahead. I have implored them to start retraining their people in the new technologies and to develop new businesses and consulting practices. They listen, nod their heads from side to side, and go back to trying to close the disappearing software-outsourcing deals. I tell them that they are shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Cambridge primary review's key findings. 12-30

The Cambridge primary review's key findings.



There is a "pervasive anxiety" about the pressure on pupils at school and from the commercial world, but these concerns are often overstated and mask the fact that poverty is the single biggest threat to children's lives, the Cambridge review has found.

Concern is fuelled by a media obsession with "toxic childhood", but children themselves report being happier than their parents and teachers give them credit for.

The review says: "Yes, English childhoods have changed in the past, say, 25 years. Family forms have changed, formal learning starts at younger ages and other education policy changes impact on children's school experience … On the other hand, opportunities for children are greater than they have ever been. What is worrying is the persistence of a long tail of severely disadvantaged children whose early lives are unhappy, whose potential is unrealised and whose future is bleak."

Children's biggest concerns are about the environment, terrorism and about their personal safety – a minority in inner-city areas reported a fear of violent crime. The most entrenched problems are faced by children from disadvantaged homes.
"[Education] matters to all children, but especially to those who, in our divided society, lack the massively compensating advantages of financial wealth, emotional harmony and a home life which is linguistically, intellectually, culturally and spiritually rich," it says.
The system
Although there should be an urgent debate about teaching ages, styles, curriculum and standards, the review concludes that "for many, schools are the centre that holds when things fall apart". But in many cases schools are succeeding in this despite government policy, not because of it. The review describes how, since 1997, the government has intervened in the way schools teach on an unprecedented level, instructing a "state theory of learning" with "Stalinist overtones".
Starting age
The review says that England should conform to international practice by delaying the start of formal school until children turn six. This would extend the preschool, play-based curriculum to give children a stress-free grounding before they start formal lessons. It found a "strong and widespread conviction" that children are ill-served by starting formal learning at four, as currently happens in many areas of the country and as is being proposed by the government as a national policy. Starting formal learning before the age of six "dents children's confidence and risks long-term damage to their learning".
One local authority claimed that the combination of an early start, testing and pressure to reach government standards was creating a generation with mental health problems.
Curriculum
Primaries have become too focused on the "three Rs" and the curriculum needs to be broadened. Today's report sets out plans for a new curriculum that includes 12 aims for each pupil: wellbeing, engagement, empowerment, autonomy, respect and reciprocity, interdependence, citizenship, celebrating culture, exploring, fostering skills, exciting imagination and enacting dialogue.
Children's learning should also cover eight domains, including arts and creativity, language, oracy and literacy, and science and technology, which would replace the current narrower subject areas. Schools would be given back part of the timetable reserved for teachers to design their own lessons locally.
Teaching
Labour's national strategy for primary schools, which introduced the daily literacy and numeracy hours, has massively centralised the system and de-professionalised teachers. The school secretary Ed Balls's recent decision to scrap the private contract with Capita, which runs the National Strategies, will not take away that effect, the review argues, because there is now a generation of teachers who only know how to teach under the system. It has made teaching "inflexible and monolithic" and was an ill-informed political intervention, it concludes.
Teachers should be given back control over how they teach. Many parents surveyed argued that homework should be scrapped and researchers said it gave an unfair advantage to children from more supportive, settled homes.
The model of the generalist teacher in primary schools has been in place since the 19th century when it was introduced to cut costs. This system should now be revised with the introduction of more specialist teachers, some of whom could be shared between schools. It acknowledges that this would be expensive.
The government's rules around teaching, designed to raise standards, could in fact depress them by robbing teachers of their independence. The review disputes Ofsted's finding that schools now have the best ever cohort of new teachers in history, saying there is no proof to back up that claim.
The review identified "serious concerns" about provision for children with special educational needs (SEN). Children are too often classified as SEN on the basis of "stereotyping and discrimination" instead of considered analysis. Parents and schools are deeply frustrated at the lack of support and unequal funding for their children across the country. It calls for a separate full and independent review of Sen provision.
Behaviour
Researchers encountered widespread concerns about behaviour in the classroom, with many sources blaming changing social trends and "bad parenting". The review suggests that improved teaching rather than stricter rules is the best way to tackle indiscipline. "Those who feel a failure are more likely to team up with the class tearaways to gain at least some affirmation, if, indeed, they are able to make friends at all," it says.
Parenting
A good relationship between home and school is a considerable bonus. However, over-zealous parents can be as problematic as disengaged ones. "Parents can over-control as well as under-control, and demotivate while attempting to motivate," it says. Nevertheless, children are far more affected by what happens at home than they are by what happens at school. "Family breakdown and poverty are huge influences on growth and development or children. When the two coincide, the effect is potentially dramatic," it concludes.
Testing
Sats should be scrapped and replaced with new tests marked by teachers to inform them and parents of a child's progress. But they should not be used to measure their school's success in league tables or feed into national statistics to judge the progress of government policies. Instead, a sample of children in every school should sit a separate test to gauge progress, but this should be in a wider range of subjects than the three Rs, to encourage schools to teach more broadly. The review concludes league tables are so flawed they are "invalid", but says schools should be held accountable through Ofsted.
School buildings
New primaries should give more space for specialist teaching as well as traditional multi-subject classes and better outdoor facilities to follow the Scandinavian example of holding more lessons outdoors. Libraries that are currently disappearing from schools should be preserved. Small schools, particularly in rural areas where they can be at the heart of a community, should also be protected.
Many of those canvassed pushed for smaller class sizes despite research suggesting that smaller classes are only beneficial in the early years of primary school. The government should consider shortening the long summer holidays, which can prove disruptive to children's learning.
Funding
The money allocated to primaries should rise to match secondaries. Primaries require more money to introduce the specialist teachers needed to improve education. It suggests the debate about primaries needs to move beyond the traditional versus progressive discourse. "The politicisation of primary education has also gone too far. Discussion has been blocked by derision, truth has been supplanted by myth and spin, and alternatives to current arrangements have been reduced to crude dichotomy," it says.

Finish the task right away 12-30


Finish the task right away

  


Do not postpone what you can do today. A planned approach could help you reach your goal.
At some point of time in our lives most of us would have put off for later a task that had to be done. Whether it is about completing academic assignments or projects before the deadline, or seizing an opportunity which could have altered the course of our lives completely, we may have missed it because of procrastination. Procrastination means postponing things or putting off until tomorrow what could have been done today. But the problem is “tomorrow never comes.”
Procrastination comes into the picture when it is a question of choosing between larger long-term rewards and smaller short-term rewards. Students know that they have an assignment to finish before the deadline. But they spend their time in other pleasurable activities or gather data till the penultimate day and complete their assignment on the last day in a hurried manner which may not bring out their full potential.
According to research, performance anxiety, fear of failure and low self-esteem are some of the reasons why students procrastinate. Some students procrastinate to avoid anxiety and some avoid tasks which they feel they cannot complete successfully and which will make them feel like failures. Students with low self-esteem tend to be self-critical and judge themselves by high standards and say, 

“If I am not good enough why should I begin this task now?”

Overcoming procrastination is easy if you have a planned approach.

Estimating time

Often students underestimate the time needed to complete a task and think there is a lot of time remaining and don’t begin. When they overestimate time, they perceive the task as large and difficult and don’t start.

For example, if you have to read a management text book of 700 pages. You have to calculate your reading speed (words per minute) and check the time you take to read one page and multiply that by the total number of pages to estimate the total time needed to complete the book and then calculate how much time you need to invest on a daily basis.

Sometimes students get discouraged by the size of the task and due to fear don’t even make a beginning. It is said if you want to eat an elephant, start by taking small bites. Divide the complete 700 page book into small chunks of bite-sized pieces according to your comfort/resistance levels, say 5-10 pages, and read them over 30-45 minute slots.

Starting with easy tasks first will not only increase your confidence level but will also help you to overcome inertia and gather momentum to sustain.

Useful tips

Sometimes students feel if they have to begin studying, they need a big time slot where they can study for long hours continuously. Instead you can poke holes on a big task and work in smaller units of time at odd moments like utilising a free 30-minute slot available, for completing assignments.
Choose the time of the day when your energy and alertness levels are high and utilise that time to tackle the most difficult subject.

Lack of exercise and low energy levels are common among those who procrastinate. Physical exercise will increase your stamina and cause the brain to release endorphins which will act as natural pain-killers and make you feel calm.

Visualise yourself as performing a difficult task easily and give yourself encouraging self talk. Like, when reading a big book, say to yourself, “Come on just one more page to study. I know I can do it.”
Keep a to-do list, visible to you with tasks arranged according to priority (importance/urgency) to serve as reminder. Strike-off each accomplished task and feel happy to see the list diminish.

Occasionally give yourself small rewards for accomplishing the task on time. This positive reinforcement will help you to maintain your progress and increase productivity.

If the habit of procrastination is not overcome during student life it will carry forward to your work life and social life. The cost of procrastination is high. It reduces productivity and sometimes compounds problems. Many medical problems could be treated, if diagnosed early. But the problem is people postpone their visit to the doctor.

The famous speaker and writer Dale Carnegie said “The best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”
Don’t procrastinate, follow the mantra DO IT NOW.

Reproduced from "The Hindu" Education Plus

Friday, December 27, 2013

'We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education' 12-28

'We Are Creating Walmarts of Higher Education'




As colleges feel pressure to graduate more students for less money, professors worry that the value of an education may be diminished.

Universities in South Dakota, Nebraska, and other states have cut the number of credits students need to graduate. A proposal in Florida would let online courses forgo the usual higher-education accreditation process. A California legislator introduced a measure that would have substituted online courses for some of the brick-and-mortar kind at public universities.

Some campuses of the University of North Carolina system are mulling getting rid of history, political science, and various others of more than 20 “low productive” programs. The University of Southern Maine may drop physics. And governors in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have questioned whether taxpayers should continue subsidizing public universities for teaching the humanities.

Under pressure to turn out more students, more quickly and for less money, and to tie graduates’ skills to workforce needs, higher-education institutions and policy makers have been busy reducing the number of required credits, giving credit for life experience, and cutting some courses, while putting others online.

Now critics are raising the alarm that speeding up college and making it cheaper risks dumbing it down. “We all want to have more students graduate and graduate in a more timely manner,” says Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors. “The question is, do you do this by lowering your standards?”

About 100 university faculty-members from all over the country plan to meet in January in New York under the umbrella of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, a national movement that aims to “include the voices of the faculty, staff, students and our communities—not just administrators, politicians, foundations and think tanks—in the process of making change.”

The group says the push for more efficiency in higher education often leads to lower quality, and that reforms are being rushed into practice without convincing evidence of their effectiveness. Some of the association’s members point out that there has been little research into the effectiveness of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, for example, even as the number of students enrolled in them skyrockets. One of the first major studies of MOOCs, by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, found that only about four percent of those enrolled complete them.

Meanwhile, to save money, more conventional classrooms are filling up with part-time faculty, often hired two or three weeks before they’re due to begin teaching, according to research by another organization, the New Faculty Majority Foundation.

“We are creating Walmarts of higher education—convenient, cheap, and second-rate,” says Karen Arnold, associate professor at the Educational Leadership and Higher Education Department at Boston College.

Steven Ward, a sociology professor at Western Connecticut State University and the author of Neoliberalism and the Global Restructuring of Knowledge and Education, likens the new world of higher education to another American business known for its low prices. Ward calls it the “McDonaldization” of universities and colleges, “where you produce more things, but they’re not as good,” Ward says, reviving a term first used in 1983 by the sociologist George Ritzer to describe a dehumanizing drive toward efficiency and control.

One of the biggest threats is the move in many states to allocate funding for public universities based on measures such as graduation rates, rather than simply enrollment, say Fichtenbaum and others. They say that will compel faculty to pass more students, including some who may not deserve to be passed.

“I have no doubt this is going to create a subtle pressure to pass students who wouldn’t otherwise,” says Fichtenbaum. He says the pressure may be even greater for part-time faculty, or those who don’t have the job security of tenure. Advocates for change say the faculty who resist it have an obvious stake in a status quo that doesn’t work.

Performance-based funding is only one of the efforts aimed at creating more college graduates, pushed by policymakers who are frustrated by this statistic:only 56.1 percent of college students graduate within even six years. Among those leading the charge are advocacy groups, philanthropic foundations, and President Barack Obama, who has called for the United States to retake the lead in the share of its population with university degrees.

But there is too little known about whether efforts to create more college graduates are affecting the quality of what is being taught, says Debra Humphreys, vice president at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“There are a whole bunch of policies—like getting students through more quickly—most of which don’t pay attention to what they are learning,” Humphreys says. “It could be making a bad situation worse if we don’t look at the impact of not only how many students get through, but what they learn.”

She says there is certainly need for improvement in higher education, but the focus on increasing the quantity of graduates may be diverting attention from innovations that could improve the quality of their education.

“The idea that the system is working fine, and we just need to get students through more quickly, is false,” says Humphreys, a former professor of women’s studies and English.
Innovations such as so-called learning communities—in which groups of students take courses together—may help motivate students and make them less likely to drop out, which would in turn lead to more graduates. But assuming that “one change to the whole system” will achieve that goal is false, says Humphreys, “especially with the student body so unprepared and so diverse.”

The best ways to help students succeed include providing them with “a critical mass of interesting peers, interactions with professors and outside-the-classroom experiential learning,” says Boston College’s Arnold. Yet, “At the same time we know this, we are moving in the opposite direction.”

Take MOOCs. “Thousands are looking at this. But few are finishing the courses,” Arnold says. “In the end, education is an interpersonal endeavor.”

Mayra Besosa, a lecturer in Spanish at California State University-San Marcos, is more blunt. “Anything that creates distance in the teacher-student relationship will hurt the student,” Besosa says.

In the end, says Humphreys, when it comes to “getting students through more efficiently, more quickly and with the learning they need, we need to pay attention to all three. Otherwise, at least one will suffer.”

The Secret to Delighting Customers 12-27


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The Secret to Delighting Customers


What motivates employees to go above and beyond the call of duty to provide a great customer experience? Disney tells a story about a little girl visiting a theme park who dropped her favorite doll over a fence. When staff retrieved the doll, she was covered in mud, so they made her a new outfit, gave her a bath and a hairdo, and even took photos of her with other Disney dolls before reuniting her with her owner that evening. The girl’s mother described the doll’s return as “pure magic.”

The theme park team didn’t consult a script or seek advice from managers. They did what they did because going the extra mile comes naturally at Disney. Such devotion to customer service pays dividends. Emotionally engaged customers are typically three times more likely to recommend a product and to repurchase. With an eye to these benefits, many companies are making customer experience a strategic priority. Yet they are struggling to gain traction with their efforts.
Why is customer experience so difficult to get right? The main hurdle is translating boardroom vision into action at the front line. That’s even more important in an era when optimizing individual customer touchpoints is no longer enough —when you have to focus on holistic customer journeys, instead.
There’s only one way to create emotional connections with customers: by ensuring every interaction is geared to delighting them. That takes more than great products and services — it takes motivated, empowered frontline employees. Creating great customer experience comes down to having great people and treating them well. They will feel more engaged with the company and more committed to its goals.
The best companies make four activities habitual:
Listen to employees. Want your employees to take great care of your customer? Start by taking great care of them. Treat them respectfully and fairly, of course, but also get involved in tackling their issues and needs. Establish mechanisms to listen to concerns, then address them.
When Disney first opened its Hong Kong resort, employees had to pick up their uniforms from attendants before every shift. With up to 3,000 people arriving at once, waiting in line could create frustration and delay. So leaders responded by pioneering a new approach using self-service kiosks. Employees pick up a uniform, scan the tag and their ID at a kiosk, check the screen display, and walk away. Result: a smoother start to the day that frees frontline staff to focus all their energies on customers. The new approach was so effective that Disney rolled it out across all of its parks and cruise ships.
Hire for attitude, not aptitude — and then reinforce attitude. To get friendly service, hire friendly people. Airline JetBlue has embedded this philosophy in its hiring process. To recruit frontline staff with a natural service bent, it uses group interviews. Watching how the applicants interact with one another enables hiring managers to assess their communication and people skills to an extent that wouldn’t be possible in a one-to-one setting.
Having hired people with the right attitudes, leaders need to ensure they reinforce the behaviors they want to see. Although Disney hires janitors to keep its parks clean, everyone else in the organization knows that they share the responsibility for maintaining a clean and pleasant environment. Asked why he was picking up paper in the restroom, one leader replied, “I can’t afford not to.” Leaders’ actions are visible to all. Or as Disney puts it, “Every leader is telling a story about what they value.”
Give people purpose, not rules. Rules have their place, but they go only so far. To motivate employees and give meaning to their work, leading companies define their “common purpose”: a succinct explanation of the intended customer experience that resonates at an emotional level. When people are set clear expectations and trusted to do their jobs, they feel valued and empowered. They choose to go that extra mile through passion, not compliance.
For Chilean bank BCI, common purpose is about developing trust-based customer relationships that last a lifetime. Leaders at the bank tell a story about a lottery winner who was deciding who to entrust with his prize money. Asked why he chose BCI, he said advisors didn’t just sell him products, but tried to satisfy his needs. Some of them traveled regularly on the bus he drove, and he thought they seemed just as genuine in their free time as they were in the branch.
Tap into the creativity of your front line. Giving frontline employees responsibility and autonomy inspires them to do whatever they can to improve the customer experience. When they see a problem, they fix it without waiting to be asked. Frontline staff are also a rich source of customer insights. They can help leaders understand what customers want without the time and expense of market research.
Take Wawa, a US convenience-store chain. One enterprising manager decided his customers would like a coffee bar and a bigger choice of fresh food. When customer traffic and profits soared, head office noticed and dispatched a team to find out why. With facts in hand, the company quickly developed a plan to replicate the innovation across its network.
Technological advances have made it much easier for companies to understand customers on an individual basis. Even so, engaging with customers is still undertaken largely through personal contact. Building a relationship of trust happens at the front line, one interaction at a time. So to create an emotional bond with your customers, start with your employees. 

NASA's "Wreath nebula." 12-27

NASA's  "Wreath nebula." 



NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission presents the "Wreath nebula." Though this isn't the nebula's official name (it's actually called Barnard 3, or IRAS Ring G159.6-18.5), one might picture a wreath in these bright green and red dust clouds -- a ring of evergreens donned with a festive red bow, a jaunty sprig of holly, and silver bells throughout. Interstellar clouds like these are stellar nurseries, places where baby stars are being born.

The green ring (evergreen) is made of tiny particles of warm dust whose composition is very similar to smog found here on Earth. The red cloud (bow) in the middle is probably made of dust that is more metallic and cooler than the surrounding regions. The bright star in the middle of the red cloud, called HD 278942, is so luminous that it is likely what is causing most of the surrounding ring to glow. In fact its powerful stellar winds are what cleared out the surrounding warm dust and created the ring-shaped feature in the first place. The bright greenish-yellow region left of center (holly) is similar to the ring, though more dense. The bluish-white stars (silver bells) scattered throughout are stars located both in front of, and behind, the nebula.

Regions similar to this nebula are found near the band of the Milky Way galaxy in the night sky. The "wreath" is slightly off this band, near the boundary between the constellations of Perseus and Taurus, but at a relatively close distance of only about 1,000 light-years, the cloud is a still part of our Milky Way.

The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

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