Skunk Works logo on Museum’s SR-71. Photo #2005-6014 by Dane Penland, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Skunk Works: 14 rules to live and die by

Reda Sadki Innovation, Quotes

Lockheed’s Skunk Works may be one of the earliest models for sustaining innovation inside an organization – never mind the nefarious mission of making flying machines to kill people. These are the basic operations rules enunciated by founder Kelly Johnson in 1954, as cited in his successor Ben Rich’s book: The Skunk Works program manager must be delegated practically complete control of his program in all aspects. He should have the authority to make quick decisions regarding technical, financial, or operational matters. Strong but small project offices must be provided both by the military and the industry. The number of people having any connection with the project must be restricted in an almost vicious manner. Use a small number of good people. Very simple drawing and drawing release system with great flexibility for making changes must be provided in order to make schedule recovery in the face of failures. There must be a …

Aerial view of Finney Chapel, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, United States (oberlin.edu)

The idea of a university (updated)

Reda Sadki Quotes

So I’m reading John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, which begins by asserting that the university “is a place of teaching universal knowledge”. I’m fascinated by the historical context (Catholicism in Protestant England), by the strength and substance of the ideas, and by the narrative style of carefully-constructed arguments. I’m also struck, however, by the centrality of learning as transmission, the line of demarcation between invention and teaching, and the belief that it is possible to know by disconnecting from society (although I acknowledge that concentration and flow tend to require quiet, in a pragmatic sense): To discover and to teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person. […] He, too, who spends his day in dispensing his existing knowledge to all comers is unlikely to have either leisure or energy to acquire new. The common sense of mankind has associated the search …

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (1950-1951) (ORAU.com)

MOOCs for teachers, then and now

Reda Sadki Quotes

In February, Daniel Seaton and his colleagues shared data about the very high level of teacher participation (28% identified as past or present teachers) and engagement (over four times more active in discussion forums than non-teachers) in a series of MITx MOOCs.  Very interesting article when thinking of teachers as multipliers, mediators and facilitators of learning (and not just transmitters). Unlike earlier MOOC research that has been criticized for being ahistorical, Seaton shares the following example of pre-MOOC massive, open online education: One of the earliest precursors to modern MOOCs targeted high school teachers in the United States. In 1958, a post-war interpretation of introductory physics called “Atomic-Age Physics” debuted at 6:30 a.m. on the National Broadcasting Company’s (NBC) Continental Classroom. Daily viewership was estimated at roughly 250,000 people, and over 300 institutions partnered to offer varying levels of accreditation for the course. Roughly 5,000 participants were certified in the first year. Teachers were …

Marble statue of the ancient greek philosopher Plato (Source: alienaxioms.com)

Blame it on Plato

Reda Sadki Quotes

Even as computer-mediated communication is now embedded into nearly every aspect of life, the sentiment persists that written and therefore distance communication is intrinsically inferior. Here is the very interesting introduction from Andrew Feenberg’s classic article – written in the late 1980s – calling into question the presumption of superiority in the face-to-face encounter: In our culture the face-to-face encounter is the ideal paradigm of the meeting of minds. Communication seems most complete and successful where the person is physically present ‘in’ the message. This physical presence is supposed to be the guarantor of authenticity: you can look your interlocutor in the eye and search for tacit signs of truthfulness or falsehood, where context and tone permit a subtler interpretation of the spoken word. Plato initiated our traditional negative view of the written word. He argued that writing was no more than an imitation of speech, while speech itself was an imitation of …

Wicked signs (Aukje Dekker/Flickr)

What is a wicked problem?

Reda Sadki Innovation, Quotes

In 1973, Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, two Berkeley professors, published an article in Policy Sciences introducing the notion of “wicked” social problems. The article, “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning,” named 10 properties that distinguished wicked problems from hard but ordinary problems. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem. It’s not possible to write a well-defined statement of the problem, as can be done with an ordinary problem. Wicked problems have no stopping rule. You can tell when you’ve reached a solution with an ordinary problem. With a wicked problem, the search for solutions never stops. Solutions to wicked problems are not true or false, but good or bad. Ordinary problems have solutions that can be objectively evaluated as right or wrong. Choosing a solution to a wicked problem is largely a matter of judgment. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of …

Climbing La Soufrière in Saint Vincent (Ian Usher/Flickr)

Soufrière

Reda Sadki Publishing, Quotes

“What I like,” whispered my dinner companion, “is that these publishing types have survived the fire of digital transformation, emerging out of the boiling pits of disruption, and all of that. Some were dismembered before, during, and after – acquired and merged, sold and resold. All paid a terrible price, but bear their bruises and scars proudly. They are not only smart but also scrappy, battle-seasoned veterans whose eyes still gleam with the thick knowledge that they produce. The culture (and, yes, the economy) that sustains their work is very much alive, circulating in networks that don’t care whether they are made of silicon or white matter. Blood, sweat and tears, man! And, yes, most if not all are showing a profit!” And then, like a drop of sulfuric acid on the rusty metal plate separating ‘education’ from ‘publishing’ in our fragmented knowledge universe: “Beats babbling on about 70-20-10, eh?” …

Basketball practice

Practice practice practice

Reda Sadki Quotes

Is there any evidence that university-based continued professional development (CPD) fails when trying to develop competencies needed by humanitarian and development professionals? Or, to reframe the question, are traditional brick-and-mortar universities best equipped to support the lifelong learning journeys of people committed to this line of work? Then again, how could an industry that seldom evaluates its own training demand that universities be accountable for quality of learning outcomes? “Online delivery of education is also expanding rapidly to meet the career-specific education and training needs of adult populations. While such educational opportunities, including many at the sub-degree or certificate level, are increasingly important for social advancement and economic development, they are often not effectively accommodated within traditional higher education governance, financing and quality control mechanisms.” Source: Tremblay, K., Lalancette, D., Roseveare, D., 2012. Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes feasibility study report  volume 1-design and implementation. OECD, Paris, France

Bookshelves

Thick knowledge

Reda Sadki Content strategy, Learning strategy, Quotes

Toby Mundy on books as thick knowledge: […]Books have a unique place in our civilisation […] because they are the only medium for thick descriptions of the world that human beings possess. By ‘thick’ description, I mean an extended, detailed, evidence-based, written interpretation of a subject. If you want to write a feature or blog or wikipedia entry, be it about the origins of the first world war; the authoritarian turn in Russia; or the causes and effects of the 2008 financial crisis, in the end you will have to refer to a book. Or at least refer to other people who have referred to books. Even the best magazine pieces and TV documentaries — and the best of these are very good indeed — are only puddle-deep compared with the thick descriptions laid out in books. They are ‘thin’ descriptions and the creators and authors of them will have referred extensively to books …

Baby at seven months

Seven months

Reda Sadki Quotes

Alan Todd, Founder and CEO, Corp U: Today’s workplace culture is evolving at a break-neck pace as technological advances, shifting demographics, and new economic realities force corporations to reorganize, on average, every seven months. The challenge is real. Fortunately, so are the solutions. Read Alan’s full post: The Science of Learning: How to Develop Mindsets for Success in the Workplace Photo: My baby at seven months, on a beach in Soulac, France. August 2012. Personal collection.