Spotting The Undertaker

I attended a funeral today where I knew very few of the fellow mourners. As I walked towards the church doors, from the crowd, I picked out The Undertaker.

How is it that you can scan a crowd of strangers and in the snap of your fingers have your focus drawn to one particular person in one particular role? What is it that makes them an anomaly

For me, it used to be a subconscious recognition of The Undertaker at a funeral service. There wasn't a conscious thought that went into it...that is until I made mention of this among friends a few years ago. They soon agreed that they too could subconsciously spot The Undertaker. (And I bet you can too!) 

Think about the characteristics of a funeral director at a wake or memorial service. Close your eyes and list observations that would make The Undertaker stand out from the rest of the mourners. Then come back to this blog...

[Seriously. Close your eyes and image that.] 

You may have not have ever consciously or purposely considered the va…

Presentation Hack: Slides vs Handout

When I attend a presentation and get handed the projected slides as a handout, I cringe. Is the presenter lazy? Disinterested? Thoughtless? Ignorant? Unaware?
Sure, PowerPoint has a quick feature to print various handouts from the slide deck. Most popular seems to be the format of three (3) slides alongside conveniently lined space for notes. But with a little additional effort, we can do so much better!
Projected slides provide for visual supplement or "eye candy" to your presentation. They serve as a backdrop to set the tone, emotion, or setting of a story, concept, stance, or idea. I've long recommended a Spartan design philosophy - where photos, logos, or diagrams are simple, clear, large, and void of large blocks of text. I'm even against most uses of bullet points, except for those most brief, bare, and significant. Your charts and graphs should be of such simple design that you could recreate them with chalk on a blackboard in front of your audience (Think: Ho…

Presentation Hack: Your Last Slide(s)

I've written before about introductory presentation slides. When the audience is filtering into the room, I prefer to play a few minimalist slides on a looping show over the typical static slide jammed with titles, organizations, names, events, and logos. (Many of you have circled back to me after having used this trick to share your successes with it! Thanks for trying it!)
But what about ending the presentation? What tricks do I use to bring closure to a projected slide deck? How do I handle a summary or a Question-and-Answer session?
First let me contrast two (2) different chronologies of the tail ends of presentations:
Weaker Ending Final detail point.Grand closing (climax?)"Are there any questions?"Answer them if they're asked.Thank the audience.Awkwardly leave the platform
Stronger Ending Final detail point.Brief Summary"Before I get into the final closing, what questions can I answer?"Answer them if they're asked.Thank the audience.Grand closing (cl…

Presentation Hack: Have Any of You Idiots Not Seen This?

This blog was inspired by a Twitter post by and resulting thread conversation with Liz Keogh. I don't know her or Marc Burgauer, who was the subject of the original tweet. However, the topic made me initially cringe in the imagery it invoked. 
To be fair to both of them, I have never seen them speak, present, give a keynote, or run a workshop - live or on video. I have never even heard any feedback or commentary about how they do so. This is not a blog about's about public speaking in general. 

There is a saying in public speaking: Know thy audience. We should have some idea on who they are, what their backgrounds are, what they value, what motivates them, what makes them afraid, when they expect a lunch break. 
We should also have some understanding of what they know, the words they use, what they are familiar with, and maybe even what they tend to believe. When we know these things, we can better relate to individuals in a group. This helps them learn, make…


My wife is an emergency room nurse.  She has a theory that the trauma bay is more likely to be empty during a televised Chicago Bulls game. What makes her believe this? Enough patients over the years who've told her they waited until the game was over to call the ambulance. Add in the reflection on consistently realizing that the trauma bay was less busy when the Bulls played. Then add the predictions proving true after the theory had been developed. And then sharing the theory with co-workers...who share their experiences. (Confirmation bias, anyone?? lol)

So is my wife correct that her particular hospital emergency department occupancy is impacted by a basketball team's schedule? We don't know. Maybe the winter weather impacts it. Maybe the team's season's relative success is an added factor. But until you design the algorithm and input the data to disprove her, I'll believe her. I have nothing else to disprove her dozen years of experience! 

Our heads are fill…

The Spectrality of Non-Linearity

One way I help explain adaptability and complex systems is through imagery or heuristics of linear versus non-linear structures. 
Linear structures follow highly predictable pathways, such as step-by-step checklists. They have reliable inputs, efficient processes, and comfortably measured outputs. 
Non-linear structures have multiple pathway options, and utilize flowcharts or branching diagrams. Furthermore, non-linear structures have varying levels of predictability - from highly regulated "closed-loop" systems to organic "open-loop" environments. (Open-vs-Closed discussion is best suited for another blog.)
Let's stick with non-linear-closed-loop environments. I've been spending a lot of time visualizing these structures for not only the length of the factory assembly line, but also the variety or diversity in available options (width). 
Take these three (3) games of chance:
flipping a coin, rolling a single six (6)-sided die, and drawing from a stack of 52 pla…

EduGladiators: Nurturing Adaptability

Last month, I was the guest moderator for the #EduGladiators tweet chat. I discussed the topic Nurturing Adaptability in their Leadership Series. The EduGladiators community is one of school teachers, principals, and other education sector professionals. I was certainly an outsider, but they warmly welcomed me with open arms. 
The following is a blog post that I wrote to set the stage for the tweet chat: 

My journey of learning about education, training, and human development has been one of casual, self-navigated exploration. I have zero formal education on the topic. So how did it start?
When I was 21 years old, I dropped out of college to accept an earlier-than-expected offer to become a police officer. Within a handful of years, I found myself in the training unit as a firearms instructor - chosen because I was good shooter, not because of any educational or learning background. This is still a fairly typical practice in policing - take those who know the content & assume they …

Weekend Building Blocks - 06 APR 2018

There's no value in collecting blocks unless you're connecting them to build something awesome! This is a unique Weekend Building Blocks in that the first three (3) of my recommended resources deal in one way or another with mental models!
The 3 Types of Decision Makers, Mental Models, and How to Processes Information. Venkatesh Rao is a guest on Farnam Street's podcast The Knowledge Project, with host Shane Parrish. Rao does an excellent job explaining mental models and how they impact our outlook and decisions. Listening time: 1:07 Getting the Most Out of Your Retrospectives. Mahesh Paolini-Subramanya discusses single and double-loop thinking/learning, and the relationship with mental models. While I suggest we frequently challenge our own beliefs and assumptions (red-teaming comes to mind), I'm skeptical that we can intentionally change the mental models that are most deeply ingrained in our subconsciousness. How would implicit biases fit into this article? All Mode…

Our Tendencies to Want Things To Be More Complicated or More Complex

Theory: Some of us want to believe our situations are more complex than complicated. Some of us want to believe our situations are more complicated than complex. If you're looking for how I define Complicated and Complex, start with Dave Snowden's Cynefin framework. But please don't stop there. I've written some pieces here on trying to answer What is Complexity?...on the difference between answers and advice.....and on LEGOs, policing, and jazz music. While I generally agree with Snowden and his categorizations, my Kool-Aid has a slightly different recipe than his. 
Extending beyond Cynefin, we need to analyze the relative openness of our environments, systems, and "loops."  Non-linear situations tend to be further described as being either Open-Loop or Closed-Loop environments. (Note: I wrote about this, as applied to the routine nature of police traffic stops.) 
While I understand the value of categorization, to think that systems are either open or closed…