When Is Good Enough, Good Enough?

Few want to talk about this. Probably because it violates a mantra we've heard since we were kids:
Do your best. But there is a trap in seeking excellence. A dark side in hunting for perfection. An unintended consequence for working to be the best you can be. 

What's the cost associated with seeing excellence?

We have to talk about tradeoffs and compromises. In order to be the best at Skill A, you are neglecting Skill B...or Skill C...or Skill Z. To excel, it means you are becoming a specialist in a narrow skill or topic or silo. Therefore, your cost in seeking excellence in Skill A is measured in the loss of growing some other skill.

As a police tactical firearms instructor, I continually run into resistance with other instructors when I argue that a shooter is "good enough.' As trainers, we are inundated with the same mantra as kids: Do your best. And through it, get our student shooters to do their best.

But that may be doing our people a great disservice. The cost …

On Medicine & Policing

I spent yesterday in a surgical center with a family member. After months of diagnostic and prep work, it was finally time for the operating room. Between the office staff, the nurses, the anesthesiology team, the surgical team, the rehab equipment rental agent...they have it down to...well...a science.

Before the patient was rolled under the bright lights over the operating table, the situation was quite known. Variables were inspected, checked, and double-checked. Contingencies were in place for darn near everything that could happen. But how?

It seemed as though everything they did along the journey, in the surgery itself, and planned for recovery was done with if they'd done it before. And they have. Multiple times per day. And not just this particular group of medical professionals. But thousands like them across the country and the world. They have established a collection of successes and failures - from each and every step along the way.

A person who experien…

OODA: Perception, Velocity, & Harmony

I've written before about the perversion of US Air Force Colonel John Boyd's OODA. In the context of American policing, the application is highly tactical - overly focused on responding to physical threats to a police officer's life. As such, this application of OODA stresses:
conflict, speed, and disruption. And that's not only narrow. It's kinda wrong too. And if not wrong, at least incomplete.

Whether I am dealing with a violent criminal or a person with a mental illness in a state of crisis, I contend with and confront adversaries. These are people who might do harm to me or others. I prepare myself for physical combat - as it can happen in the blink of an eye.

But there is another invisible adversary here: Perception.

The psychological and emotional components of policing deeply involve perception. Sometimes I want to distort another's perception - to disrupt or confuse their mental processing. But more often, I want to bring another's perception close…

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 …