Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ignatius and Metacognition - What it Means to an LOD Student

I'm looking forward to expanding my appreciation for the topic of mindfulness, metacognition and metacognitive and affective experiences overall as I continue to develop as an LOD/HRD/HRM practitioner. 
One of the greatest values of higher education is that we put ourselves in a context where independent learning activities are engaged in group and community areas of learning at the same time.  This is rather like an incubator or hothouse experience.  In the HRD world, this LOD program experience for me has been like a community of practice.  It doesn't work without mindfulness and you can absolutely tell that some of the contributions in our discussion boards throughout the program have had varying degrees of mindfulness.

As an old social constructionist in my adult education background, I strongly believe in context and how our social environment shapes us individually and collectively.  That being said, I want to squarely place our reflections on mindfulness in our Jesuit-sponsored higher educational setting and really take the opportunity to discuss the interplay between a Jesuit institution of higher learning and the topic of mindfulness.

As a post-Vatican II baby, I grew up fully capable of seeing the beneficial elements of all the world's religions (and please don't take any of my comments out of that context as you read them because I have a deep and abiding love of Buddhist thought and practice and have spent time in a Buddhist monastery on retreat).  Nevertheless, where we are and what we are up to in Future-Focused Leadership or Creative Leadership is entirely Ignatian at its most fundamental roots.  There is a Society of Jesus because Ignatius had a metacognitive experience that was personally transformational.  From that affective experience, he produced enough psychological capital to generate social capital for generations (and Saint Louis University is only one of the many by products of a metacognition that took place hundreds of years ago).  While I've never done the full 30-day Ignatian Exercises, I've had many smaller periods of the Exercises and I can tell you that within our Christian heritage there is a vast amount of material on contemplation and meditation (that along with our Buddhist companions make for a wealth of East and West dialogue about this topic overall).  Now, we are all in a larger global environment and a balance of both worldviews (assuming that East and West is comprehensive enough to serve as a mental placeholder) is an imperative.

I'd also like to suggest that the Spanish context of Ignatius' time was a hotbed for metacognitive and affective experiences which in addition to Ignatius we can add the names of John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila.  On the negative side of the spectrum this environment also produced the Inquisition and a host of non pro-social interactions as well.  I wonder if our own context is an equally compelling hot house for such experiences given the rise of out hyper-connectedness through the virtual world where we are interacting with thinking through "likes" and "shares" etc.  These likes and shares are the affective components of our metacognition.  It only takes a bit of critical self-reflection to watch what thoughts are shaping our feelings each and every day.  Further, as LOD practitioners we know that under the iceberg of daily life are the thoughts and feelings that serve to interpret every interaction that takes place through our senses every day.  Our world reflects to a larger degree our individual thoughts and feelings.  I think that the global and thought-leading businesses are the forerunners in this and that this is quite to the point that artificial boundaries between the sacred and the profane are part of our past and not our future.

To be here, now, and the experiences that accompany that self-perception is mindfulness and at the same time profoundly humbling.  So on one hand, CPS and the metacognition that supports its effectiveness is really just a version of the delivery of the Ignatian Exercises to an audience ill equipped to balance the demands of the secular and the sacred.

I envy those of you in the blended program and those of you with physical access to Saint Louis University.  I haven't visited the campus but I've watched every Biliken video and had the opportunity to visit many Jesuit schools in the past.  What I can tell you is that students there appear "happier" than on other campuses here in the United States including other Catholic campuses.  I'm curious if you share these insights and to what you attribute these differences?  The Jesuit model of mission which went global before companies were really companies is not particularly religious if your mind doesn't categorize it that way.  In fact, my alma mater, Nova Southeastern University, is one of the largest growing private universities, and although they don't know it, they are an example of the secular Jesuits because they are applying the same principles like student-centered design of curriculum and campus life.

Lastly, I just want to put to you all that our LOD program is personally and professionally transformational and in that it is 100% authentically JESUIT!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

FourSight - The Hare

Ongoing self-discovery is one of the greatest attributes of any leader and in my experience formal higher education is a key contributor to that process.  So it wouldn't surprise you that most of my years in Human Resources have been supported each quarter by a different graduate class in an area of expertise within HR or one of the affiliated fields of social science and organizational behavior.   This semester at Saint Louis University, I've enrolled in the Future-Focused Leadership course as part of the Master's of Arts program in Leadership and Organizational Development.  In that course, we were asked to complete a self assessment from FourSight:  Innovation Tools for Thinking Teams.

Well according to the feedback booklet from FourSight, I have self-assessed as a 3-Way Combination which they have entitled "The Hare".  Although they give the high scores based on their column names (i.e., Clarifier, Ideator, Developer and Implementor), from highest to lowest I am an Ideator, Developer, Clarifier, Implementer.  Well folks, this is me beyond any ambiguity.  I suspect that Dr. Grawitch knows this from our previous classes and my academic work because although I often have some "great" ideas for my work product, there are frequently holes when it comes to the final project outcomes.

Because many of you have known me for some time, this might be more transparent to you as well.  Earlier in a Team Leadership course, we did the MBTI profile where I am an ENFJ, in that framework of preference the NF is the Idealist as well (i.e., validating my highest score in this profile as an Ideator).  My StrengthFinders profile also validates this for me because I am completely at home in the world of the mind with my top 5 going like this:  intellection, strategic, connectedness, empathy and input.  From the comparison between StrengthFinders and FourSight, I make a correlation between intellection and imagination (characteristic of the Hare), input and connectedness with the Developer and strategic with the clarifier.  In my Emergentics profile I'm bi-modal with Conceptual/Social being my two equal preferences validating for me the Ideator in the FourSight profile above and the connectedness and empathy top strengths from StrengthFinders.  These play out in my social and communication styles as well whereas in Social Styles, I am an Analytical Expressive.  My communication style is generally "spirited" with lots of enthusiasm and emotion coming through.  

From an individual SWOT perspective, I believe that Creativity is actually one of my primary strengths and that my primary weakness is implementation (the Nike part of great ideas).  I have the opportunity with this profile to pay more attention to the implementation phase of our designing process and its subsequent evaluation phase from the ADDIE model as well.  I do perceive my lower score in the Implementer category to be a threat because if I don't surround myself with great doers, then my great ideas are like beautiful clouds that drift away on the horizon and provide neither rain or shade for very long.

Implications for me are very similar to those we addressed with our MBTI profiles.  I will want to pay attention to team composition and team processes by understanding each team members preferences and creating synergy so that the total team preferences get as close to the 4-Way Combination of the Integrator or at least in most cases.  Sometimes, given the purpose of the team, you will want to have stronger total team preferences in one of the four categories, i.e., if the team's goal is to be a "think tank" than one would naturally want higher preferences in Ideators, Clarifiers and Developers.  If one is on a team whose purpose is implementation than naturally you want more preferences aligned to doing and higher numbers of Implementers, Clarifiers and Developers.

Some practical utilization of the FourSight profile can be found for my current Inspirational Leadership Development program at Bluegreen Vacations where one of the core competencies is entitled "Reframe and Rethink" and is basically a supporting innovation competency that aims not only at creativity and imagination but is also focused on developing and clarifying great ideas and deciding which projects move forward to action planning and implementation.  Because the program is built from an action-research framework, I can see where this assessment would be entirely appropriate as a pre-work assignment for the participants prior to the educational piece in the group learning context for that competency.  

I know Dr. Grawitch is not entirely thrilled with all my choices of interventions and tools (non-scientific or non-research supported tools) so the fact that he has given us this assignment, I think that incorporating this tool might be more approved of given its design by a Ph.D. and its affiliation to SUNY College, Buffalo.  Two guesses for anyone still reading?  Am I very scientific?  Do I prefer research methods beyond reading about the great ideas that support their findings?

No and no, and these are opportunities for me but helps me explain why I am on my 3rd Master's degree and my 5th graduate school.  I don't have the Ph.D. candidate profile.  Maybe in retirement or as I reach greater maturity, I'll be more balanced to start down that road. Given that there are no "good" or "bad" scores, I can accept who I am for myself.  However, I do have a fiduciary responsibility back to my organization that my interventions be based upon scientific and research-supported interventions or at least an obligation to present these interventions as alternatives with any that are not scientifically supported.  Using the principle of equifinality and with a clear understanding that each organization's decision-making practices differ, there will still be room to honor the intuitive processes because in the end most of us live with what suffices for us.

Great fun and I'm looking forward to greater exposure to this topic of Creative Leadership.  Be well everyone,