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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Joy’s Law

(Bill) Joy’s Law, “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else.”

What if overcoming Joy’s Law is the new baseline for succeeding?

Chris Anderson’s Makers showcases how Joy’s Law has already changed the front end of our economy.

If you’ve convinced yourself you’re not affected, God bless. My experience is that every time I have been unusually successful, we get out where no man has gone before, and start looking for signals for how to keep the party going.

If you noticed 2009 and 2010 were snafu,

That 2011 and 2012 were fubar, and

You suspect 2013 may be bohica...(NSFW), read on.

Makers gives some excellent ideas and case studies about why the old ways of working and organizing have have run their course, become uncompetitive, and how some are being successful in a number of industries. Showing up is no longer an acceptable baseline. Winners are going to have to attract the people who are really passionate and creative, the top tier for whatever they need done.

Chris Anderson is the guy to write Makers. The first time I met him, he was defending copyright by day as editor in chief of Wired magazine, and pushing the limits of copyright and Joy’s Law by night running the open source project for radio controlled flying vehicles (includes drones).

Yes, he’s a reporter, but he’s also writing about what he has learned making, starting, running, investing, and guiding more than a dozen companies. During his decade at Wired, they grew spectacularly. Consider what’s been happening to the rest of print media during that time.

What Chris has seen, done, realized, and written is that we are in a new paradigm. Limits sinking formerly well run companies have to be overcome and are being overcome.

We’ve learned a lot with open source software. Development is faster and more efficient, less error-prone, costs are lower, and open source has revolutionized the space formerly served by enterprise software. Anderson’s message is that “atoms are the new bits,” that technology has advanced enough to give the same increases in efficiency, opening new markets, that has already happened in software.

Read the book. Find your own models for moving forward. Move forward.

As Werner used to say, “Joy is when you have a new possibility.”

Happy New Year!

Kick off the New Year Right at Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the Arlington Chamber Small Business Roundtable

Monday, December 17, 2012

Design For Your Real World

Let’s suppose you went to and selected the third navigation link, Presentations.

Pretty cool, eh? Notice you went across two websites?

Let’s try that again. Go to Sales Lab Posts and then switch to Through The Browser.

It would be real easy to have a reader go between those blogs and never notice. We use that at Sales Lab Resources.

Members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) get branded email addresses, i.e.,, which is a handy way to get the word out. The very best forward thinking organizations are starting to use corporate email domains like IEEE, maybe yours does, too.

What if the people who use your email domain also had a spot to put their own tools? Perhaps could occasionally use your internet?

That solves the problem of, What do you get when you cross a mobster with a marketer? An offer you can’t understand.

Are you really trying to promote stock photos of people who don’t work for your organization and bafflegab from people who only talk among themselves?

Robert Collins, the savant who invented the drive-by demo, recently posted this. I figure that’ll get him users, readers, and new friends. I downloaded mine.

What might one of your people put on their own space that was linked to your brand?

A bake sale? A chess competition?

And then you’d probably be visited by some bakers, cake buyers, and chess aficionados.

But they aren’t our target markets! Target markets, profiles, hot prospects, and the chosen few are fictions we make up to try to impose order on a chaotic, sometimes frightening world.

I have it based on unimpeachable authority that bakers, cake buyers, and chess aficionados buy in exactly the same percentages as your low hanging fruits.

How do I know?

I counted.

What could you do to make your web fiction more useful to your real world? 

Kick off the New Year Right at Talk Your Business - How to make more and better sales right away! Wednesday Jan 30, 11:45 - 1:00 at the Arlington Chamber Small Business Roundtable

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I received a really nice email this week from the president of a group I work with. She was thanking me for working the greeting/nametag table at a their annual member event. Appreciated my tearing myself away from the party.

Got me thinking.

I run one of their biggest activities, with hundreds of volunteers. I tend to run it with a lead foot and a deaf ear.

It’s a good cause, and I’m continually grateful I can call for help and get it. Without the volunteers I have nothing.

So this was a chance to personally acknowledge and thank all the volunteers who came to the party. It was efficient, and possibly ostentatious, as they all saw me hustling to relieve the bottleneck.

I figure the rest of the year they respond to help me. This maybe balances our relationship.

Several years ago I started a company that fell short on income. I learned that without money, Thank You kept us moving in close formation until we fixed the problems. 

Since then I've come to believe that a primary responsibility of successful leadership is Thank You.

In a season of giving thanks, it’s warming to reflect on how much I can depend on my many buds.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What Is School For?

Here is a remarkable 17 minute video of Seth Godin, giving a TEDxYouth presentation at the Brooklyn Free School riffing about the purpose of school.

Some of Seth’s ideas that may be unfamiliar, but nothing doesn’t make sense, showing what happens when someone gets beyond the excuses that pass for thinking about education, focusing on a rigorous, energetic thought experiment.

A pure delight. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wading In The Streams

Google Plus streams (Posts) were a new technology. I’ve evolved some practices to make it easier to use and more valuable for me.

I already follow sixty blogs on Google Reader. I’m reading for my own development, but also forward a fair amount, say one out of three, to friends and customers who I know have an interest in a subject. You can see the blogs I subscribe to on the bottom of the right column on this blog, where they are titled Good Ideas. I blog on Sales Lab Posts and Through The Browser.

The Google Plus Profile stream is my outgoing stream that I send. The Google Plus Home stream is incoming from the Google Plus pages I follow and is not visible to others.You should see one on your Plus page.

If I write something, I have three circles I send it to Team, Friends, and Acquaintances. That goes to their Plus streams. I have sent some posts to Team alone. Friends were originally humor contributors.

I also include Public for anyone who comes looking at my stream and as a record of anything I originate.

If I want a stream post to go to someone’s email (higher priority) I send it to an email not associated with their Plus page.

When someone I’m following on Plus writes something that I really like, I follow a similar practice, first send to Public for a record in my stream for me, then usually to people who I know will be interested, either to their Plus page for their stream or to another email address. Maybe one time in a hundred I will send something written by someone else to my whole list.

A difference between reading Plus stream and Reader is that Plus stream posts come most recent first. Reader allows me to read by author, which is especially good when I am looking for a previous post. Plus is more entertaining, and less formal – many of the people I follow on Plus don’t have a blog. I follow blogs and news outlets on Reader.

Posting Practices
I develop an idea in a blog post, and then expand from my platform to other platforms.

If I want to extend someone else’s idea, that goes to a comment under their post.

If I want to disagree with someone, I let it sit for an hour. If I still want to disagree, I let it sit for a day. If I still want to disagree I let it sit forever. Disagreement usually comes back as a positive idea that merits a blog post.

If I like something and have nothing to add, I’ll + it or like it, whatever a platform will allow.

What are your practices?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Welcome to Hogwarts!

People look for what to expect before they try something new. They want us to signal a level of excitement, clues to what is good, something they can believe in.

When was the last time you met a car salesman as exciting as a car commercial?

“But I was taught to listen to the customer...” So was the door at Macy’s, but at least it opens as I walk up to it. Show some action, some optimism!

The bad news is not all offerings are leaders in every way. The good news is no buyer has time to listen to everything. They are looking for someone to give them the buyer’s summary. What you choose to communicate is important.

The losers call it “spin,” but I’d rather have spin than a depressed definition. If you talk about false things, you’ll be discovered, but I can define a belief structure that differs markedly from what the doubters think, that customers will use to defend their choice forever. Optimism becomes the reality for those taking action.

The crime is when internal representatives are too tired or too “professional” to extoll the good. Why show up for work, when you could just fax it in?

I have been accused of only representing exciting offers. Here’s a secret, they weren’t exciting before I got there, and that excitement became a key part of each buyer’s beliefs.

I was part of the name tag table for a user group, and the people from the sponsoring company were just bored, tired, worn out.

Did I understand their best whatisit? I’m an English major! Would you like fries with that?

But as we got each person registered, tagged and goody bagged, as they walked into the main show I kept saying, “Welcome to Hogwarts!”

Smiles, straightening up, looking forward.

Setting Expectations. The neighborly thing to do.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

BOTR - The Other Side Of Project Management

I'm fascinated by people who can tell when others aren't doing their part. Defining fault is to them a higher value alternative to contributing.

I go into a project figuring I'll do it all, if it comes down to that. Now that’s a key decision criteria!

Get more than half of the project team feeling that way and you've got it licked. Leadership is not exhortation or blaming, but demonstration.

If you can get everybody pointing fingers, you've got a classic project meltdown. "I don't think it was my wasting time in the constant meetings, some other guy who musta caused it!"

Lord Of The Rings was thirteen losers who could never complete the project...but they did. If you want to read how it would have happened had they used best practice project blamemaking, get a copy of Bored Of The Rings, now available as an ebook.

Join us at DevFestDC September 28th, for awesome new technologies and resources for building projects and companies!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Rules Baytus

The term for someone fascinated with rules, not changing outcomes, obsessing over imagined possible violations. A spectator at life.

Their work product is a shifting, unprioritized list of what could go wrong, real and imagined. It’s a task that doesn’t ever need to end, a full time occupation without effort.

I was playing in a golf tournament and was admiring an old guy’s line of chatter. One of our group took me aside and said the guy was a cheater, he fluffed his ball.

I said, “That’s no problem, it’s just a stroke. Did you call it?”

He said he had never personally seen it, but he had heard...

After the round, one of my playing partners was describing my birdie. His wife asked me, “Did you cheat?” Lady, I didn’t hit the ball enough times to cheat.

I was ordering a keg. Someone, not attached to the group, asked me, “Did you consider the less fortunate?”

I said I was ordering a keg. What did they want me to consider? Again, “Did you consider the less fortunate?” I missed their point, again.

This gets into focus. If you don’t choose your path, you probably won’t get where you want to go.

In crew settings, I watch some people attach value to delaying launch. I guess that’s because when no one is moving forward, they look like they are making an equal contribution. After others start producing, the rules baytus’ lack of contribution becomes obvious.

Launch is required to find out which possibilities are real. Completion is getting past the obstacles, forecast and random, that truly stand between you and the goal.

Time costs, rust never sleeps.

What did I miss?

And a new feature! Sales Lab Videos! Check out Seagull Collaboration!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Overrunning Your Vision?

There are functionaries who exist to hold a position.

There are leaders who work to fulfill a vision.

As a team matures, the difficult will be done immediately, the impossible may take a little longer.

What happens when you overrun your vision? How do you recover?

What causes overrunning your vision?

Not succeeding?

I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.

Success is a minute. Failure is the focus and grind leading to success.

Most of us spend the majority of our time not being successful. How you handle that is up to you.

After Einstein’s Wonderful Year, he spent the next 50 years trying to rationalize the four forces. He worked the problem hard and long, dying before completing the solution.

As Coach Lombardi said, “The Packers never lose, sometimes the clock runs out.”

How do you get your vision back?

Go back to core principles. What do you stand for? How will that apply now?

I listened to a very capable senior executive explain how successfully building a mature team that took his company out of a death spiral resulted in losing support from his organization. Twice, two different organizations. The new lesson? – Never Again.

Once we settled that, he was ready to mount up. There will always be new ways to fail.

My golf buddy, Tommy Jackson schooled me many years ago, “We look really good in between getting knocked on our butts.”

It sure is quiet in here! Must be August. Comments? Wake Up!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Five Bags of Ice

My Grandfather’s Son is Clarence Thomas’ autobiography up to confirmation as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Jack asked me if I wanted to read his copy, that he got from Clarence.

I read it like a thriller, because it was. Some of the people who illuminated Clarence’s quest of becoming his grandfather’s son were some of the same people who had given me instruction for becoming a man. We went to different schools together.

About halfway through the book I thought, “I’m not necessarily believing what Clarence says about himself, because if I was writing it, I would make me look as good as I could.”

Clarence could have, but he didn’t. Better were his observations about the people around him.

He lost his wallet and John Bolton found it. I already like John.

One time, when he was perpetually broke, Clarence found a wallet with $600 in it. Called the owner, who came by and was graceless. Thinking it through, Clarence figured out that his financial needs or the owner’s social skills didn’t have anything to do with the rightness of returning the wallet. I liked that lesson.

His relationships with Jack Danforth and Joe Biden might not have taught me a lot about Clarence, but they showed me volumes about Jack Danforth and Joe Biden.

So what do I know about Clarence Thomas?

Jack’s son and Clarence’s son went to the same school. The parents were holding a fundraiser, Jack was honchoing some activities.

Clarence comes up, says, “I’m volunteering. What do you need right now?”

Jack says he could use five bags of ice.

Clarence says, “It’s coming,” and disappears.

A short time later he trots in with five bags of ice.

Jack says, “Give me your receipt, and I’ll get you reimbursed.” Clarence gives Jack the same look Jack would have shot at someone who offered to reimburse him an incidental expense at a fundraiser.

Add that to the book and it’s everything I need to know about Clarence Thomas.

If you’re looking to feel better about being a human being, go read My Grandfather’s Son.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Liked Him Better Before I Met Him

Introducing two business owners, I made an effort with each to explain why I liked the other person and what value I thought they could provide each other.

I did not attend their meeting. However when I asked each one a few days later how the meeting had gone, they each said the same thing...

I liked him better before I met him.

A meditation on the value of teeing up someone and then the requirement for living up to advance billing. 

Video: I Liked Him Better Before I Met Him

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seagull Collaboration

In a recent post What Happened To The Management Pyramid? I alleged Seagull Management occurred when someone comes in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everything, and then flies off, leaving a lot of heat and no light.

A faithful reader one-upped me with the more modern Seagull Collaboration, where some manager of dubious provenance comes in, begs for input, craps all over the input, then leaves in a high dudgeon (you hope) while the project wallows with no forward motion.

Amazing what you can learn from blog readers!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Open or Complete?

A man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished. - Zsa Zsa Gabor

For the last five years I have been trying to understand the tension between enterprise or proprietary development and open source development. A prominent example has been the competition between the iPhone and the Android operating system.

When it first came out, Android was pretty clunky, and wireless carriers were adding crapware and strange “custom” components to inflate airtime billing. By contrast, the iPhone was practically perfect, the realization of Steve Jobs vision of a smartphone. With an iPhone, you just power it up and start using it.

iPhone was the early smartphone leader, transforming mobile communication. We were entering the future!

Today, by what I read, there are more Android phones than iPhones sold every day, made possible by the incredible leverage of the open source model.

Twenty years ago the lunatic fringe was espousing open source, while level headed types were installing and using “enterprise software.”

Eric Raymond wrote and released The Cathedral and the Bazaar in 1992. CatB explains how open source was invented and what will happen as open source is adopted. CatB had been read by millions before it was published by O’Reilly in 2010.

Think about that. The book followed the inverse of the normal (at the time) publication model, becoming a commercial success after millions read it.

That outlier becomes even more significant when you consider what has happened to the traditional publication model over the last twenty years.

This week I had an opportunity to attend the Google IO developer’s forum. No, I didn’t go to the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Are you nuts?

I walked over to Google’s downtown DC office for a livestream of two days with some buds from the Google Developer Group DC “GeeDogDeeCee”.

I saw a cascade of new projects and opportunities. What I realized was that as impressive as they were, they weren’t finished. They are just beginning.

Users are going to customize the rich opportunities created by Google to make their lives better and more efficient. What we saw was amazing, including what technology veteran Steven J Vaughn-Nichols calls “Best Tech Demo ever.”

Now the work that will change our world begins. Once we imagine something we want to build, we change our work processes to take advantage of it.

For me, the new Events capability, where Google Plus, Docs, YouTube and other products combine to provide a better virtual experience, is going to change my world. First Events explanation, go to 1:18:00. It’s going to change how we produce and chronicle events, training, all kinds of virtual events.

I would rather read a transcript than watch most videos. A single camera and doubtful audio are boring.

However, when Buffalo Springfield played the Bridge School Concert in 2011, I spent an hour watching a half dozen audience videos. At the party after Day One of Google IO 2012, participants posted over 13,000 photos.

A client asked me how I would keep control of a presentation participants can enrich? I would rather have people spend time following material that interests them than my direction. They will get more from the experience.

I am continually being delighted by reader comments on blogs, especially to my own posts. Technology is enabling crowdsourced learning.

The night after the first session, Fred Wilson, A VC in NY started a project to apply the new file translation capabilities of Google Drive from Microsoft documents to open source documents. Fred hasn’t been a programmer for many years, but he’s willing to hack the Google ecosystem to create an important benefit.

That’s what I think the real strength of open source. Sure, we have guys like Bob Hancock, who at last count was a fluent programmer in 19 languages. But the best thing he showed me was when he used his Google Plus Page as the start point for his presentations.

Pamela Fox another Google presenter did the same thing, and shortly after, so did Jack and Dick. R & D is research and duplicate.

Early on, I showed Jack my Google profile (the predecessor to Google Plus). He was impressed, said it was the best use of web real estate he had seen. That wasn’t idle chatter.

At the time we had built and continue to maintain over a half dozen Google blogs and websites. We’re hardly professional geeks...and the work gets done.

The strength of open source is collaboration, from the very good to the very new, and everyone is getting all the value they can stand.

Joe Shumard went out a bought an Android phone a couple of years ago. He runs several Alexandria civic projects on Google Docs and Google websites he has built. He’s a banker, not a programmer.

Two weeks after he bought his Droid he gave me an hour demonstration of how he had changed it to make it do what he wanted. His tutor had been the Google search box, and the result was really slick, better than either of us had ever had on a phone previously.

If you can imagine it and then work at it, you can have it.

The old paradigm, It’s OK to compute as long as you have a qualified expert on retainer has been replaced by a new paradigm, Go ahead, you probably won’t break the internet today.

Open source will win because it supplies what the user wants bad enough to create. That and several million cooperative hackers provide an inventory where someone is working on what you need.

Reminds me of the story of Many Hands, the Native American electrician/marketer out there on the reservation. On the side of his pickup he’d written, Many Hands Makes The Light Work!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Humor Me

I was watching the development of a corporate post and realized it’s nearly impossible to maintain humor through multiple revisions, multiple editors.

A pun isn’t funny the third time you read it.

If you are squeezing out humor, you’d better stop, look around, and take some inspiration from Chezeburger Network.

Friday, May 25, 2012

That Other Memorial Day

Memorial Day is for remembering our family and loved ones.

Memorial Day is also remembering and venerating George Orwell’s Rough Men.

Perhaps there is a third memorial, for a time gone by, for our changing way of life. I may be too close to see the whole, I get occasional glimpses.

Technology opens a steady wave of less labor for each dollar of goods produced. What a glory! Unless you’re on the losing end.

This internet disintermediated world, it doesn’t look like the old world. Figure 40 to 60 percent less people. The autonomous economy.

After a shift change at a Hardee’s in Ashland, Virginia, I saw the crew standing in the parking lot, firing up their smartphones to reconnect to their world. I have no idea what they were looking at, but whatever it was, it had their full and complete attention.

Used to be twenty years and a gold watch. Now it’s three years to become a millionaire. Aneesh Chopra, the first White House Chief Technology Officer told me that, as he was going back to private practice.

Of course it has to be the right three years. But that leaves a lot of time for subsequent attempts. Serial opportunities.

Why would you expect your first at-bat to be a home run?

Are you getting up often enough?

The ’80’s, ’90’s and ’oughts aren’t coming back. Good to have a Memorial. Now move on.

Have a loving Memorial Day. Put your ghosts to rest.

June 12 is the next Capital Technology Management Hub featuring Sales Lab's Rainmaker 14 – The Myth of Full Capacity - 300 seconds of pure profit. The featured speaker will be Cory Lebson of Lebsontech LLC, presenting User Experience: What it Means & Why a Technology Manager Should Care!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Road Not Taken

This week I was repeatedly annoyed by a fervent, but tiresome project management zealot loudly asserting that new steps should not be part of a project plan. As near as I can tell, this guy does plans, he doesn’t do work.

I started pondering the issue and decided that if we can separate planning from reality, we get a situation much like when we confuse a model with reality. In both cases, reality is where the results are counted. The model and the plan are artifacts, like 3 by 5 cards and beer.

I think the wish implicit in a plan is for clear steps to a solution. That works on simple problems, but only on some days. I like it when those work, too.

I worked with a prominent venture capitalist who told me, “I hate the part of the project plan that has a gold star that says Breakthrough Required Here.”

I use that. You can too.

I am reading a fantastic book, The Emperor Of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Sid calls it a biography of cancer. Actually, it is one of the best detective mysteries I’ve ever read, with a cast of superheroes. Those guys love to plan, so they plan the background noise, to give them time to concentrate on each breakthrough...after breakthrough...after breakthrough.

Two days ago, we got some news from a client, that punctured our plan. Jack asked if we should tell the client. I said, no, we should sleep on it and address it in the morning.

The next day we came up with a workaround, six tasks that create a much stronger product. It didn’t take six hours to define the new tasks.

Which got me thinking how often we start with a plan, when the plan ruptures, we develop a workaround, sometimes feeling disloyal to the plan. And now I’m realizing that the only plans that work the first time are the real simple ones, and then only on the good days.

“If at first you don’t succeed, you’re running about average.” M. H. Alderson

Friday, April 20, 2012


Long ago, Merlin Mann wrote, “Innovation is starting where the last person stopped.” I remembered that.

I figure good ideas are a by-product of posting two a week and seeing 20 a month to exercise my thinker.

Or keeping good notes. Which means having paper and a writing stick most of the time. And paying attention.

An investor once said I didn’t capture the notes of our meeting. I wrote the notes of what should have happened.

I don’t do smart on demand. I’d rather hear about a concept and take some time considering it from different directions.

Next steps often start by observing other people. Concepts become useful by writing them...several times.

The true meaning of a post can come from comments by readers.

When I’m building a new tool, there is a flurry of innovation just after I produce the first version. After a week, the improvements start to tail off. Some of the oldies don’t change year to year.

How are you harnessing innovation?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Judging A School Science Fair

(Guest post)

Last Wednesday I volunteered as a Washington Academy of Sciences Science Fair Judge at Paint Branch High School. I was a bit nervous, because I never judged a Science Fair before, and my only experiences judging young adults and children were for student horse shows. When I arrived, a nice student led me through the maze of hallways to the staging area, and I met Dick Davies, from the Washington Academy of Sciences.  Dick, and the other core members of the judging team were very welcoming, and Dick explained their philosophy of judging.

First, I was surprised that there wasn’t a scoring, or ranking of first, second, or third place – this was totally unlike the Science Fairs I participated in when I was in school. I was really impressed with the Academy’s approach – that the judges’ primary responsibility is to encourage students in their interest and pursuit of science, complimenting them, and offering positive guidance. It made me wish I was a student now – the encouragement would have been much more positive than the disappointment I received when my project didn’t win in my school’s Science Fairs.

Representatives from Paint Branch High School worked hard to set up for us. They had sandwiches and juice waiting, and welcomed us with folders of information about their school. My favorite was the What is Special about Paint Branch High School?, handout from the principal, Jeanette Dixon, Paint Branch High school’s Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leadership Award winner. The handout highlights student accomplishments and listed special programs and the high-level curriculum offered. Another handout gave the awards achieved by students.

Pam Leffler, the science coordinator passionately described the new school building currently under construction. She clearly displayed pride in her career – she had been with the school for more than 20 years, saying she was so happy there, she “had no reason to go elsewhere” – and told us that their new building will have 12 new science labs, and a greenhouse. 

I was relieved that each new judge would paired with an experienced judge. I was teamed up with a retired NIH scientist, Dr. Peter Lemkin, whose knowledge of genetic diseases and ‘green’ energy sources was expansive.  He asked me the kinds of projects I wanted to see, and chose Horticulture, AP Environmental Science, and AP Biology (the upper-level AP courses are freshman-level college courses taught in the high-school).

One student who presented her project to Peter and me expressed her interest in blood diseases.  She’s already been accepted into the University of Maryland, College Park.  I told the students about USDA’s AgDiscovery Program, and, and Peter told her that NIH offers similar opportunities. We told them to check the Departments’ and Agencies’ websites on information on how to apply for internships. They were astonished they could be paid to perform scientific research as high school students.

Dick Davies and the others invited us to participate in another Science Fair the next day, but I declined because it is during the workday. I accepted his offer to be included in WAS e-mails for future Science Fairs, and I said I would be glad to help out next year. The Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences is always looking for scientists and technologists to volunteer as judges for school science programs.

Robin Wilcox has been with United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) since 2007. Years ago, she was a member of the USDA Bee Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. In between, she has managed horse farms, trained horses, and taught riding. Robin continues to raise and trail ride Paso Fino horses.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Science Fair – Learning Abounds

(Guest Post - Jack Gates is COO of Sales Lab and a frequent contributor to the Junior Academy) 

The Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences judge school science fairs in the Washington DC area and I have the honor of participating as a judge.

WAS Judges - Paint Branch HS
Science & Media Signature Expo March 2012
What a delight to listen to the students presenting their projects, what they thought would happen, what actually happened, and what they discovered. How refreshing to see their passion and enthusiasm as they share what they learned – learning by doing – and their pride of accomplishment as they speak with the judges.

Each student participating in the science fair receives a certificate acknowledging their participation and the accomplishment of presenting the project. It has the student's name, their school, the date, and is signed by Dick Davies, the Vice President – Junior Academy – the certificate is presented to the student after the science fair. How do they feel about receiving the certificate? They appreciate the acknowledgment of their contribution and value a reminder of the accomplishment of doing and learning. How do I know what the students' think? They offer comments about being a part of the science fair and what they get out of their participation. Positive and meaningful!

Last year in a discussion about awarding a certificate to each student, I offered an observation about sports teams that give a trophy to each player regardless of their contribution – the better players have devalued the trophy as it is no longer evidence of their competitive ability.
Jack Gates

But a science fair is not a competition – it is participating in learning and sharing what is discovered, was the response to my point. In this light, I had to agree. However, when I heard from the students about their feelings on receiving a certificate, I was transformed into an avid supporter of 'certificating' students. In fact, I feel if you want to generate enthusiasm and engage the student, award a certificate to commemorate the student's accomplishment and contribution – it will add another dimension to the event.

Last year, the science leaders at Paint Branch High School - Jeanette Dixon (Principal), Brian Eichenlaub (Signature Head), Pamela Leffler (Science Head) – reinvented the Science & Media Signature Expo (science fair) from the traditional format: shifting it to the evening so more parents can attend, staging the projects in locations throughout the building with science posters and items in the hallways, and encouraging the students to have fun and share what they learned – it was a carnival atmosphere with plenty of fun. 

Brian                                       Pam

As a result, this year the number of exhibits increased from approximately 150 to 500, and the Expo took over most of the first floor in the school. As visitors entered the exhibit halls, students would greet them eagerly and try to entice them to visit one or another of the demonstration stations where students did live experiments to show a specific scientific principle followed by a crisp explanation of what happened and why. The students were having fun, the visitors were engaged and learned – and stayed for hours – and the teachers, planners, and judges saw potential scientists and life-long learners.

The students discovered what happens when an experiment works or doesn't work and that you can learn from both. The Paint Branch HS science leaders made changes which enhanced the program by greater community participation – students, parents, schools staff. We learned that certificates are placeholders for student accomplishments and achievements – saved and shown to others with pride.

Would you share other initiatives that engage and excite the students in hands on learning?

Join us -

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting to Agreement

David Weinberger in his Authors @ Google video about his new book Too Big To Know, makes the point that to convince someone of a new position, you need significant prior agreement when you start, maybe 98%.

As he says in the video, as a Jew, there is little chance he’s going to come to much agreement with a Nazi.

Where does the underlying agreement come from? It’s seldom defined when you meet, and probably not coming from the prospect. So it must be up to the salesman to find it and define it. 

It’s easy to find areas of commonality with others. You have to look for it, and when you find it, work with it. Build from a base of agreement to get to a new concept.

Sounds like ol’ Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Does that change anything for you?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Monday Mantra

No matter how you tell yourself you feel, get up, dress up, show up.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Montgomery Blair HS Science Program Extends Work Of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Mendeleyev, Lovelace, And Some Famous Scientists As Well!

Jim Disbrow has been a Science Judge with the Junior Academy at the Washington Academy of Sciences for almost as many years as he has been a presenter at the Professional Development Institute (PDI) hosted annually by the Virginia Association of Science Teachers ( ). Props he lent were from his collection of PDI discrepant event props. He is currently WAS Vice President for Administration. 
Montgomery Blair High School (MBHS) has one of the country’s top magnet high school science programs. The MBHS Magnet Program had the 2012 Senior Research Project’s Convention and Program’s Poster Exhibit in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Thursday afternoon and evening, February 22nd. Students made presentations of their individual research projects. On display were the results of 90 research projects covering the physical sciences of astronomy, biology, chemistry, earth/geospace and physics, as well as the behavioral, computer, and social sciences.

The Junior Academy of the Washington Academy of Sciences provided 16 volunteer judges to evaluate the projects of these young scientists - and to decide which special recognitions were deserved by each. The judges spoke directly with the students, inquiring on the research and study behind their presentations. Many of the judges commented on the enthusiasm and excitement the students brought to their work. 

The students presented their research as the judges moved about the room in small groups, each group evaluating posters addressing a specific field. The judges engaged the students in a free flowing discussion of ideas and lessons learned, including how much fun they have had during their project’s unfolding process.

When the judges heard the initial presentation by a student presenting a poster on Astronomy, one judge offered the student an opportunity to review and display some additional props that had bearing on his research subject:
  • Complete facsimile of Einstein’s 1912 Manuscript on the Special Theory of Relativity (in German - with a complete robust set of equations - and with an English translation);
  • Lexicon sharing knowledge on the current status of the Millennium Prize Problems, posed in 2000. Of seven of the world’s greatest unsolved mathematical puzzles, six apply to his topic: Poincare Conjecture, Hodge Conjecture, Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture, Yang-Mills existence and mass gap, Navier-Stokes existence and smoothness, Riemann hypothesis); and
  • A prop that demonstrates field theory via Maxwell’s Equations (rare-earth magnets that drop through a foot-long plumber’s copper pipe).
When the student came on stage to receive his recognition as the 1st Prize Winner in Astronomy, this offer was pointed out to the audience, including where to see the props.

Over 50 individual special recognition awards were made at that evening’s ceremony. Jim Disbrow, Washington Academy Vice President of Administration, made these individual awards on behalf of the Washington Academy of Sciences.

After the awards ceremony, the young scientist kept running the prop through its paces in front of a gaggle of people, using both a cow magnet and the rare-earth magnets - drawing spontaneous laughter from the amazed parents, teachers and students as he explained and they realized why it worked so far differently than they might have ever imagined. With event props demonstrating different physical realities, the student was engaged and drank from each of these three fire hoses, understanding what topologies he had in hand - and responding appropriately.

The students’ hard work was demonstrated in their presentations and response to inquiries. The judges were continually amazed at the ingenious ideas and approaches the students took, often under the guidance of professional scientists associated with local Universities, Government Laboratories, and private corporations. Those mentors present were introduced and honored by their student-proteges.

One aspect that struck every judge was each student’s personal involvement in their projects. Many students had received scholarships and internships that led directly to the hypotheses and results reported on the posters. The posters were made by the students in school facilities that supported making wonderful professional-quality posters - and they made good use of them.

The judges evaluated the research on scientific thought, creative ability, project thoroughness and clarity, and exhibit presentation. Judging the presentation on the accuracy of the science, the merit of science, and the challenges of the research along with the enthusiasm of the student made it a difficult task for all. In line with the non-competitiveness of science poster exhibits, each participant received an award suitable for inclusion in their college applications. However, after much deliberation and reevaluation by the judges, 50 projects received special recognition.

It was good to see that science and technology exploration is in the hands of qualified and enthusiastic young scientists. At the awards ceremony, the keynote speaker was an MBHS graduate (a participant of this same poster presentation event 6 years prior) told his story about what he had experienced in higher learning since he had graduated from high school, where he was now in his career, and, based on the lessons he has learned, encouraged the students on making the most of their futures. He gave some very insightful comments to these students whose paths are still open.

The Washington Academy of Science provided formal certificates to each student in appreciation of allowing us to be a part of their experience, with the hope that each of the students will continue with their enthusiasm and interests in Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STREAM) - wherever the currents take them. 

Your comments? 

Please join us 6 pm, March 13th, at the Capital Technology Management Hub, where Sales Lab’s Jack Gates presents Rainmaker 12, Lessons from Makers, followed by the featured CTMH Presentation, Sales Lab’s Dick Davies speaking about The Direct Economy, How to Profit from The Most Lucrative Market in the History of the World!