Sunday, April 29, 2012

"Innovate!" by Erica Brown

Here are notes that I took during a presentation tonight by Erica Brown, given at Y.U. tonight. They contain Brown's thoughts, her thoughts as I interpreted them, and my thoughts about her/her thoughts:

Erica Brown credits George Bernard Shaw with the following quote and says that many authors of sefarim have borrowed from him in their introductions, using the phrase “midgets standing on the shoulders of giants.” (Dr. Shnayer Leiman has written about the source of this saying).

She likes calling on people by name, asking them what it is, then using it. Very interactive; she comes across strong, confident, and forward. She’s asking now about being creative but closed to change, in a follow up discussion of her opening mini quiz with four questions about being creative. She gave a short time to answer the questions of the mini-quiz and feels strongly that it works best if the answers are committed to writing.

She’s interested in creativity combined with something else, like being risk averse or open to risk, as an opening up of a discussion regarding innovation.

Joe Reimer speaks, within the realm of adult education, regarding new learning, relearning and unlearning. He is her friend and has shared this with her and also written it in an article called “Toward a Theory of Adult Jewish Education,” published in The Pedagogic Reporter in January, 1990.

New learning is the most common form of  learning in adult ed. New technology is an eg. of new learning that is difficult and unavoidable (the bane of her existence, she says, as Word, etc. is always being updated).  Also, children to new parents -no school for it.  Philosophy can be new, also any new thinking framework.  Languages.  Instruments.

A general point regarding her field of adult ed: The brain is fluid and needs to be exercised or it atrophies, according to recent studies.

Relearning – e.g. prayer. Praying versus reading a prayer book (quoted from Someone Samuels).  Many adults are crippled by Hebrew School experiences. Reimer says most adults that come back to Jewish ed are tackling relearning.

Hazot Neomi? No. We return home and are not the child our parents think we are, the person our friends and neighbors remember.  Relearning who a person is who’s changed is now, or how to relate to others based on who we are now are examples of relearning.

Other examples of relearning: Studying something like writing on a higher level and not being stuck due to a previous bad teacher/bad experience and going through the emotional layering.  Restructuring in a family after loss, perhaps parenting as a grandparent.

Unlearning – E.g. peeling away affects of the midrash as literal.  Experiment with sixth graders in Israel showed that a high percent in mamlachti dati schools thought Avraham hitting the idols was in the Torah text.

Giving up prejudices in many contexts.

Innovators have failure built into their institution/family.  The CEO of a company made a million dollar mistake when he was a young worker in a big company and was told by that company's CEO that the path to success is paved with well handled failures.  This probably helped him go on to become a successful CEO.

David Brooks, her friend, wrote recently that In government failure is not allowed.  She says that m and m (morbidity and mortality) rounds in medicine allow for learning from error, rare.  Her husband’s a doctor and has this.  In the book, Complications, this is discussed.

Schools and grades are not accepting of failure. Imagine: how creativity works, is a good new book on that topic.

On Leadership Via A Torah Episode:

(Bamidbar 32) Reuven and Gad had cattle via war victory.  Hineh is a visual cue, something being seen and taken in.  (A geographer backs up fairly recently that this area is fertile, good for animals).
Moshe as a leader must have been frustrated that they wanted to stay back from Israel because of cows and all he wanted was TO go in to Israel.  Also, after the meraglim, how could you pull away from land?  How can you separate from the collective whole?  Maybe everyone else will want to stay back too?

In Yehoshua same group puts a mizbeach outside Yerushalayim, on other side of Jordan.  They explain, after being presented with outrage, their motivations - to remind children of what it is. And they are let off the hook.

Why does Mosh allow them to settle on the other side of the Jordan? She's gob smacked by this decision.

He changes their order – putting cattle before family, and then allows it.  G-d says that because of the order that they chose here the land would not produce for them in the future.

It's interesting to note that Moshe was willing to compromise on the land, but not on family.

Why doesn’t he push them, fight them?

Moshe made an assumption about them and was wrong – he assumed that they were afraid. When they said they weren’t he gave in.

Jeff Jarvis in What Would Google Do? Says that at the start there are no ads when you enter Google so you feel the illusion of being in control.

On Twitter they use their competitors, i.e. their users, according to Von Hippel.

Leaders often decide for others without asking what those others think, feel, want.

In Drive by Daniel Pink he writes that Wikipedia is more of a hit because it’s not written by experts, versus Encarta. Surprise.

We’re learning to trust the public in leadership. If someone, eg. a doctor messes up, you’ll tell people about it today, quickly via the Internet.  This has it's downside but also the upside of the people having power along with the leaders. College age kids will shape the morality of cyberspace, and there is a lot of shaping that needs to be done.  A student committed suicide due to cyber bullying and based on her anecdotal research it was not much spoken about in schools, but it needs to be discussed.

Rabbis weren’t expected to fear students in olden times, not so much expected to take in their side.  Or parents regarding children. In Foer’s new American hagaddah it’s four parents, not four children.

The question is how to lead right in a Jewish way for the future.
Moshe may have made a mistake in his effort to facilitate a change.  Maybe he would have lost by saying no. So he said yes.

Think about risk aversion, failure, continue the conversation, maybe even improve leadership for the future.


Anonymous lavender garden said...

With all due respect to this speaker- and I dont know who she is- we have to be TREMENDOUSLY careful when speaking of our greatest leaders, especially those in Tanach. We cannot make assumptions about them and analyze their words and actions as we would l'havdil characters in literature. Moshe Rabbeinu was a navi- the greatest of the neviim- and he led Am Yisrael al pi Hashem, totally according to the will of Hashem. If we want to speak of Moshe Rabbeinu's actions/motivations , it has to be exclusively according to Divrei Chazal.

April 30, 2012 at 1:43 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

This is worthy of a long response, whole post. I don't have the time or mindset right now to respond properly. Please for now let me just say that I meant no disrespect to Moshe Rabeinyu, to Chazal, or to you or any other reader. I don't think that Erica Brown did either. I think she and you and I agree that we must be super careful in how we speak of Moshe and other Tanach characters.

On one leg I wiil mention two examples of great rabbis who walked on this slippery slope: The Tiferet Yisrael was criticized for, and yet did, write a legend about Moshe Rabeinu. Some great rabbis, including Rabbi Baruch Simon, have used this story in their sefarim.

Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch writes that what the Chazal cited by Rashi about Yaakov and Eisav seeming the same till Bar Mitzvah age is actually a critique of Yitzchak and Rivkah...



April 30, 2012 at 1:47 PM  

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