‘Democracy and Education’ was written in 1916, as the fourth of his works on the subject of education. Its core theme is the integration of the curriculum within the social context, which, in the case of a democracy, means the breaking down of the dualistic barriers which defined the school system in his time (and, arguably, still do today). Dewey argues forcefully that the public education system in western democracies was actually constructed from a long heritage of classist societies, in which the lower classes were expected to work while the upper classes led a life of leisure. School divides the mind from the body, work from play, the student from society, science from humanities, experience from knowledge, subject matter from method etc… In a democracy, he submits, the education system should give each individual the opportunity to enjoy an equal share of labour and leisure, and to pursue activities for which he/she has a genuine interest. Education is about continuity and self-construction, not division – Dewey therefore calls for the integration of the curriculum, so that subject matters are taught in equal measure, such as to make them relevant to one another, and that the physical and experiential components of learning are given their true place in the classroom.
Dewey concludes that if people are able to pursue their life’s interest, there will be less need for the external imposition of rules of all kinds, but particularly, exogenous rules of morality. Therefore, Dewey argues, education is not a narrowly tailored training programme for a specific profession, and neither is it a mere preparation for adulthood. Education is, for Dewey, a way of life, rather than a means to a good life, and should be appreciated as such at every stage of life.
I’m not sure whether it should be applauded or deplored that Dewey’s work is still so critically relevant in 2012. byVirginie Servant
Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.
There are two schools of social reform. One bases itself upon the notion of a morality which springs from an inner freedom, something mysteriously cooped up within personality. It asserts that the only way to change institutions is for men to purify their own hearts, and that when this has been accomplished, change of institutions will follow of itself. The other school denies the existence of any such inner power, and in some doing, conceives that it has denied all moral freedom. It says that men are made what they are by the forces of their environment, that human nature is purely malleable, and that until institutions are changed, nothing can be done. Clearly this leaves the outcome as hopeless as does an appeal to inner rectitude and benevolence. For it provides no leverage to change the environment. . . . There is an alternative . . . We can recognize that all conduct is an interaction between elements of human nature and the environment, natural and social
(Dewey 1988/1922: 9-10)
Ends and means
In working to change their habits, people assume they must formulate an end (to change the habit), and then seek the means to that end. However, this ordinary understanding of the relationship between ends and means easily misleads us. Most people think ends are fixed goals motivating activity, and means are the routes to achieving those ends. If Susan says she wants to become a lawyer, then her goal – her desired end point – is to be a lawyer. Given that she has this end, she must now decide how to achieve that end, she must find the means to employ. These means will have no value in themselves; they are merely the route to the desired end.
This is a skewed account of the relation between ends and means, an account that, once incorporated into folk psychology, distorts our understanding of deliberation, human action, and morality. Means and ends are not fundamentally different. Rather they are “two names for the same reality. The terms denote not a division in reality, but a distinction in judgement. . . . The `end’ is merely a series of acts views at a removed state; and a means is merely the series viewed at an earlier time . . . “
(Dewey 1988/1922: 27-8)
Download the ebook here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/852
All education is self-education. Period. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn.
“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
― Mark Twain
Those people who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own are the only ones who earn a real education in this world. Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of. Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.
If you’re interested in learning something new, this article is for you.
Broken down by subject and/or category, here are several top-notch self-education resources I have bookmarked online over the past few years.
Note that some of the sources overlap between various subjects of education. Therefore, each has been placed under a specific subject based on the majority focus of the source’s content.
Science and Health
MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT OpenCourseWare is a free web-based publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.
Tufts OpenCourseWare – Tufts OpenCourseWare is part of a new educational movement initiated by MIT that provides free access to course content for everyone online. Tufts’ course offerings demonstrate the University’s strength in the life sciences in addition to its multidisciplinary approach, international perspective and underlying ethic of service to its local, national and international communities.
HowStuffWorks Science – More scientific lessons and explanations than you could sort through in an entire year.
Harvard Medical School Open Courseware – The mission of the Harvard Medical School Open Courseware Initiative is to exchange knowledge from the Harvard community of scholars to other academic institutions, prospective students, and the general public.
Khan Academy – Over 1200 videos lessons covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to differential equations, physics, chemistry, and biology.
Open Yale Courses – Open Yale Courses provides lectures and other materials from selected Yale College courses to the public free of charge via the internet. The courses span the full range of liberal arts disciplines, including humanities, social sciences, and physical and biological sciences.
webcast.berkeley – Every semester, UC Berkeley webcasts select courses and events for on-demand viewing via the Internet. webcast.berkeley course lectures are provided as a study resource for both students and the public.
UC San Diego Podcast Lectures – UCSD’s podcasting service was established for instructional use to benefit our students. Podcasts are taken down at the end of every quarter (10 weeks Fall-Spring and 5 weeks in the summer). If you’re enjoying a podcast, be sure to subscribe and download the lectures. Once the podcast has been taken offline, faculty rarely approve their reposting.
Johns Hopkins OpenCourseWare – The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s OpenCourseWare project provides access to content of the School’s most popular courses. As challenges to the world’s health escalate daily, the School feels a moral imperative to provide equal and open access to information and knowledge about the obstacles to the public’s health and their potential solutions.
Utah State OpenCourseWare – Utah State OpenCourseWare is a collection of educational material used in our formal campus courses, and seeks to provide people around the world with an opportunity to access high quality learning opportunities.
AMSER – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.
Wolfram Demonstrations Project – Wolfram brings computational exploration to the widest possible audience, open-code resource that uses dynamic computation to illuminate concepts. Free player runs all demos and videos.
Science.gov – Science.gov searches over 42 databases and over 2000 selected websites from 14 federal agencies, offering 200 million pages of authoritative U.S. government science information including research and development results.
EnviroLink Network– A non-profit organization, grassroots online community uniting organizations and volunteers around the world. Up-to-date environmental information and news.
Geology.com – Information about geology and earth science to visitors without charge: Articles, News, Maps, Satellite Images, Dictionary, etc.
Scitable – A free science library and personal learning tool that currently concentrates on genetics, the study of evolution, variation, and the rich complexity of living organisms. The site also expects to expand into other topics of learning and education.
LearningScience.org – A free open learning community for sharing newer and emerging tools to teach science.
Business and Money
MIT Sloan School of Management – MIT Sloan is a world-class business school long renowned for thought leadership and the ability to successfully partner theory and practice. This is a subsection of the larger MIT OpenCourseWare site.
U.S. Small Business Administration Training Network – The Small Business Administration has one of the best selections of business courses on the web. Topics include everything from starting a business and business management to government contracting and international trade. Most courses take only 30 minutes to complete.
VideoLectures.NET (Business) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
My Own Business, Inc. – Offers a free online business administration course that would be beneficial to new managers and to anyone who is interested in starting a business. This comprehensive course is split up into 16 sessions covering topics like business plans, accounting, marketing, insurance, e-commerce and international trade.
UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Business) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.
Kutztown University of Pennsylvania – The Kutztown University of Pennsylvania’s Small Business Development Center offers more than 80 free business courses online. Kutztown’s courses are individualized and self-paced. Many of the courses feature high-end graphics, interactive case studies and audio streams.
Boston College Front Row (Business) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
Financial Management Training Center – The Financial Management Training Center provides several free downloadable business courses for people who need to learn the finer points of financial management. All courses offered can be taken online; courses include full exams as well as evaluation forms for people seeking Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits.
The Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA – Free Management Library’s Free Nonprofit Micro-eMBA Program is an especially great resource for students wishing to learn more about nonprofit management, but most of the lessons also apply to general business management. Completion of this program will not result in an MBA degree, but enrollment is free and the material is well structured.
Notre Dame OpenCourseWare – Notre Dame OCW is a free and open educational resource for faculty, students, and self-learners throughout the world.
Bio’s Best – Biography.com’s most popular biographies on notable historical figures.
UC Irvine OpenCourseWare (Social Science) – Rapidly with the addition of nearly 10 new courses every month. Many of our OCW offerings are directed at working adults seeking continuing education, with the option to enroll in instructor-led, for-credit courses, related to the OCW content.
Boston College Front Row (History) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
MIT OpenCourseWare (History) – The MIT History Faculty offers about 70 subjects in the areas of Ancient, North American, European, East Asian, and Middle Eastern history.
Wikiversity School of Social Sciences – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
World History HyperHistory – Navigates through 3000 years of World History with links to important persons and events of world historical importance.
American Digital History – Online American history textbook. An interactive, multimedia history of the United States from the Revolution to the present.
Duke Law Center for the Public Domain – Duke University is counted amongst the best schools in the South. If you’re interested in law, Duke’s open courseware in that subject area can go a long way towards helping you learn more about the justice system.
Intute Law – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorised by subject specialists based at UK universities.
Boston College Front Row (Law) – Boston College Front Row is a Web site that offers free access through streaming media to tapes of cultural and scholarly events at Boston College.
American University – Offers a selection of podcasts on a number of different law-related subjects. There is even a very interesting podcast on debt relief and the law.
Lewis & Clark Law School – Provides a number of podcast from the law school. Subjects include tax law, business law, environmental law and other areas of law. Interesting and insightful lectures on the law.
Case Western Reserve University School of Law – Offers a number of interesting lectures on different law subjects. These lectures are both podcasts and Web casts. You can look ahead to the coming school year, which already has a number of interesting subjects lined up.
Harvard Law School – Provides a number of Web casts of law lectures, symposia, panels and conferences. A great collection of relevant information and insights on how the law interacts with current events.
Stanford Law – Provides open courseware via iTunes on a variety of law subjects, including the theory of justice, mobile content distribution, gay marriage, judicial review and privacy protection. The tracks are available for free, but you’ll need iTunes. Put the lectures on your iPod or iPhone and listen them anywhere.
MoneyInstructor Business Law – From MoneyInstructor.com provides a look at a number of basics in business law. Learn how to define crimes under business law. Worksheets and curriculums are available for teachers. Ordinary folks will find them useful as well.
Wesleyan College Constitutional Law – From North Carolina Wesleyan College offers an overview of the U.S. Constitution and the laws springing from it. Online lectures and class notes are included, which can help you develop a strong understanding of the Constitution and how it forms the basis of our laws.
Computer Science and Engineering
VideoLectures.NET (Computer Science) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
Wikiversity School of Computer Science and Technology – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies – A massive collection of bibliographies of scientific literature in computer science, updated weekly from original locations, more than 3 millions of references (mostly to journal articles, conference papers and technical reports), clustered in about 2000 bibliographies.
W3Schools – Web-building tutorials, from basic HTML and XHTML to advanced XML, SQL, Database, Multimedia and WAP.
FreeTechBooks.com – This site lists free online computer science, engineering and programming books, textbooks and lecture notes, all of which are legally and freely available over the Internet.
Free computer Tutorials – Free computer courses and tutorials site. All the courses are aimed at complete beginners, so you don’t need experience to get started.
VideoLectures.NET (Mathematics) – A free and open access educational video lectures repository. The lectures are given by distinguished scholars and scientists at the most important and prominent events like conferences, summer schools, workshops and science promotional events from many fields of Science.
Wikiversity School of Mathematics – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
AMSER Mathematics – AMSER (the Applied Math and Science Education Repository) is a portal of educational resources and services built specifically for use by those in Community and Technical Colleges but free for anyone to use.
Math.com – Math.com is dedicated to providing revolutionary ways for students, parents, teachers, and everyone to learn math.
Intute Mathematics – Provides free access to high quality resources on the Internet. Each resource has been evaluated and categorized by subject specialists based at UK universities.
MIT Writing and Humanistic Studies – The MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies gives students the opportunity to learn the techniques, forms, and traditions of several kinds of writing, from basic expository prose to more advanced forms of non-fictional prose, fiction and poetry, science writing, scientific and technical communication and digital media.
Merriam-Webster Online – In this digital age, your ability to communicate with written English is paramount skill. And M-W.com is the perfect resource to improve your English now.
National Novel Writing Month – Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
Lifewriting – A complete text of the 9-week writing class a professor taught for years at UCLA.
YouTube EDU – Educational videos on YouTube organized by subject matter.
LearnHub Test Prep – Raise your test scores with free practice tests & counseling on various subjects.
iTunes U – Hundreds of universities — including Stanford, Yale and MIT — distribute lectures, slide shows, PDFs, films, exhibit tours and audio books through iTunes U. The Science section alone contains content on topics including agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, ecology and geography.
Brigham Young Independent Study – BYU Independent Study now offers free courses in different areas of study. These areas include Family History, Family Life, and Religious Scripture Study, Personal Dev elopement, etc. Use these courses as a starting point for your personal studies or just to add insight to an area of interest.
United States Nation Archives – The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation’s record keeper. Valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family’s history, need to prove a veteran’s military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.
Wikiversity – Wikiversity is a Wikimedia Foundation project devoted to learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, types, and styles of education from pre-school to university, including professional training and informal learning.
Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.
Bookboon – Bookboon provides online textbooks for students in PDF format. The free ebooks can be downloaded without registration. Our books are legal and written exclusively for Bookboon. They are financed by a few in-book ads.
Scribd – Scribd, the online document sharing site which supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other popular formats. You can download a document or embed it in your blog or web page.
BookYards – BookYards is a web portal in which books, education materials, information, and content will be freely to anyone who has an internet connection.
Planet eBook – Free classic literature to download and share.
The Personal MBA Recommended Reading List – MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on advanced business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research.
BBC Learning – Online learning, support, and advice. This site offers internal and offsite links to a vast amount of materials.
Biography – The site holds videos to past interviews and biographies on people in topics that range from Black history to women’s history.
Book TV – This is the companion site to Book TV on C-Span2. The site holds some current interviews with authors, many past interviews, opinions, reviews, and featured programs through online video.
CBC Archives — Relive Canadian history through thousands of available radio and television clips.
Discovery — This channel is home to several different networks that focus on the military, animals, travel, etc. The Discovery site offers a “Video of the Day” from its home page, a separate online video section, and a Discover Education center where teachers can accumulate materials for K-12 teaching. It’s impossible to list all their offerings here, so go discover!
History Channel – Visit the Video Gallery for a selection on historical topics. Like the Discovery Channel, this network provides many opportunities for you to gain access to information and reference materials.
NOVA — Watch current science shows or browse by category. PBS sponsors this channel.
Research Channel — Speakers, researchers and professors present revolutionary thoughts and discoveries. Use their Webstreams and an extensive video-on-demand library for research.
Weather Channel – You can learn about weather all over the world, but the Weather Channel also offers dynamic content based upon seasons and special conditions and a special multimedia and education section.
American Memory – The Library of Congress provides extensive multimedia offerings on various topics through their American Memory Collection, including their outstanding Built in America project that showcases historical buildings through photographs.
Fathom – This archive, provided by Columbia University, offers access to the complete range of free content developed for Fathom by its member institutions. The archives include online learning resources including lectures, articles, interviews, exhibits and seminars.
U.S. Census Bureau – If you think the Census Bureau is all about numbers, you might be surprised to learn about their archived photographs, daily radio features, and more available through theirNewsroom.
Directories of Open Education
Google Scholar – Provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature. From one place, you can search across many disciplines and sources: articles, theses, books, abstracts and court opinions, from academic publishers, professional societies, online repositories, universities and other web sites.
OpenCourseWare Consortium – This site provides a portal to search through hundreds of free courses or to add new courses you know about to the database.
iBerry – Check out this site for a huge directory of open courseware organized by school and subject matter that can point you in the right direction for any type of learning.
The OODA loop (for observe, orient, decide, and act) is a concept originally applied to the combat operations process, often at the strategic level in military operations. It is now also often applied to understand commercial operations and learning processes. The concept was developed by military strategist and USAFColonel John Boyd.
Diagram of a decision cycle known as the Boyd cycle, or the OODA loop.
The OODA loop has become an important concept in both business and military strategy. According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage. Frans Osinga argues that Boyd’s own views on the OODA loop are much deeper, richer, and more comprehensive than the common interpretation of the ‘rapid OODA loop’ idea.
Boyd developed the concept to explain how to direct one’s energies to defeat an adversary and survive. Boyd emphasized that “the loop” is actually a set of interacting loops that are to be kept in continuous operation during combat. He also indicated that the phase of the battle has an important bearing on the ideal allocation of one’s energies.
Boyd’s diagram shows that all decisions are based on observations of the evolving situation tempered with implicit filtering of the problem being addressed. These observations are the raw information on which decisions and actions are based. The observed information must be processed to orient it for further making a decision. In notes from his talk “Organic Design for Command and Control”, Boyd said,
The second O, orientation – as the repository of our genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and previous experiences – is the most important part of the O-O-D-A loop since it shapes the way we observe, the way we decide, the way we act.
As stated by Boyd and shown in the “Orient” box, there is much filtering of the information through our culture, genetics, ability to analyze and synthesize, and previous experience. Since the OODA Loop was designed to describe a single decision maker, the situation is usually much worse than shown as most business and technical decisions have a team of people observing and orienting, each bringing their own cultural traditions, genetics, experience and other information. It is here that decisions often get stuck, which does not lead to winning, since
In order to win, we should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries–or, better yet, get inside [the] adversary’s Observation-Orientation-Decision-Action time cycle or loop. … Such activity will make us appear ambiguous (unpredictable) thereby generate confusion and disorder among our adversaries–since our adversaries will be unable to generate mental images or pictures that agree with the menacing as well as faster transient rhythm or patterns they are competing against.
The OODA loop, which focuses on strategic military requirements, was adapted for business and public sector operational continuity planning. Compare it with thePlan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle or Shewhart cycle, which focuses on the operational or tactical level of projects.
As one of Boyd’s colleagues, Harry Hillaker, put it in “John Boyd, USAF Retired, Father of the F16“:
The key is to obscure your intentions and make them unpredictable to your opponent while you simultaneously clarify his intentions. That is, operate at a faster tempo to generate rapidly changing conditions that inhibit your opponent from adapting or reacting to those changes and that suppress or destroy his awareness. Thus, a hodgepodge of confusion and disorder occur to cause him to over- or under-react to conditions or activities that appear to be uncertain, ambiguous, or incomprehensible.
Writer Robert Greene wrote in an article called OODA and You that
the proper mindset is to let go a little, to allow some of the chaos to become part of his mental system, and to use it to his advantage by simply creating more chaos and confusion for the opponent. He funnels the inevitable chaos of the battlefield in the direction of the enemy.
Applicability of the OODA loop
Consider a fighter pilot being scrambled to shoot down an enemy aircraft.
Before the enemy airplane is even within visual contact range, the pilot will consider any available information about the likely identity of the enemy pilot: his nationality, level of training, and cultural traditions that may come into play.
When the enemy aircraft comes into radar contact, more direct information about the speed, size, and maneuverability, of the enemy plane becomes available; unfolding circumstances take priority over radio chatter. A first decision is made based on the available information so far: the pilot decides to “get into the sun” above his opponent, and acts by applying control inputs to climb. Back to observation: is the attacker reacting to the change of altitude? Then to orient: is the enemy reacting characteristically, or perhaps acting like a noncombatant? Is his plane exhibiting better-than-expected performance?
As the dogfight begins, little time is devoted to orienting unless some new information pertaining to the actual identity or intent of the attacker comes into play. Information cascades in real time, and the pilot does not have time to process it consciously; the pilot reacts as he is trained to, and conscious thought is directed to supervising the flow of action and reaction, continuously repeating the OODA cycle. Simultaneously, the opponent is going through the same cycle.
How does one interfere with an opponent’s OODA cycle? One of John Boyd’s primary insights in fighter combat was that it is vital to change speed and direction faster than the opponent. This is not necessarily a function of the plane’s ability to maneuver, rather the pilot must think and act faster than the opponent can think and act. Getting “inside” the cycle—short-circuiting the opponent’s thinking processes—produces opportunities for the opponent to react inappropriately.
Another tactical-level example can be found on the basketball court, where a player takes possession of the ball and must get past an opponent who is taller or faster. A straight dribble or pass is unlikely to succeed. Instead the player may engage in a rapid and elaborate series of body movements designed to befuddle the opponent and deny him the ability to take advantage of his superior size or speed. At a basic level of play, this may be merely a series of fakes, with the hope that the opponent will make a mistake or an opening will occur, but practice and mental focus may allow one to accelerate tempo, get inside the opponent’s OODA loop and take control of the situation—to cause the opponent to move in a particular way, and generate an advantage rather than merely react to an accident. Taking control of the situation is key. It is not enough to speed through OODA faster — that results in flailing.
The same cycle operates over a longer timescale in a competitive business landscape, and the same logic applies. Decision makers gather information (observe), form hypotheses about customer activity and the intentions of competitors (orient), make decisions, and act on them. The cycle is repeated continuously. The aggressive and conscious application of the process gives a business advantage over a competitor who is merely reacting to conditions as they occur, or has poor awareness of the situation.
The approach favors agility over raw power in dealing with human opponents in any endeavor. John Boyd put this ethos into practice with his work for the USAF. He was an advocate of maneuverable fighter aircraft, in contrast to the heavy, powerful jet fighters that were prevalent in the 1960s, such as the F-4 Phantom II andGeneral Dynamics F-111. Boyd inspired the Light Weight Fighter Project that produced the successful F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet, which are still in use by the United States and several other military powers into the 21st century.
An article published in the McKinsey Quarterly triggered my thinking a couple of month ago. The author, Lowell Bryant, was highlighting the need for “just in time” decision making in companies.
“Much of the art of decision making under uncertainty is getting the timing right. If you delay too much, investment costs may escalate, and losses can accumulate. However, making critical decisions too early can lead to bad choices or excessive risks”
90% of pilot training include decision making. Professional pilots spend hundreds of hours in simulators and in the cockpit trying to tackle one key challenge: those 3 or 4 minutes where, one day in their career, they will have to make the one decision that will result in the life or death of hundreds of passengers.
The environment a pilot is navigating is not that dissimilar than the corporate environment and its many uncertainties and disruptions: a bird striking your engines, icing accumulating on the wings, an unexpected delay resulting on an aircraft been in your flightpath… as those happen, the hundreds of hours of training are coming into play.
This is how we train pilots to make the right decision.
Understand biases induced by the way our brain, and more specifically our senses are built.
As a pilot feels the skin of his/her back pressing against the back of the seat, he/she will assume the plane is accelerating. However, it can also be the results of a plane which nose has unexpectedly pointed towards the sky, and which is climbing sharply while loosing speed. Polits also are well aware of the Graveyard spiral: an observed loss of altitude during a coordinated constant-rate turn that has ceased stimulating the motion sensing system can create the illusion of being in a descent with the wings level. The disoriented pilot will pull back on the controls, tightening the spiral and increasing the loss of altitude. Mistakes like this have in the past led to terrible accidents, one of them been the decision made by the Air France pilots during that terrible Rio-Paris crash.
See here a documentary by the BBC on the Air France Rio-Paris crash, largely due to pilot error.
Most significantly, we now when we train pilots that biases are accentuated in the following situations:
Expectations based on experience: pilots compare the information they get with what they have learned from past experiences. For example, the image of the runway as they are about the land is compared with the image from runways they are used to. If a runway is narrower or larger than what they are used to, it can result in an inaccurate estimate of airplave height.
The recent decision by HP’s CEO to exit the computer world and focus on developing software is partly driven by Leo Apoteker’s experience at SAP. This logic can have unexpected consequences: it implies that the most experienced CEOs might be the ones who are most likely to make the wrong decisions.
Expectations based on anticipation: as a pilot is getting ready to take off, he/she is waiting for the final green light from the tower. Accidents have happened when the insctruction that followed ” cleared into take off position” can be understood as “cleared for take-off” ( resulting a few years ago in a collision of 2 Boeing 747 in Tenerife). Similarly, we have observed CEOs who after having presented a strategic plan to a less than luke-warm board of directors, have taken the quiet reserve or lack of decision for a green light.
Expectations based on habits: if a pilot is used to parking his/her plane on “Parking Area Alpha” and exceptionally receives the instruction to park in “Parking Area Golf”, the risk exists that the pilot still goes to Alpha, even after having repeated accurately the instructions to the tower. This bias explains why so many executives keep repeating the same patterns or decisions, even when their environment is clearly shifting ( this is currently happening in the telecommunication industry).
You will find additional information about strategic biases in our article : “Strategic Blindspot Index” ( see here ).
When under stress, revert to checklists
To allow the mind to focus on the important task of assessing the situation,checklists have been built to allow pilots to process information fast and get data he / she needs. This is due to the fact that to the best of human abilities, the mind can only process 7 pieces of short information at a time ( this is why in most countries most phone numbers have 7 digits). Offloading pilots on steps to follow in an emergency situation has been crucial to the profession. As far as I know, no such checklists have been developed for CEOs and executives ( except in extreme crisis situations).
If one looks closely at how those checklists have been developed overtime, an interesting process emerges: checklists have been crowdsourced to the entire flight community. Any incident, any accident is logged, discussed and shared in publications and training session so that the knowledge in the industry can collectively grow. No such process exists in the corporate world. Companies struggle to share knowledge internally, and certainly, no repository exists today to share failures, and debate them publicly. A few initiatives have emerged, such as the MIX (Management Insight Exchange), but they have only gained limited visibility.
Be physically shaped for decision making
A significant percentage of human errors occur under stress. There is a code of eating behavior that guides pilots to be physicallly shaped for decision making.
In addition, the aerospace community has studied those factors carefully and are able to anticipate situations when decision making might fail ( for more, see here ).
A questionnaire concerning life changes, personality factors, and adjustmental and leadership qualities of U.S. Naval aircrewmembers involved in aircraft accidents was sent to investigating flight surgeons during 1977-78. The responses were divided into two groups: those who were causally involved in accidents and those who were not. In order to cross-validate the results, data were collected and analyzed. Results indicate that aircrewmembers in the process of deciding about staying in the service are more likely to fall into the causally involved group. So were those who had trouble with interpersonal relationships, had no sense of humor or humility concerning themselves, were immature, or had recently lost a friend or family member through death.
Source: A questionnaire study of psychological background factors in U.S. Navy aircraft accidents ( Alkov RA, Borowsky MS.)
I have not seen one company that has adopted a eating guide, health and fitness code (and requirement) for its executives. Few have tackled the issue of executive support and coaching to deal with stress factors. Finally, I also have never seen a“sense of humor” test as part of the recruiting toolkit…
Understand the role of intelligence
When flying, pilots do have an array of information they can tap into: numerous maps of existing weather and wind conditions, 3-hour forecasts, a radars, insights from the control tower, etc…
Similarly, executives can base their decisions on a flow of information and data. Thecompetitive and strategic intelligence process is therefore a key part of their decision making process. A recent survey of North American companies ( 2011 Global Market Intelligence Survey) shows that 84% of companies have implemented a structured intelligence process in house. On average, North American companies have teams of 10 people with competitive intelligence as their primary role, which cater to 1,162 internal clients. Furthermore, nearly 70% of North American companies intend to increase their investments in competitive intelligence (also known as market intelligence) in 2012-2013.
Flight instructors know the law of intensity: the best way to anchor learning in a student is to experience the effect of mistake emotionally. For example, we often let the student pilot stall the aircraft and go for a spin. A new pilot will never forget this experience – and hopefully recognize the signs early in the future.
Pilots wil rehearse the same crisis situation many times, each time with an added twist or new factors to learn to make decisions without anchoring to a past situation.
Similarly, role playing, business simulations and war gaming can help executive play out possible outcomes in crisis situation. The “World without Oil” is a great example of how this might be done.
WORLD WITHOUT OIL is a serious game for the public good. WWO invited people from all walks of life to contribute “collective imagination” to confront a real-world issue: the risk our unbridled thirst for oil poses to our economy, climate and quality of life. It’s a milestone in the quest to use games as democratic, collaborative platforms for exploring possible futures and sparking future-changing action.
Do not trust your instruments
Pilots learn early not to trust their instruments entirely, and only when they cantriangulate the information. As instruments can lie, or break down. Again, the recent accident of the Paris-Rio Air France flight illustrated how difficult it can be to make the right decision when one instrument ( in that case a frozen speed indicator) fails. It is only by looking at the full picture that they make up their mind about the real situation.
Similarly, companies should revisit their key indicators. One way to avoid blindspots can be to systematically revisit the type of information that is collected and communicated and take some key assumptions off the equation: if my sales go up, and the number of customers as well, does it mean I attract the best ones ( or that I am failing like in the subprime case) ? What if the indicators say the opposite ? Am I monitoring the correct dashboard ?
Train for the situation
Pilots are trained specifically for each type of aircraft they fly. In fact, they will get additional training each time they change the type of aircraft they are flying.
Managers don’t. When new CEO of HP joined from SAP, he applies to his new business the same principles as the ones what seemed to work at SAP. He divested of hardware, and directed the company towards software. I do not know business schools today which differentiate their training based on the type of company managers will work with. What about an MBA in Telecommunication management? An MBA in retail management? ( of course, it would also be interesting – and innovative- for a telecom company to hire a retail management MBA to bring in a different way of doing business….)
Managers and executives are still largely trained today the same way they were trained 50 years ago. Little emphasis is put on decision making, which is one of the key skills in today’s turbulent environment. As other professions have developed an acute understanding of the decision making process, we should, as a business community, learn from them.
Estelle Métayer brings vast experience and fresh perspective to the ever-changing world of Competitive and Strategic Intelligence. A noted expert, her intuitive, precise research provides managers, CEOs, and board members with the right tools to effectively build and hone their competitive intelligence and strategic planning – to avoid blind spots, capitalize on strengths and excel. Estelle is also a commercial pilot and Certified Flight Instructor.
Hans Albrecht Bethe was born in Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, on July 2 1906. He attended the Gymnasium in Frankfurt from 1915 to 1924. He then studied at the University of Frankfurt for two years, and at Munich for two and one half years, taking his Ph. D. in theoretical physics with Professor Arnold Sommerfeld in July 1928.
He then was an Instructor in physics at Frankfurt and at Stuttgart for one semester each. From fall 1929 to fall 1933 his headquarters were the University of Munich where he became Privatdozent in May 1930. During this time he had a travel fellowship of the International Education Board to go to Cambridge, England, in the fall of 1930, and to Rome in the spring terms of 1931 and 1932. In the winter semester of 1932-1933,he held a position as Acting Assistant Professor at the University of Tubingen which he lost due to the advent of the Nazi regime in Germany.
Bethe emigrated to England in October 1933 where he held a temporary position as Lecturer at the University of Manchester for the year 1933-1934, and a fellowship at the University of Bristol in the fall of 1934. In February 1935 he was appointed Assistant Professor at Cornell University, Ithaca, N. Y. U.S.A., then promoted to Professor in the summer of 1937. He has stayed there ever since, except for sabbatical leaves and for an absence during World War II. His war work took him first to the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on microwave radar, and then to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory which was engaged in assembling the first atomic bomb. He returned to Los Alamos for half a year in 1952. Two of his sabbatical leaves were spent at Columbia University, one at the University of Cambridge, and one at CERN and Copenhagen.
Bethe’s main work is concerned with the theory of atomic nuclei. Together with Peierls, he developed a theory of the deuteron in 1934 which he extended in 1949. He resolved some contradictions in the nuclear mass scale in 1935. He studied the theory of nuclear reactions in 1935-1938, predicting many reaction cross sections. In connection with this work, he developed Bohr’s theory of the compound nucleus in a more quantitative fashion. This work and also the existing knowledge on nuclear theory and experimental results, was summarized in three articles in the Reviews of Modern Physics which for many years served as a textbook for nuclear physicists.
His work on nuclear reactions led Bethe to the discovery of the reactions which supply the energy in the stars. The most important nuclear reaction in the brilliant stars is the carbon-nitrogen cycle, while the sun and fainter stars use mostly the proton-proton reaction. Bethe’s main achievement in this connection was the exclusion of other possible nuclear reactions. The Nobel Prize was given for this work, as well as his work on nuclear reactions in general.
In 1955 Bethe returned to the theory of nuclei, emphasizing a different phase. He has worked since then on the theory of nuclear matter whose aim it is to explain the properties of atomic nuclei in terms of the forces acting between nucleons.
Before his work on nuclear physics, Bethe’s main attention was given to atomic physics and collision theory. On the former subject, he wrote a review article inHandbuch der Physik in which he filled in the gaps of the existing knowledge, and which is still up-to-date. In collision theory, he developed a simple and powerful theory of inelastic collisions between fast particles and atoms which he has used to determine the stopping power of matter for fast charged particles, thus providing a tool to nuclear physicists. Turning to more energetic collisions, he calculated with Heitler the bremsstrahlung emitted by relativistic electrons, and the production of electron pairs by high energy gamma rays.
Bethe also did some work on solid-state theory. He discussed the splitting of atomic energy levels when an atom is inserted into a crystal, he did some work on the theory of metals, and especially he developed a theory of the order and disorder in alloys.
In 1947, Bethe was the first to explain the Lamb-shift in the hydrogen spectrum, and he thus laid the foundation for the modern development of quantum electrodynamics. Later on, he worked with a large number of collaborators on the scattering of pi mesons and on their production by electromagnetic radiation.
Bethe is married to the daughter of P.P. Ewald, the well-known X-ray physicist. They have two children, Henry and Monica.
From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1963-1970, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972
This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished inNobel Lectures. To cite this document, always state the source as shown above.
Hans Bethe’s arrival at Cornell University as a refugee from Nazi Germany, at age 28 in 1935, launched the Department of Physics into the top rank. It was at Cornell, before World War II, that Bethe published his famous reviews of nuclear physics, and conducted his groundbreaking work on the theory of energy production in stars for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1967.
During the war, Bethe was a key figure on the Manhattan Project as head of the theoretical physics division. After the war, he brought some of the most outstanding young physicists from Los Alamos to Cornell, in particular, Richard Feynman and Robert Wilson. Under their leadership, Cornell moved into what is now called high energy elementary particle physics, a field in which Cornell remains on the cutting edge. That Hans Bethe has devoted virtually his whole career to Cornell has been of inestimable value to the Department and to the University.
Hans Bethe was born in 1906 in Strasbourg, Germany. He attended the University of Munich, studying with Arnold Sommerfeld, and after receiving his degree in 1928, taught at Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich. In 1930 and 1931, he received fellowships first to Cambridge and then to Rome where he worked with Enrico Fermi.
Bethe’s career spans the evolution of nuclear physics as we know it today. He has made contributions to almost all phases of the exploration of nuclear interactions and nuclear forces, but his scientific accomplishments go far beyond this. He produced the first major paper on the theory of order-disorder transitions in alloys, and his 1947 calculation of the Lamb shift paved the way for the revolution in quantum electrodynamics.
In the decade following World War II, Bethe and Feynman and their students played a central role in developing quantum electrodynamics, work for which Feynman shared the Nobel Prize. From 1945, until his retirement from the Cornell faculty in 1975, Bethe trained and inspired a large number of graduate students. Many have gone on to become internationally known scientists, among them Freeman Dyson. Bethe and his co-workers published important work across the whole spectrum of physics. Even today, in his nineties, his unique mastery of such diverse subjects as thermonuclear processes, shock waves and neutrino reactions have kept Bethe at the forefront of research in astrophysics.
Bethe’s impact transcends the Cornell Physics Department. The distinction of astronomy at Cornell owes much to Bethe’s inspiration and initiatives. He has been an advisor to several United States presidents on national security policy and, since World War II, has played a leading role in the public debate about nuclear weapons, defense policy and nuclear power. He was one of the founders of the Federation of Atomic Scientists and was a member of the original Board of Directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
In his public role, Bethe’s position has been that of a responsible scientist and a man of conscience eager to contribute his special knowledge to the public discussion of the great issues of our time. Hans Bethe is a remarkable combination of a truly great scientist who has also made major contributions in the public service of his nation.
Three Lectures by Hans BetheIN 1999, legendary theoretical physicist Hans Bethe delivered three lectures on quantum theory to his neighbors at the Kendal of Ithaca retirement community (near Cornell University). Given by Professor Bethe at age 93, the lectures are presented here as QuickTime videos synchronized with slides of his talking points and archival material.
Intended for an audience of Professor Bethe’s neighbors at Kendal, the lectures hold appeal for experts and non-experts alike. The presentation makes use of limited mathematics while focusing on the personal and historical perspectives of one of the principal architects of quantum theory whose career in physics spans 75 years.
A video introduction and appreciation are provided by Professor Silvan S. Schweber, the physicist and science historian who is Professor Bethe’s biographer, and Edwin E. Salpeter, the J. G. White Distinguished Professor of Physical Science Emeritus at Cornell, who was a post-doctoral student of Professor Bethe.
Get QuickTime, the free software that will allow you to enjoy these video and audio clips.
Hans Bethe’s publications span over 75 years and an incredible array of topics in physics, astrophysics, nuclear energy, arms control, and science policy. This page offers just a few starting points for those interested in learning about Professor Bethe and his profound influence as one of the great scientists of the twentieth century. Readers interested in learning more about quantum theory will readily find technical and popular references in libraries, bookstores, and online.