Reflection on Critical Thinking, 21st Century Intellect

“Critical thinking” recently topped a Forbes list covering important job skills for the 21st century, suggesting employers are looking for candidates who “use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems” (Casserly, 2012).

As Socrates opined, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” We must constantly re-examine our beliefs, and identify when remaining intellectually honest requires us to accept contrary opinions. We must represent a genuine curiosity for other’s belief systems.

We’re already highly collaborative today. Every day, more than 500 terabytes of data is sent to Facebook, with the processing of text, photos and videos (Facebook, 2012). Twitter’s microblogging platform receives 12 terabytes daily (Naone, 2010). Actively and passively, we’re creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day – 90 percent of the world’s data was created within the last couple of years. (IBM, 2013). Continue reading

Colorado Students Unveil Civil Rights Tribute, Remember 9/11

PEYTON, Colo. – “The hatred I see today bothers me – it bothers a lot of people,” said James Wade, while unveiling a school project Sept. 11.

Wade, 17, a 12th grader known for his creativity at Patriot Learning Center in Peyton, Colo., had led the school’s ninth through 12th grade social studies students’ three-day civil rights project that combined ideas, materials and artworks.

During the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, they unveiled to their school a pictorial tribute to the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

Hung in a hallway, a large, bell-shaped pressboard contains the collage of student works, each representing excerpts from King’s speech. A cutout of the word “freedom” is situated as the bell’s clapper. Continue reading


Preying on Big Data

The falcon soars to a pitch high above a plain, surveying for an attractive piece of data. Another 2.5 quintillion bytes is filling the landscape today, stuffing social media posts, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, cell phone GPS signals and other information systems.

He anticipates the flow of information, staying a step ahead of reactions, considering all environmental conditions. Circling the surroundings, he isn’t expecting the feel of familiarity, but thinking instinctively – nothing is unfamiliar. The characteristics of untrustworthy, unreliable data are consistent across state borders. Continue reading

How 12 Strangers Agreed on Murder

Six months ago, I was walking in downtown Colorado Springs wearing a blue-and-white pin labeled “Juror Div. 8.” I was part of a group of people selected by two teams of lawyers to interpret evidence in the 4th Judicial District of the Colorado State Judicial Branch.

After the lawyers completed their arguments in the first-degree murder trial, the jury was excused. I’d decide a man’s guilt with eleven other people, culminating two weeks of listening to witness testimonies, and getting acquainted. Finally, we could speak about the most meaningful thing this group of strangers had in common: a twisted love triangle and its deadly shooting. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: Exploring the Fields Listening

During a dialogue coaching call today, I examined the fields of listening within personal relationships. I guided my coachee through understanding the transition from judgmental listening to listening from outside, and then into empathic and generative listening. Each field carries a concurrent change in dialogue, where actors in a conversation move from the shallow exchanges of politeness or debate into those of inquiry and flow. My coachee explained two recent conversations with people in her private life. Continue reading

Dialogue Coachee Call: ‘Who is my self?’

“Who is my self?” That was one of a couple of self transcending questions I needed to answer last Friday, ahead of a call today with my dialogue coach. I traveled to Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, grabbed a stone and considered it.

“Who is this person, this being?” At first, nothing happened. Perhaps, the question has no answer, or it’s capable of infinite possibilities. I jotted down words on a piece of paper: thinker, experimenter, worker, stress-free, risk-taker, divergent. The words were soon followed by phrases: “living life,” “not wasting time,” “finding a personal purpose”, “experiencing many mini purposes for a greater overall purpose.” As I wrote, I started to metaphorically lift from my self, thinking more critically of who I am — not what I or other’s expect, but who I’m being. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: ‘Who is my self?’

While facilitating a dialogue coaching call today, I found further evidence that everyone struggles with who they are. People are caught between conflicting personalities, resulting in the occasional discomfort or confusion. After my coachee reflected on the question “Who is my self?” while taking a brief walk in the afternoon air, she identified an internal conflict: her authentic self and ideal self. While authentically loyal, goal-orientated, determined and sometimes selfish, she strives to strike a balance with her ideal self to ensure a meaningful yet altruistic life. “Ideally, we’re all here to serve each other for some sort of synergy,” she said. Continue reading

Dialogue Coachee Call: Practicing Suspension

Today, my dialogue coach and I discussed my ability to suspend judgments. Suspension is considered critical to preventing a conversation’s breakdown, as it transitions from argumentative to inquiry. We reviewed how to best carry conversations from debate and argument to more reflective dialogue. Without an authentic capacity to suspend judgments, people quickly succumb to overwhelming feelings of anxiety and frustration or politeness and denial. The result is talking tough or nice, or completely halting the dialogue process before it breaches the barriers leading to meaningful acts of mutual and collaborative understandings. Continue reading

Dialogue Coaching Call: Reflecting on Suspension

During a call today, I was a dialogue coach for someone reflecting on suspending judgments during employee evaluations. She’s hoping to transition her evaluations into moments focused more on inquiry than debate. Suspension has proven difficult for one employee who routinely reacts defensive, re-enforcing prior conclusions. However, to improve understandings and cultivate a more collaborative work environment, she feels it’s important to persist at suspending judgment. Continue reading

Coachee Call 2

During my second call with my dialogue coach, we examined some of my conclusions after exercising David Kantor’s four-player conversation model. Kantor suggests actions a person may take during a conversation: movers initiate ideas and transition the conversation; opposers challenge ideas and the conversation; followers complete ideas and support the conversation; bystanders provide perspective on the ideas and conversation. We also considered the implications of creating a “container” for generative dialogue, and whether that container is considered negative or positive. Continue reading