Image via Wikipedia
I had a dream last night:
I was reading a scientific texbook co-authored by two mid-career Massey University chemists. The section I was reading was explaining about biochemical cycles, such as the Krebs Cycle. However, the authors were explaining how they had identified a radically different way for explaining the same results that were achieved by the Krebs Cycle. Their explanations gave rise to the possibility of new biochemical compounds, particularly those chellated with metals such as gold, Au. They had succesfully synthesised some of the compounds that they had forecasted were possible ONLY through their new explanation.
The book was primarily a textbook about biochemistry and organic chemistry. It was a fine-quality printed hard-cover book that spoke with the confident authority of its authors backed by their publisher [Oxford or Cambridge University Press?]. Consquently, the text was written in the ‘third person’ and contained detailed drawings of biochemical pathways such as the Krebs Cycle. [I had to memorise these pathways as a student of biochemistry and organic chemistry during my degree studies in biotechnology in the 1970s]
However, the authors introduced their personal story of how they had discovered a new biochemical pathway. In the tradition of science writing, it was an ‘objectivised’ rather than ‘autobiographical’ story. One of the authors was surnamed John. [My middle name, incidentally]. I recall that in the dream I was very impressed by their feat of discovery. It reminded me of the same feat of scientific imagination that lead 19th century German scientist Kekule to identify the ringed structure for C6H6, benzene.
I awoke from the dream surprised to find I had been dreaming: the detail on the textbook pages seemed so realistic and credible. What is the importance of this dream to me? Is this my ‘Kekule dream’? … Have I made a discovery that will lay down the foundations for a vast industrial empire such as Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Hoechst, and Du Pont? Or perhaps a post-industrial empire based on eco-magination, eco-innovation, eco-sustainability, or industrial ecology?
Metabolism. Image via Wikipedia
My partner was interested to learn about my dream. We spent our breakfast hours this morning discussing. Literal objectivist that I am, I explained how Kekule dreamed he saw snakes chasing each other. Eventually, two snakes caught each others’ tale, and formed a ring. This ring inspiration inspired Kekule to propose - and subsequently validate through experiment - the ringed structure of benzene with alternating double and single bonds between the carbon atoms.
Aside: Kekule’s discovery opened up a whole new field of chemistry and chemical manufacture since the ringed structure had never before been conceived. Now we know that ringed biochemical structures are vital for life on this planet: consider the chlorophyll molecule that creates oxygen and biochemical energy for plants from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight.
With the convenience of my NEW iPad 2, I was able quickly to find some entertaining and/or informative YouTube videos about the Krebs cycle, Kekule, and organic chemistry generally. These YouTubes my partner enjoyed (The first being a ‘rap’ version my niece might appreciate as part of her science studies!).
Video: Benzene: A true story
My partner proposed that my dream was a response to my recent reading of Logan and Logan’s (2006) inspirational writings from the world’s leading thinkers. Many of the selections in their book portrayed practical - but revolutionary - scientists’ thinking and approach in quite a different light to that which I had let myself become ‘conditioned’ to believe: an approach of systematic, logical investigation propelled by diligent adoption of ‘The Scientific Method’. The Mr Spock (of Start Trek) Method. For example, see my quote about Pasteur’s method of practice, here.
I feel the dream is ‘knocking on my door’ about writing a different kind of book. A book DIFFERENT to the style that I feel compelled and expected to write as a university-based ‘academician’. A new, though not radically innovative, genre of writing style that is substantially more engaging for the reader than a traditional academic text or journal article. Namely, a book that is BOTH strongly educative (facts, ideas, arguments) as one sees in a textbook PLUS engaging through personal, but relevant anecdotes about the journey - or struggle - of the professional discipline about which I am writing…. Perhaps a ‘bloggy’ style of book, like my pogus tumblr writing…..
As I re-read the previous paragraph I am reminded of a book I read at school that taught me organic chemistry. The book was constructed landscape with the left column presenting the main text, but with blanks you had to fill in. The right column included the answers. Simple, but an effective self-teaching resource.
There is a (real) knock on the door. A package has arrived delivered by courier. I am surprised - and delighted - to find a book I ordered only earlier this week:
Mann, S. (2011). The green graduate: Educating every student as a sustainable practitioner. Wellington, NZ: NZCER.
What do you think my dream is telling me?
(I sketched out half a dozen responses to this question - but my tumblr editor DELETED them! What does that mean!)
Logan, P., & Logan, R. (2005). Your True Purpose: Inspirational readings from the world’s leading thinkers. Christchurch, N.Z.: Hazard Press. Retrieved from http://www.johnreedbooks.com.au/catalog/10226-YourTruePurpose-9781877270956/16351
I was surprised at the precision that the SQ analysis noted regarding my passion for reading, which is primarily non-fiction. I guess it began in the early 1960s when my parents purchased a 24-volume set of Encyclopaedia Brittannica. That was my internet. I learned how to make blackpowder, yoghurt and rockets. The books were a great source for school assignments in New Zealand.
An incident: Once I ‘entertained’ my English teacher at high school by presenting a book review of two books on nuclear engineering: ‘Perils of the Peaceful Atom’ (Curtis & Hogan, 1970) and the ‘Encyclopeadia of the Atom’. I was 14 at the time and was setting my career towards designing safe nulear and thermonuclear power stations. However, once I had arrived at university, New Zealand was a declared non-nuclear nation, and had pulled out from its plans to build a nuclear power plant near Wellington, at Makora.
I should note for the record that I do ‘input’ from other sources beyond books. One important daily source is the Sky satellite channels such as History, Documentary, BBC World, and Discovery. I also have an extensive collection of DVDs spread across four genre: drama, music and opera performance, documentary, and comedy. Furthermore, I am an avid photographer and videographer. My Aperture photo library contains about 20,000 images. Of which 4700 from my three-month sabatical in America, and a similar number from the same period in Africa in 2005. As a music-lover and amateur singer, my iTunes sound library contains 7000 songs, and 24 days of recording. Sound recordings (of lectures and my musical performances) from my H2n Zoom digital recorder are also now populating my sound library.
The epiphany for me was the feedback about my interest in learning about the individual differences in people so that I could: better match my teaching to their needs, and better find people with whom they could work together productively. I had hitherto presumed this interest was a basic, hard-won mediocre skill that had ‘made sense’ for me to learn given my role as a teacher of management, leadership, and team work. These ‘people roles’ were somewhat remote from my earlier understanding of what management was about: the application of management science.
I can pinpoint exactly how I have learned developed this meta-Individuation talent. The journey began with my exposure almost 20 years ago to the Myers-Briggs type indicator under mentorship of a Jungian analyst. The MBTI indicator confirmed me as a serious geeky nerd, we might say now (INTJ = Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger). I had just completed my doctoral dissertation in operational research/management science (Mellalieu, 1982). I operated with the presumption, informed by Mr Spock of Star Trek fame, that all problems could be subject to rigorous analysis and deduction, without heed of emotional considerations…. Perhaps you see why my wife at the time sent me of for analysis!
I discovered the Belbin Team Role indicator as part of a piopneering course employing outdoor adventure learning and Revans’ action learning (Leberman & Mellalieu, 1996). My Belbin Team Role identified that I was not just a creative nerd ‘Plant’ (as per the MBTI), but also a Coordinator and collector of ideas from others: a Resource Investigator. Apparently, a rare combination.
Meredith Belbin’s approach impressed me with its apparent ability to predict the potential strengths and failings of a team - provided you knew the Belbin signature of the component team members. The importance of understanding individuals in a team context was confirmed vividly when a team of my postgraduate entrepreneurship and innovation students collapsed from stunning success (winning the inaugural SIFE competition in New Zealand) to outrageous failure as the Belbin Apollo Syndrome took root.
What implications might this learning have for my professional and/or personal life? The StrengthsQuest analysis gives me comfort and confidence that I can proceed from basic capability to a degree of excellence in applying strengths-based education in the context of enterprise development and innovation. I am pleased that I took the decision to embed the StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment as a key component of my teaching in my BSNS 5391 Innovation & Entrepreneurship course. In that course, I place particular emphasis on the notion that we might not all posess talents to be a succesful entrepreneur, but with careful recruitment and team-building, we can create a winning enterprise (Mellalieu, 2010).
E-Evaluate: Could the process of learning (and teaching) have been more effective and/or efficient? I have taken 20 - 25 years to arrive at this point of confidence in applying Strengths-based education! So, yes, perhaps the process could have been more efficient! That is why I task my students to work together on an innovative venture. During that venture, they share their StrengthsQuest profiles, reflect on their learning, and produce a Professional Learning Agenda (PLA) for their continued development beyond my class. My personal learning may have been serendipitous, initially unwilling, and occasionally epiphanic. However, my intention is that my students achieve a more productive and effective start to their strengths-based journey of career and personal development.
P-Plan: In what ways might this learning incident serve me in the future?
Note: See other postings about reflection in my blog, http://pogus.tumblr.com/search/reflect
Curtis, R., & Hogan, E. (1970). Perils of the Peaceful Atom: the Myth of Safe Nuclear Power Plants. Littlehampton Book Services Ltd.
Leberman, S., & Mellalieu, P. J. (1996). ALP-DevCo and the Action Learning Programme: A Trojan Horse for Moving from Mystery to Mastery - Training educators to use experiential education using an isomorphically-framed training-products development company. In Proceedings of the Outdoor Education Conference: From Mystery to Mastery (pp. 66-83). Turangi, NZ: Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre of New Zealand. Retrieved from http://web.mac.com/petermellalieu/Teacher/Examples/Entries/2007/10/8_Training_educators_to_use_experiential_education_using_an_isomorphically-framed_training-products_development_company.html
Liesveld, R., & Miller, J. A. (2005). Teach with Your Strengths: How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students. Gallup Press.
Mellalieu, P. J. (1982). A Decision Support System for Corporate Planning in the New Zealand Dairy Industry (Doctor of Philosophy in mathematics, statistics and operations research). Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10063/568
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010). Creating a winning enterprise: your place in the entrepreneurial process - Internet Archive. Retrieved from http://www.archive.org/details/CreatingAWinningEnterpriseYourPlaceInTheEntrepreneurialProcess
Mellalieu, P. J. (2010, March 10). Creating a winning enterprise: your place in the entrepreneurial process - Scribd. Slideshow, Auckland: Unitec Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/28298764/Creating-a-winning-enterprise-your-place-in-the-entrepreneurial-process