In this episode I talk with Jim Bruner who works in child development and who draws on his long history of mentorship to develop diversity, specifically combining the arts with technology.
We started with Jim introducing the importance of diversity – turning STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).
He and his husband bought a farm and with is half Jim dedicated it to gardening and technology. He realized without diversity technology is a destructive component causing isolation and destruction. With diversity technology can be unifying. He works with anthropologists, sociologists, and ethnographers to apply diversity to “gardens” of people! This helps with his search for diversity of skill and talent among his students, working to elevate the individual while promoting team spirit and behavior.
A big breakthrough occurred when he realized there was benefit to be gained when the mentoring went outside a focused purpose – the children are unique “gardens,” themselves! Children need to be in an environment where they can thrive and grow, realizing for themselves what they can and can’t accomplish. Ask about their dreams, look at their art, etc., and let them talk about it. This helps children understand they don’t need permission to be who they are.
The conversation moved into STEM vs STEAM. The arts are critical to every stage of technology because without a sense of wonder and beauty there is no technology. Art is needed to move technology forward. THERE ARE NO SOFT SKILLS – technology moving forward is about people interacting based on mutual respect. It is grounded in creativity. With STEAM children are challenged to push their own limits to solve problems. This turns creativity on, which is art. Learning to do this within a group and build mutual respect is key. With the “A” for Art, STEAM turns STEM into creativity. It’s teaching children to lean through empathy and understanding.
One problem mentioned was the movement from “natural philosophy” to “science.” “Natural philosophy” is a frame of mind about connection across all areas of human endeavor which encourages art to be connected to technology – STEAM. On the other hand, removal of art in order to have STEM (as was done in the industrial revolution) risks dehumanizing and fragmenting the individual thus creating problems for and within children.
Jim, himself, lives a diverse life, from his farm, Mezzacello (https://mezzacello.org/) where children study food, technology, and learning, to the PAST foundation (https://www.pastfoundation.org/ ) which partners anthropology with science and technology.
“We don’t need more kids to work in factories. We need factories that can work with passion and creativity to reach new horizons.”
Maurice Sendak in his book, “I don’t care, Pierre,” discusses how a STEM frame of mind leads to demotivation – absence of love.
Technology flows from creativity which is forged in art, history, poetry, literature, love, laughter, and tears.
People are the beautiful strange attractors that create chaos leading to invention and technology.
But what about kids who don’t care? Kids who are outliers? They need mentorship both from adults but also peer-to-peer. They need to be empowered by learning to trust themselves and others. It has to do with vulnerability and dealing with the associated challenges. We discussed how Apollo 13 reflects what is being spoken. (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/apollo/missions/apollo13.html, 13 Factors that Saved Apollo 13)
To reflect all this Jim teaches algorithms to children via Tai Chi – 11 movements tied together by a story. He can teach the algorithm to children in 3 weeks! The problem with algorithms arise when they are dedicated to a single purpose, e.g., profits. People then become devises meant only to achieve the goal – their humanity is subtracted. People are multi-dimensional and for children to thrive they need to learn how to explore and express all their dimensions both individually and on the team. In other words, have children who are successful sooner teach those needed more time and input.
In business, then, what is best is focusing on human capital and a culture based on wanting each other to succeed.
Jim goes on to talk about ignorance, stupidity, and fear along with how a CEO is best suited to deal with them and gain respect of employees.
- Ignore stupidity
- Eradicate ignorance
- Use knowledge to replace ignorance
- Care about what people feel about each other
- Then, care about what they think about you
He summed it up with a quote from Maya Angelou, “People don’t remember what you did, they remember how you made them feel.” Telling people, “I appreciate you make my bottom line stronger and I am stronger because of you,” is much more powerful than, “You have to make my bottom line stronger.”
At one point the judging panel comprised 2 adults from a given industry. The children couldn’t take the criticism! Eventually, all critique was changed to 2 adults + all the kids in that particular group with the kids opinions ranking as important as the adults. Success ratios went through the roof! Rather than critique the students saw their peers’ judgments as being a “plus.” It built empathy. It promoted honesty, openness, and vulnerability. It supports the understanding that people are power and that vulnerability is a key component for a successful team. It teaches children to blossom.
“Innovation is rented, not owned and the rent is due today,” is a poster on Jim’s office wall. You surf the edge of chaos, go back and implement, and then get back out to the edge of chaos to gain new information and insight as well as helping keep one sharp. Reinvent the journey!
The conversation switched to the importance of just being yourself rather than trying to have a face for each situation. This includes “not just sitting there,” which lead to discussing the difference between homeostasis and stability. Homeostasis is an “alive” situation which takes energy and commitment to maintain, e.g., holding a body temperature of 98.6° F. Stability is a dead state – everything goes towards maximum entropy.
When children start to cry Jim reminds them they are an emotional supercomputer. The brain functions on emotions – what one feels can appear more real than what is. Consequently, teaching children to respect but step away from letting the emotions rule is important. While emotions can be genuine they can mask a reality that is key for the child to learn to be successful. How Buddhism works into generating this frame-of-mind was discussed.
Briefly, the need for social media to be “more human” was discussed. Humility is a character trait that is profoundly missing in today’s business leadership.
Rather than throwing people a rope, Jim teaches them how to make their own rope.
A potential next podcast is the intersection between technology and people discovering themselves. If you think this is a good idea, send us a comment at email@example.com.
Jim’s profile can be found at LinkedIn
His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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