Category Archive: Education and Training

  1. 2017 Year in Review: Revenge of the Women

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    Women’s March – Jan. 2017

    2017 started at one of the bleakest moments for American women since the birth of the modern feminist movement in the 1960s.  Women faced the prospect of being governed for the next four years by an admitted sexual predator and a Republican Congress hellbent on taking away their health care.  To make matters worse, White women had actually put Trump in office, voting against the first female for President.  From this bleak beginning, a remarkable thing happened.  Women finally broke their silence.  They finally said enough is enough.  Starting with the massive Women’s March in January, which was larger than the inauguration of the Groper-in-Chief, and accelerating with the #MeToo movement that exposed sexual harassment in every corner of our society where men hold exclusive power, women are truly the biggest story of 2017 in the USA.


    Pundits warned us that Trump was unfit to be President throughout the presidential campaign, but did the American voter listen?  Of course not.  We don’t need no stinking experts to educate us about anything.  Instead, Americans voted their misogyny by electing a man who promised to put White men back in charge and back in the privileged positions that they had enjoyed for centuries until the civil rights movement insisted that everyone have an equal opportunity to succeed.  After Charlottesville VA, we learned that “Make America Great Again” really means “Make America White Again.”

    So, we got what we knew we were going to get — an ill-tempered, bigoted egomaniac who is utterly unfit to be the Commander-in-Chief and Leader of the so-called “Free World.”  Even his dwindling band of supporters must constantly apologize and clean up after their idol, who like an incontinent cow, continues to spew bullshit everywhere he goes, setting records for the number of lies that can be packed into 140 characters. While the media focuses on his Twitter feed, he is attempting to destroy the federal government by preventing public agencies from executing their stated missions and instead turning them into privatized entities for the benefit of the wealthy.  The Republican Party acts like the biggest problem in America is that the rich don’t have enough money.  So, in their sole legislative achievement of 2017, they passed a tax cut that gives 60 percent of the benefits to the top 1 percent. For all they care, the rest of America can die of an opioid overdose in a cardboard box under the nearest freeway overpass.

    Never in American history has a President been embroiled in so much scandal so quickly.  Trump’s National Security Advisor lasted all of 3 weeks and has now plead guilty to a felony.  Three other Trump campaign aides have already pled guilty or been indicted.  His son and son-in-law are rumored to be next in line for indictment.  As of last count, 18 Trump campaign officials met with Russians tied to Putin during the campaign and every single one of them lied about it afterwards until caught.  Russian agents and bots used Facebook and Twitter to interfere in our election in support of Trump.  We still don’t know the full extent of the collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but what has already come out in the past year should be cause for alarm.  If the Russians had sent their warplanes and bombed Washington, DC, we would have declared all-out nuclear war.  Instead, they sent their secret agents and cyber warriors to attack our election using our own media as a weapon against us, and we are sitting around arguing about whether we should do something to defend ourselves.  One thing is for sure – Trump has a man-crush on Putin.  We still don’t know exactly why, but that will come out eventually, perhaps in 2018.

    Trumpism has also brought us cronyism, nepotism and many other forms of corruption.  Having seen first-hand overseas the devastating consequences of a culture of corruption, where nothing gets done without bribery and quid pro quos, I am particularly troubled at the rising level of corruption in our own federal, state and local governments.  People used to run for office to serve the public, but now it has become a means to serve and enrich oneself and one’s campaign donors.  If we don’t get money out of politics, we will face the same level of political corruption that we used to laughingly refer to as “banana republic.”  Perhaps we will be the first “apple republic” (with a nod to Johnny Appleseed).


    The U.S. economy continued to expand in 2017, growing at a rate of just over 2 percent, about the same as 2016.  The global economy also recovered from a slowdown in 2016 and posted healthy gains.  U.S. unemployment declined to 4 percent, reflecting continued hiring, although much of it was due to replacement of retiring boomers rather than business expansion.  Some economists argued that the U.S. had achieved full employment and that further hiring would be limited by the lack of willing workers.  Others pointed out, however, that about 18 percent of the workforce are working part-time or as contractors when many would prefer full-time employment.  Moreover, millions of Americans who dropped out of the labor market during the Great Recession have yet to return.  This suggests the economy can still absorb more new hires if employers are willing to offer full-time work at living wages with benefits.  Unfortunately, that does not seem likely, given the corporate world’s addiction to outsourcing and contingent workers as a means of controlling costs.  Although full-time employment as a percentage of the total has recovered from the Great Recession low of 80 percent, it has stalled over the past several years, while part-time employment continues to grow.  Moreover, wage growth has also not accelerated as one might expect in a tight labor market.  The average American got a 2.5 percent raise this year, barely keeping pace with inflation.

    Meanwhile, U.S. corporate profits rose by an average of 6 percent in 2017, spurring the stock market to record highs.  What are companies doing with all the extra profit they earned?  As we’ve seen above, less than half of the profit went to higher salaries.  The rest of it was handed to shareholders in the form of dividends, spent on buying up competitors through mergers, or was simply banked as undistributed profits, expanding the already sizable horde of cash that companies are piling up in tax-free havens around the world.  Technology investment rose in some sectors, particularly robotics and artificial intelligence.  From self-driving vehicles to self-service banking and retail, the future looks increasingly automated.

    The one thing few businesses did with their largess was expand operations and hire new workers.  You might be wondering why businesses don’t reinvest more of the money in growth.  The reason most cite is that the demand for new products and services is simply not there.  Every first year Accounting student knows that if a company produces more than it can sell, it will suffer a loss in the form of unsold inventory. Since the U.S. is largely a consumer-driven economy, demand only grows when people have more money in their pockets to spend.

    Instead of stimulating demand, the huge tax cuts recently passed by Congress are aimed at stimulating supply in the form of more money circulating in the economy.  The 40 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate and 5 percent drop in the rate paid by the wealthiest Americans amounts to a nearly 5 trillion-dollar give-away over the next decade.  The government’s own accountants estimate this will add 1.5 trillion to our bulging national debt and will exacerbate the widening gap between rich and poor. Things have already gotten so unequal that just three Americans – Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos – possess more combined wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population representing 160 million people.  Republicans claim that the tax cuts will spur so much economic activity that they will pay for themselves in increased tax revenues from all the extra money circulating in the economy.  Based on history, this trickle-down, supply-side economic theory is about as likely to happen as your winning the lottery.

    Predictably, government revenues will decrease dramatically and Republicans will be back in 2018 suddenly shocked (shocked!) to discover that tax receipts have declined, despite their prior assurances that no such thing could ever happen.  They will then call for cuts to all the government programs that they oppose (which now includes everything but the military).  Pundits have pointed out that the Republican Party even has a name for this strategy “starve the beast.”  It is a two-step process.  One, cut taxes on the rich and reduce government revenues. Two, cut the social safety net for everyone else to bring spending in line with reduced revenues and increase the tax burden on the middle class. This tax bill is candid about who it is intended to help – corporations get a permanent 40% tax cut while individual tax cuts will expire in 10 years, leaving the middle class on the hook to pay at least $1.5 trillion more in debt.

    Evidence from past Republican tax cuts going all the way back to the 1920’s and repeated in the Reagan and Bush eras shows that most of the extra tax relief provided to the rich never makes its way back into the economy to benefit the lower classes.  Instead, the wealthy tend to keep the money for themselves, increasing their luxury lifestyles.  Moreover, all the money sloshing around in the hands of the wealthy leads to rampant speculation and an overheated bubble which will eventually burst, leading to recession or worse. It happened in 1929, 1987 and 2008 and it will happen again in a few years, mark my words. Republicans may have bought themselves temporary victory in 2018, but this will blow up in their faces before long.

    If Congress really wanted to stimulate the economy, the most direct way would be to give every single American more money to spend, not just the wealthy.  If the 5 trillion in tax cuts was divided up equally, every single American man, woman and child would get $15,600.  Most of us would spend every penny of that on increased consumption, saving or debt reduction, providing a huge stimulus to the economy.  Instead, the average American worker will be lucky to get $1,000 extra and about one-third of the middle class will get a tax increase due to the elimination of many popular deductions, while the one percenters will get millions and even billions in tax relief they don’t need and won’t productively invest.

    Apparently, the real purpose of tax cuts is not to stimulate the economy, as advertised by advocates, but simply to enrich politicians and their wealthy donors at the expense of everyone else.  Since most Congressman are millionaires themselves and their top political donors are 1 percenters, they stand to benefit the most from the latest tax cuts.  Trump’s family alone is estimated to receive a one-billion-dollar windfall from the elimination of the estate tax, despite his repeated false claims that he will personally owe more.  Of course, there’s no way of telling for sure, since he refuses to release his tax returns and has declared it is smart to avoid paying taxes altogether.


    The #MeToo movement sprung up after shocking revelations about sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment business, starting at the Weinstein Company.  As more women took up the gauntlet and revealed their own #MeToo moment of sexual misconduct, more powerful men were exposed and forced to resign – TV news anchors, producers, actors, musicians and politicians among them.  By now, it is a movement that is flexing its political muscle, preventing accused pedophile Roy Moore from election to the US Senate. By exposing the misbehavior of powerful men, #MeToo has revealed a culture that is far from its professed ideal of treating women as equals.  Much as Americans like to criticize the rest of the world for its treatment of females, we now know our own house is full of lechery and abuse.

    Although the vast majority of #MeToo stories are from women harassed by men, a few stories have also been shared by men.  After over 50 years of silence, I have a #MeToo story I am prepared to share for the first time.  Emboldened by the bravery of the women who have come forward, I began to reflect on my own life experience.  When I was 14 years old and on a cross-country bus trip to Reno, NV, an adult male got on the bus and sat in the seat next to me.  He was perhaps in his late 20s or early 30s.  I said little to him during the long ride.  That night, while I was asleep, he reached over and grabbed my crotch.  When I awoke with his hand fondling me, I immediately jolted and turned away from him.  Moments later, I got up to use the restroom and when I came back, I changed seats.  I never said anything to him nor did he ever speak to me.  I felt dirty and ashamed that I let this happen, but never uttered a word out of embarrassment.  Did I suffer any long-term effects?  Not really.  I put it out of my mind and tried to never think about it.  Still, it was a shocking introduction to homosexuality for a 14-year-old boy who knew nothing of this at the time.  When I think back on it now, I realize he committed a serious crime, but at the time, I was convinced that no one would ever believe me or worse yet, would think I somehow invited the unwelcome conduct.

    Based on my own experience, I understand why some women take years before they can summon the courage to come forward and report what they have hidden in shame deep within themselves.  However, as painful as revelation can be, it can also be liberating.  When we speak out about the unspeakable conduct of predators, we put a name and a face on ugly behavior that has gone unreported since the dawn of human society. We make it harder for predators to get away with their abuse.  I hope that this leads us to a better society where we respect each other, not prey on each other.  I realize this is hopelessly optimistic, given our dog-eat-dog culture, but I applaud all the women who have had the courage to step forward and take a stand for dignity, respect and equality. We have so much work ahead to achieve the American dream of prosperity, liberty and justice for all.  


    This year was kind to everyone in my immediate family, myself included.  Despite attempting to cut back as I ease into retirement, I wound up working and earning more than last year.  My girlfriend Tania is busy opening a new restaurant in Redlands, my mother Harriet is enjoying retirement in the middle of her eighth decade, my sons Vince and Steven are both building their careers and granddaughter Jade has started school and loves it.

    My business continued to reap the benefits of increased investment in training and development.  According to Association for Talent Development’s 2017 State of the Industry report, both spending per employee and average hours of formal learning increased last year. Thanks to my many wonderful clients, I took trips to Haiti, UAE and the Philippines this year, and I managed to work in a bit of pleasure along with the business.  I also traveled to several U.S. cities for business, including San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Austin, DC, Phoenix, Erie PA and Dothan AL.  I am truly blessed to have three reliable clients who together give me all the work I can handle.  With customers like I have, I doubt I’ll ever retire!

    I decided to have my DNA tested this year to find out more about my ancestry and medical history.  It was quite an eye-opening experience. Medically, I was relieved to find out that I am unlikely to pass on any hereditary diseases to my off-spring, although the test did confirm that I have a hereditary disease that affects blood clotting and a 25% increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. This news gave me pause, but I would rather know what may happen and take steps now to prevent it than face the future in a state of ignorance.

    While the ancestry tests confirmed that I am primarily Irish, British and Scottish, I discovered other parts of my ancestry that I had never known, such as Italian, Romanian, Gypsy, Jordanian and West African lineage on my mother’s side and Native American (Iroquois) on my father’s side.  I had always thought of myself as a plain vanilla White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, but I found within my genes a much more diverse human being.  I believe if we were all to learn about our ancestry, we would realize that we have much more in common than the superficial differences which divide us.


    Priceless Moments

    2017 gave us many priceless moments we won’t soon forget, even if we tried.  Here are a few of my favorites.

    North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jung Un:

    Your juvenile shouting match with Trump alarmed the world and led many to declare you crazy, but I see an insecure, unqualified leader who is desperately clinging to power at any cost, even if that means threatening to destroy the whole world.  In that way, you are just another tin-horned authoritarian with an oversized bullhorn.  The world has a bumper crop of leaders like you, including the current resident of the White House.  

    Former Presidential Press Secretary Sean Spicer (aka ‘Spicy’):

    It’s not easy lying with a straight face to cover the blizzard of lies emanating from your boss’ Twitter feed, but you took deception to a whole new level with claims that photographs showing far fewer people at Trump’s inauguration than Obama’s were fake.  After all, who are you going to believe?  The President’s false claims or your own lying eyes? Even Nazis didn’t lie as blatantly as you.  At least you provided employment to one person – Melissa McCarthy made a mint caricaturizing you to perfection.

    Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein:

    One would think a wealthy kingmaker like you would be able to attract females without resorting to assault, but maybe it isn’t about the sex after all.  Maybe it’s about using your power to get whatever you want, because according to your buddy Trump, “When you’re famous, they let you get away with it.”  Well, not any more, bub.

    Late Night TV Comedian Jimmy Kimmel:

    Your monologues about your baby’s illness and the vital importance of health care probably saved the Affordable Care Act from certain Republican repeal.  Thanks for thinking about others who are less fortunate than a millionaire celebrity and might see their own infant die from lack of money to pay for outrageously-priced health care.  But I wonder what it says about America when a late-night comedian has more moral authority than the 49 U.S. senators who voted to deny coverage to 20 million people?

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:

    The next time you block my FB account because I posted a 30 second clip of a copyrighted concert, please remind me to buy a FB ad with Rubles so I can reach 120 million of your customers with fake uncopyrighted propaganda.

    Singer/composer Luis Fonsi of Despacito (Slowly):

    Your catchy little ditty loaded with sexual innuendos was the smash hit that we could not get out of our brains, but the title also aptly sums up the government’s response to the devastating hurricane that hit your home of Puerto Rico.  Three months later, 30% of the island is still without power and potable drinking water.

     Bitcoin cryptocurrency:

    The latest speculative craze to sweep the world, bitcoin enjoyed a spectacular year, rising over 1500%.  But when everyone and his brother is telling you to jump into this gaming pit or suffer FOMO, it’s time to head the other way.  The big boys have made a killing and are about to pull the rug out under regular investors.  Remember the boom and bust?  This will be bigger yet.




  2. Psychological Process of Learning

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    One of the most important topics covered in the Designing Learning certificate program that I teach for ATD is the neuroscience of how humans learn.  Thanks to breakthroughs in medical science, we now know much more about how the brain functions when in a state of learning.  Applying this to instructional design and delivery of training promotes natural learning methods that tap into the way our brains are programmed to learn from the moment of our birth until our last breath.

    So, what has science taught us about how humans learn?  Learning begins with our five senses and their ability to experience the world around us. Those experiences are filtered through our short-term memory, which processes and assigns meaning to the sensory information it receives.  Some of that information is transferred to our long-term memory, where it joins the repository of everything we know and have experienced in our lives.  When we need a piece of that knowledge, we use memory and references to help us recall it from our long-term memory bank.   The process is illustrated below.

    Based on Memory Model by Richard Atkinson and Richard Shiffrin (1968)








    Note that as information enters and is processed by the brain, it can either be forgotten or passed along to our long-term memory, where it becomes a permanent part of us.  We forget for a number of reasons.  First, our senses may become overloaded by too much stimuli.  If we try to process a rapid series of images, we are likely to forget much of what just passed before our eyes.  Second, our working memory is also subject to overload.  While it is a marvelous processing center, it has limited capacity, typically no more than 7-9 discrete pieces of information.  Once we go beyond its capacity, the working memory can no longer process new information without getting rid of what it currently contains.  For example, imagine someone quickly reciting their telephone number in a voice mail message.  What is the likelihood you will remember that 10 digit number without writing it down?  Unless we encode new information in our long-term memory for future use, the information that we never use is forgotten forever and must be relearned.  Finally, our long-term memory can also cause us to forget when we are unable to retrieve (remember) a piece of knowledge when we need it.  We’ve all had the experience of having the name of something on the tip of our tongues, yet we can’t recall it.

    What causes us to remember?  One important factor is rehearsal or practice.  The more often we repeat something, the more likely we will remember it and be able to use it on demand.  That’s why we easily remember our own phone number, one we have likely had a long time and use frequently, while we don’t remember the phone numbers of acquaintances we rarely call.  Other key factors which contribute to remembering are:

    • Interest in the subject – we tend to remember what fascinates us and to forget what bores us
    • Effort – learning requires our full attention and considerable effort.  When we fail to give it our all, we learn less.
    • Recency – we tend to remember what just happened better than events in the distant past.
    • Sensory integration – the more senses that are involved in the memory, the more vivid it becomes and the more likely we will remember it later.  Our visual sense is the most powerful for learning.
    • Emotional element – we tend to remember events with a high emotional component, such as births, marriages and deaths.
    • Physical well-being – we learn best when we are rested and well-nourished.  Stress and sleep deprivation make learning even harder than it already is.


    Besides applying these fundamental learning principles, we can also promote more natural learning by tapping into the way our brains work in processing new information.

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    Robert Gagne’s 9 Events of Instruction    











    According to educational psychologist Robert Gagne, the process of learning involves nine key events as shown above.    Let’s now explore each of these in more detail to see how they help participants learn.

    1. Gain attention
    We need to prepare learners by giving them reasons to learn the subject at hand.  We can appeal to self-interest (WIIFM) or point out the importance of the knowledge and skills to be acquired.

    2. Orient the learner
    We learn best when we see the big picture and meaning of the subject before diving into the details.  Providing a list of learning objectives and the requirements for successful learning helps learners orient themselves and gauge the amount of effort required to succeed.

    3. Stimulate recall of prior learning
    It helps us learn something new if we can relate it to something we already know or have experienced in the past. So it’s a good idea to ask learners about their past experiences and to use analogies to relate new content to familiar knowledge.  One thing to watch for is when prior knowledge contradicts the new knowledge.  In those cases, the prior learning will actually be a barrier to learning something new.  It may be necessary to first unlearn the old way before learning the new way.

    4. Present content material
    Presentation is the most obvious process of instruction, although it is often done through passive lecture which leads to forgetfulness.  To make presentation more effective, it should organize and chunk knowledge into meaningful bites that working memory can process.  This lowers the cognitive load on the learner.  It is also helpful to use multimedia to engage the senses and to engage learners in discussion and Q&A to deepen their understanding.

    5. Provide learner guidance
    Make the learning process simpler at first by providing instructional support and models. Use case studies and examples to illustrate the application of knowledge.

    6. Elicit performance practice
    Help learners internalize new knowledge and skills through relevant practice.  As much as possible, practice should model what learners are expected to do on the job.   Avoid practice that only calls for rote recall.

    7. Provide informative feedback
    To facilitate learning, provide feedback on the practice activities that learners engage in.  Two types of feedback are important: 1) confirmatory feedback that reinforces what learners did right and 2) corrective feedback that points out mistakes and ways to correct them.

    8. Assess performance
    To measure newly gained knowledge and skill and evaluate the effectiveness of the instruction, assessment should be included and based on the learning objectives.  This can be done through traditional written exams or through performance-based assessment of the learner or a product the learner has produced.  A pre-test is useful to isolate the learning gains caused by instruction.

    9. Enhance retention and transfer
    Learning does not become performance unless applied on the job.  To encourage skill transfer, provide job aids and reference materials that are accessible to learners on the job and encourage supervisors and experienced employees to continue skill building through coaching and mentoring.

    In Gagne’s books, Conditions of Learning and Theory of Instruction, he argued that these nine events should form the framework for instructional design.  Each lesson, module and course should incorporate these events based on the objectives.  He presented many examples to illustrate how this theory can be implemented in a wide variety of educational settings.

    To learn more about the psychological process of learning and the best ways to analyze, design and develop effective adult training programs, consider registering for an upcoming ATD Designing Learning certificate program.  I will be facilitating this course from December  13-15 in San Francisco.  More sessions are coming in 2018.




  3. Interview with ATD Education Manager regarding Designing Learning Certificate Program

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    Here’s an interview I recently did with ATD’s Amanda Smith on their Designing Learning Certificate Program. Dr. Ford has been a Facilitator of this program since 2004.

  4. 2016 Year in Review: The Divided States of America (DSA, DSA!)

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    The Big Picture

    Globalization is under attack.  It is the revenge of the Nativists.  Across the world, people voted for nationalistic populists who promised to save them by erecting walls and cutting off ties with the rest of the world.  Transnational corporations who have benefited the most from the global economy are the new bogeymen.  It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary setback for globalists or the beginnings of retreat from a world order created out of the ashes of World War II.

    DSA Presidential Election

    A year ago, I predicted the American presidential race would come down to a choice between hope and hate.  After the most divisive election since the Civil War, the result was also divided.  Clinton won the popular vote 48 to 46%, making her the winner in every other functioning democracy in the world except America.  Thanks to the Electoral College, an 18th century relic of slavery and the Founders’ distrust of “We, the People,” Donald J Trump will become our next President instead.  So, I guess hope and hate fought to a draw, except that hate actually gets to govern.

    Trump won on the basis of a new brand of anti-global populism, which also swept the UK with the Brexit vote and brought Duterte to power in the Philippines, to name only two examples.  People have had it up to here with elites living the high life while their lives are mired in perpetual debt.  The populists view globalization as a threat to their economic livelihoods and their cultural identities.  Trump stirred these two strains into a toxin that blamed immigrants and minorities for the economic plight of the white working class. He used the classic principle of divide and conquer to get his followers to turn their fear, anger and hate against Mexicans, Muslims, African-Americans, gays and anyone else who is not White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.  In Trump’s DSA, you’re welcome only if you are White.  “Everyone else should get the hell out and go back to where they came from!”   Trump even wants Native Americans to hightail it back across the Bering Strait and take their gambling casinos with them.

    In the greatest con job in the history of America (and that’s saying a lot), Trump convinced just enough people that he was their working class celebrity hero come to their rescue.  This from a man born in the lap of luxury who has never had to work an honest day of manual labor in his entire life!  A man who dodges his tax obligations, hates unions, stiffs his contractors, and sexually harasses his female employees.  This is the man who will save the working class?  Forty-six percent of Americans bought this line.  P.T. Barnum was right: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”   Journalist H.L. Mencken’s observation also comes to mind: “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.”  Judging by the Billionaire Boys Club that Trump has assembled for a Cabinet, the working class better not bend over, to use one of Trump’s favorite campaign rally lines.

    Are Americans really as divided as our politics suggest?  Let me count the ways:

    1. Democrat vs. Republican
    2. Progressive vs. Conservative
    3. Urban vs. Rural
    4. Free trade vs. Protectionism
    5. Pro-choice vs. Pro-life
    6. Christian vs. Muslim vs. Jew
    7. Raise taxes vs. Cut taxes
    8. Public vs. Private Education
    9. Public Health vs. Privatization
    10. Black Lives Matter vs. Police Unions
    11. Carbon vs. Renewables
    12. Environmentalists vs. Polluters
    13. Organic vs. GMO
    14. Peaceniks vs. Hawks
    15. Conservation vs. Consumption
    16. Developers vs. NIMBYs
    17. Football vs. Soccer
    18. Rock vs. Country
    19. Mini vs. Maxi
    20. Paper vs. Plastic
    21. Boxers vs. Briefs

    We disagree about virtually everything these days and do it more vehemently and profanely than ever before. We have huge bullhorns weaponized by social media and the entertainment industry to dispense our hateful opinions for all to hear.

    To illustrate how divided we are, Americans in California voted for the first Afro-Indian-American Senator in history, banned sales of military-style ammunition and legalized recreational cannabis, while voters in Alabama elected candidates endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, legalized open carry of weapons and banned a woman’s right to abortion.  Californians actually have more in common with Australians than Alabamans, and arguably, the Aussie accent is easier on the ears.

    Perhaps that’s why a nascent Cal Exit movement has started in California in Trump’s toxic wake.  We would become the sixth largest economy in the world and if we could persuade Oregon, Washington and Hawaii to join us, we would rival Germany for the fourth largest economy in the world and become the Chile of North America. Of course, I’m dreaming, but what a fantasy!

    Despite all these differences, however, I notice that when I travel around our nation, as I frequently do for business, the people I encounter daily do not act like my hostile opponent.  For the most part, Americans mind their own business and treat others politely.  It is only when we feel threatened that the deep divisions that sunder us come into play.  Economic anxiety leads to anger which leads to hatred towards a scapegoat which leads us to the Alt-Right and Trumpism.  You might think that the working class would reject an oligarch like Trump, but instead they worship him.  They reserve their real contempt for those they perceive to be below them on the social ladder.  The Russian author Pushkin explained this best when he observed about the serfs of feudal Russia, “The poor are miserable until they find someone who is even more miserable than they are, and then they are happy.”  So Trump supporters are dancing in the streets and committing hate crimes smugly assured that at least they are better off than the people Trump promises to run out of the country.

    Modest Reforms

    I realize this is purely wishful thinking, but here are a few of my modest proposals to reform the broken electoral process in the DSA:

    1. Abolish the Electoral College and have a direct popular vote for President, just like every other elected office in America and the rest of the world. What can possibly be wrong with majority rule based on one person, one vote?  What’s the valid argument against this principle?
    2. Guarantee citizens the right to vote
      Believe it or not, our constitution does not include a guaranteed right to vote, despite describing elections.  The reason for this was that back in 1787, only white males who owned property were allowed to vote.  They constituted less than 20% of the population, but had all the power.  Voting rights were left to states to decide, encouraging more of them to abridge voting rights for political advantage, leaving millions of Americans without representation.  Photo ID and restricted voter registration laws, coupled with antiquated voting systems, have thrown millions of citizens off the voting rolls or relegated them to a provisional ballot that never gets counted.  We could make voting as simple as paying a bill, but the politicians won’t do it.  You have to ask yourself why they are so hell-bent on preventing people from exercising the most precious right granted by a democracy?
    3. Get money out of politics.
      The obscene sum of money spent on a two-year presidential election represents real government waste and fraud.  Over a billion dollars to listen to candidates insult each other and the electorate’s intelligence on the public airwaves?  It’s no wonder we abhor politicians.  Elections should be confined to no more than 12 months and dark money and legalized political bribery must be outlawed.
    4. Require politicians to adhere to Truth in Advertising laws.
      Advertisements on the public airwaves must comply with laws that require advertisers to tell the truth about the products they pitch.  This prevents someone from claiming that their snake oil cures cancer.  But politicians exempted themselves from these laws.  Political ads are the only ones on TV that can lie with total impunity, under the fig leaf of free speech.  If political ads had to comply with truth in advertising, we would clean up the worst abuses of our election process.  For that matter, so-called “News” programs should also have to conform to Truth in Advertising instead of propagating fake news and one-sided opinion. Fox News should be required to rebrand as GOP TV (GOPTV) and MSNBC should have to rebrand as the Democratic News Channel (DNC).  At least that way, the public would know what they are watching.


    The Economy

    Free trade was a big buzz word in 2016, with a decidedly negative connotation. From both the left and right, free trade came under attack for the loss of American jobs and the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession.  Calls for a return to protectionist tariffs abounded on the campaign trail.

    According to economists, the data says that free trade has been a boon to the global economy, enabling the free flow of goods and creating a burst of development in Asia, Latin America and Africa, which had been left behind in the past.  The problem is that free trade did not benefit nations equally.  Some came out winners, while others lost.  For America, the real problem with free trade, dating back to its origins with Richard Nixon in the 1970s, is that we were not trading goods with other nations, but trading American jobs for cheap imported goods.  Transnational corporations, who largely wrote the free trade agreements under which we operate today, allowed themselves to trade high-paying factory jobs in America for low wage labor in China and then import those cheaper goods back to America duty-free, with only the shipping charges to pay.   This policy has cost America over 15 million manufacturing jobs.

    The result is that America is running a $750-billion-dollar trade deficit with the rest of the world.  No other nation comes close to this deficit, nor would any other nation tolerate such imbalance.  So why does the DSA?  Because it benefits powerful U.S.-based transnational corporations who operate global businesses to maximize profits at all costs by searching for the cheapest sources of labor, the lowest cost producers of raw materials and the most sheltered tax havens, all while bequeathing the disasters they leave in their wake for governments to clean up at the public expense.  It’s called privatizing the profits and socializing the costs.  They actually teach how to do this in some of the leading business schools these days.

    Trump’s call to renegotiate trade deals like NAFTA and TPP and to slap a 5-15% tariff on imports played well during the campaign, but it may never happen.  If we did impose new tariffs, it is certain our trading partners would retaliate with their own tariffs, causing prices of imports to rise and risking a trade war that would send the global economy into another deep recession.

    A better idea would be to impose the social costs of lost jobs on those companies that choose to dump their American workers in search of cheap labor.  Like most European countries currently require, America should force companies who engage in mass layoffs in order to ship jobs overseas to pay the full cost of unemployment insurance for as long as it takes for their laid off workers to find new jobs.  They should also be forced to pay for retraining these workers to help them find new careers.  If companies knew they were financially responsible for the livelihood of their displaced workers, they would rethink their desire to chase slave wage labor around the globe.


    As always, cultural trends continued to evolve in 2016.   Here’s a run-down of some of the most significant ones.

    E-sports Booming:

    My sons introduced me to this phenomenon with their enthusiastic embrace of playing video games and watching pros play in tournaments in front of thousands of cheering fans.  Steven even joined his university’s e-sports team, which competed in tournaments against other colleges.  Some universities are awarding e-sports scholarships, like they do for traditional athletes.  This is a trend that promises to explode in popularity as millennials embrace this new form of entertainment.

    Exterminating Life on Planet Earth:

    With no fanfare and little notice, several hundred species disappeared in 2016, a growing trend that shows no signs of stopping.  From disappearing bees to extinct fish to alarming declines in large mammal populations like elephants and rhinos, we are witnessing the beginning of another mass extinction on Earth.  The last time it happened, we humans weren’t around, but the dinosaurs disappeared after roaming the Earth for over 100 million years.  If we do not wake up and start to address the causes: global warming, rampant overdevelopment, pollution and animal poaching, we will suffer the same fate as the dinosaurs.

    In 2016, we crossed another deadly threshold when carbon dioxide in our atmosphere reached 400 parts per million (PPM).  For those readers who are not science geeks, the last time the atmosphere contained that much carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat, over an extended period, dinosaurs inhabited the Earth, Canada was in the tropics and sea level was 25 feet higher than today, due to the melting of polar ice caps.  Can you imagine what life will be like when sea level rises 25 feet?  Every major port and most of the metropolitan areas of the world will be under water, displacing billions of people.

    Population Bomb

    The world’s population crossed the seven billion mark in 2016, at least according to the best estimates.  We are actually reproducing like rabbits these days, more quickly than demographers can keep up with the numbers.  In my lifetime, world population has grown from 2 billion to 7 billion. We are on pace to hit 12 billion by 2100.  This rapid increase in population is unsustainable.  We already have cultivated over half the arable land on the planet and have little place to put the five billion people who will join us over the next 85 years.  Back in the 70s, Paul Ehrlich warned of this impending disaster in his book The Population Bomb.  We didn’t listen then and probably won’t listen now either.  Family planning is opposed by too many of our institutions.



    Training Education Management LLC continued a string of strong years, with steady employment at Southern California Edison couple with work from American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Association for Talent Development (ATD).  Training and human development are hot right now.  Savvy business leaders recognize that their human capital is their best competitive advantage.  ATD’s annual State of the Industry for 2016 showed healthy increases in investment in training and talent development.  I expect this will continue for at least the next ten years, as 300,000 baby boomers retire every month and are replaced by about 150,000 millennials.  When companies are hiring, they also tend to be training.

    I continued volunteer work through Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), where I counsel budding entrepreneurs at the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce and serve on their Economic Development Council.  As Volunteer of the Year for the Redondo Chamber in 2015-16, I have redoubled my efforts to give back to my local community, especially in encouraging youth to consider careers as entrepreneurs.

    On a personal note, my two sons, Vince and Steven, had very good years as well. Vince is working in the video game industry for one of the top firms and developing his own entrepreneurial plans to launch a business focused on a Better Legacy for the future. And to think, I kept telling him as a kid that he was wasting his life playing video games all day!  Steven is a junior at Cal State University Fullerton and manages to be a student, worker and father simultaneously.  Granddaughter Jade is our pride and joy.  She is four going on forty, learning Chinese and English, and can actually carry on a more logical conversation, in two languages, than I ever managed to have with a Trump supporter.  My mother, Harriet Hurlburt, now lives with me most of the year.  It’s been a real pleasure to spend so much time with the person who gave me life and knows me better than anyone else in the world.  Tania and I had the pleasure of visiting Hearst Castle on the central California coast and Santa Barbara this summer.  I also made separate business trips to Abu Dhabi and Edmonton, Canada this year.

    Priceless Moments

    No year in review is complete without a look back at some of the memorable moments we won’t soon forget, even if we wished we could.

    To Hillary Clinton:

    You came so agonizingly close and yet could not shatter the thickest glass ceiling of them all.  As the first female candidate for President, you had to run against a misogynist celebrity, the FBI, the Russians, and even your husband’s twenty- year old infidelities.  Thanks for trying so relentlessly and for going high when Trump went so very low.  My disappointment is that I will probably never live to see a woman become President.

    To Bernie Sanders:

    You gave voice to 40 years of progressive frustration over the corporatization of America and came oh, so close to pulling off a bigger upset even than Trump.  I hope you lead the fight against the privatization of our country; I’ll be right there with you.

    To Donald J Trump:

    Since we share a given name in common, I have a very personal interest in your performance as President.  Depending on how you do, my name will either gain a sudden burst of popularity (no one in America has named a son Donald in 40 years) or it will go down in infamy, never to be used again, like he who must not be named.  Gulp!

    To American Women:

    I confess I do not fully understand the female mind, as the women in my life will testify. But this year I am utterly baffled that so many White women voters supported a confessed serial sexual predator instead of the first female candidate for President.  Trump trounced Clinton by 30 percentage points among White males, which was completely understandable, but Trump also won the vote among White women by 11 percentage points.  That’s like African-Americans voting for the KKK, Native Americans voting for General Custer, or Mexican-Americans voting for Sam Houston.  In an attempt to understand this, I turned to the wisest woman I know, my mother.  She explained that women don’t stick together like men do and too many married women just go along with whatever their husband wants.  If this is true, I despair that America will ever elect a woman president.

    To Outgoing President Barack Obama:

    Thank you for your service to our country.  You took over during one of the darkest moments of modern times and managed to rescue us from the Great Recession, extract us from the quagmire of Iraq, give Americans universal health care, reestablish relations with Cuba and negotiate treaties to ban nuclear weapons in Iran and to combat climate change across the globe.  You did all this without a single vote from Republicans in Congress, who fought to obstruct everything you attempted.  When the history books are written 100 years from now, you will not only be recognized as our first African-American president, but also as one of our greatest Presidents.  In my lifetime, I think you rank right up there with John Kennedy as one of the two best Presidents I have every personally witnessed.

    To the 2016 Word of the Year: Surreal (adj. strange because of combining elements that are never found together in reality)

    It certainly was a surreal kind of year.  At times, we couldn’t tell reality from fiction, with all the fake news and bizarre pronouncements.  Among the more surreal moments for me was watching the Republican Party choose its nominee based on the size of his hands instead of his brain. (I’m still trying to figure out how I’m going to explain that to my 4-year-old granddaughter).  The Cubs finally winning the World Series after a 108-year drought and the Cavs finally winning their first NBA Championship for Lebron were also pretty surreal moments for sports fans.

    To Pokémon Go:

    The year’s hit game featured the first world-wide adoption of augmented reality, in which digital elements are superimposed over real places, leading hordes of Pokémon players to wander around with their heads buried in their smart phones, trying to catch them all.  Like many innovations, augmented reality came to life as a game, but it has huge potential to change much more as it develops.  Many experts predict that augmenting reality will be a bigger deal than the virtual reality goggles that hip trendsetters were seen wearing in public this past year.  Watch for 3-D holograms to be the next big thing on the horizon.   





  5. The Future of Training?



    A colleague of mine recently asked me to contribute my views on the future of training.  I thought this was a tough assignment, since I have no magic crystal ball to predict the future of anything.  But as I thought about the request, several themes kept rolling around my brain.

    The future of training will be tied to three key megatrends – the future of work, of technology and of our planet.  I will briefly describe each in this post.

    Future of Work

    The nature of work is undergoing dramatic changes that will change the way people earn a living and develop skills over a career.  We are moving from the industrial model of work which has dominated our lives over the past century to a post-modern world of independent freelancing.  While our parents and grandparents went to work in mass lock step formation for corporate behemoths which assembled employees by the thousands in towering offices and cavernous factories, our children and grandchildren are more likely to work for themselves in small businesses that they help found or in a gig economy that treats everyone like an independent contractor.

    The implications for training and development are profound.  Today, most training is paid for by employers who want their people to be more productive on the job.  In the future, companies will not make the same investment in independent contractors who may not stay around long enough to pay their employer’s investment back in increased productivity.  Instead, freelancers will have to develop themselves to keep their skills sharp and competitive.  How that will happen and who will finance adult training and education is an open question at this point in time.  Possibilities include government financing of adult training, much the way that public schooling is now financed, or individual training accounts that grant a sum of money that individuals can use to acquire needed training.

    Future of Technology

    Technology has already dramatically altered the landscape of learning through the rapid introduction of e-learning over the past several decades.  Today, nearly half of all adult training is delivered online over the Internet.  This is expected to increase, although the classroom will never totally disappear.  As technology becomes more pervasive, we will see increased reliance on its accessibility and ubiquity to deliver training just in time to whomever needs it wherever they happen to be.  Mobile learning will become second nature, much like Internet searching is today.  Need to know how to operate a complex piece of equipment or how to prepare for an upcoming meeting?  There will be an App for that and for every other thing that human beings might need to know.  Building this online encyclopedia of human knowledge and skill will occupy instructional designers for a very long time, perhaps forever, as new knowledge is created and catalogued on a scale previously unknown in human history.

    Future of the Planet

    We are living in the era of globalization, where events in one part of the world have ripple effects across the globe.  As the world evolves into a single marketplace, national borders will have less significance.  Indeed, we are already seeing that transnational corporations have evolved into more powerful institutions than the nation-states who gave them birth.  Global brands like Apple and Google already have more money and clout that most national governments  and they grow stronger every day.  Simultaneously, a backlash against globalization is emerging, led by populist nativists who oppose the growing power of the corporate elites.  This struggle will continue for the foreseeable future and the outcome is uncertain, but one thing that is clear is that we will work in an increasingly diverse world that requires cross-cultural skills that do not come naturally to humans.  Our instinct is to trust those that are like us and to distrust those that are different.  If we cannot overcome our instincts, we are in for more bloodshed and war.

    To complicate things further, we are in the process of destroying our planet through pollution and destruction of all other forms of life except ourselves.  As the consequences of global warming become more dire, we will be faced with the prospect of learning to live in harmony with nature or seeing our very existence on this planet threatened by mass extinction.  I’d like to think that education and training can help us overcome the existential threat to our species, but I’m also pessimistic about our willingness to recognize and confront the future before it consumes us.  We tend to have perfect hindsight, but can’t seem to see what is right in front of our noses.

    What do you think?  Will education and training save us or will we wake up too late to save ourselves and our planet?