Today, I start a new adventure. I am joining the LENA Research Foundation in Boulder, Colorado. LRF is a 501(c)3 with roots extending back to 2004. LENA stands for Language ENvironment Analysis. It is also the name of their "verbal pedometer" device that records speech and, most importantly, tracks the conversation turns of small children. 

LENA Research Foundation
LENA Research Foundation is focused on children aged 0 to 5.
The technology is being used to conduct ground-breaking language development research all over the world. It has also been used to detect, diagnose and support early treatment of language delays and disorders like autism. The deaf and hard of hearing community has embraced the little 'iPod" device and has achieved great results. And recently, the foundation has shifted focus toward using the LENA tools to do something about language deficits for disadvantaged youth.   

The critical, watershed project to begin making a difference is Providence Talks, the winner of this year's Bloomberg Philanthropies $5M grand prize. The focus is children aged 0-2 in low SES homes. It's an audacious project. 

I'm thoroughly excited because of our mission-focused team and the opportunity to make a difference. 

 
My latest article for LiDAR News is out and focuses on improving effectiveness for presentations to customers and stakeholders. I was inspired to write on this topic by the recent passing of Amar Bose and a couple lessons I learned during a talk he gave at MIT in the late 1980's.
  1. Before You Reach for the PowerPoint Icon, Pull Out a Pad of Paper. 
  2. Tell a Story, Don’t Just Rely On Facts and Statistics.
  3. Fewer Words Mean More Listening
  4. Fewer Charts Mean More Time for Discussion
  5. You Know Your Stuff: Have a Conversation

Read more here
Dr. Amar Bose
Dr. Amar Bose

 
Code.org is a non-profit foundation founded in the latter half of 2012 that wants to dramatically grow computer programming education at a global level. They are motivated by the worldwide shortage of computer programming talent. At the same time, less than 20% of the states count coding classes toward high school graduation. As an initial assault on the problem, the organization aims to reduce degree to which learning a computer language appears to many to be an daunting, intimidating challenge. The video they just posted is well done and does a great job of conveying their message. Read more about them at Code.org
Code.org™ and the Code.org logo are trademarks of Code.org.  

 
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The latest edition of LiDAR News is out.  I contributed an article espousing some of the lessons learned from Eric Ries' bestseller The Lean Startup.  While the book's principles certainly lend themselves best to web-based software products, there is plenty that can be applied to those having significant hardware elements. The three best practices I highlight are: 
  1. Deliberately define 'Leap of Faith' Assumptions.
  2. Apply the Build-Measure-Learn construct with pre-planned Pivot meetings. 
  3. Shrink your batch size to improve efficiency and extend the runway. 
See the article for more details.  Also please read Eric Ries' book and great blog for a myriad of other valuable insights. 


 
I finally got around to reading through a great report jointly published by the Center for American Progress and the Innosight Institute. Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education was published in February of last year and was authored by Clayton Christensen, Michael Horn, Louis Caldera and Louis Soares. For those of you that enjoy anything written by Clayton Christensen and team, this is a must read and addresses an important topic. However, I do believe the report glosses over a key job that colleges and universities are hired to perform. That job is to provide an environment where students gain wisdom through the college experience,  a critical piece to the transformation to adulthood. It is far from clear how that job is or will be disrupted. However, if and when an enabling technology begins addressing that job even feebly, the pace of disruption will accelerate tremendously and all but the most prestigious colleges and universities will be overwhelmed.  

Disrupting College Report by Christensen et al
The Disrupting College Report was published in February of 2011.

 
It is with no small amount of trepidation that I have included a blog on my website.  Two primary concerns (no surprise here):   
    - Do I have something interesting to say?
    - Will I consistently cordon off the necessary time?

I then ran across Brad Feld's blog and two things happened.  First, I was a bit intimidated.  Brad is a prolific and interesting blogger.  He covers a range of topics and carries a great edge in his 'voice.'  He's based just up the road in Boulder, and is emblematic of the very active startup community here in Colorado.  Second, and more importantly, I learned a lot.  In fact, I found myself immediately putting a couple things I found there into practice.  For example, my Shelfari bookshelf page is a new addition today that was inspired by Brad.  I'm digging through some of his books and will probably pick a couple out for my own learning.  Perhaps you'll find one on my shelf that catches your eye. 

My perspective on this blog has already changed.  Rather than viewing it as an onerous obligation with an expectation to say something profound, it is foremost an opportunity to crystallize my own thoughts and learnings.  If readers gain new insights or fresh inspiration, that is simply icing on the cake. 

So, Feeding the Beast has begun.