Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Teaching is a risk worth taking

Some of you know that I taught my first operational risk course at the University of Washington last spring.  Though I've taught informally by virtue of internship programs I set up over the years, I was not prepared for how very satisfying teaching a graduate level course would be. I am grateful to the Information School for the opportunity -- that's the home of the iSchool, Mary Gates Hall, in the photo montage above.  I learned a lot from that first class, and have been working these past weeks to put those lessons into practice for the upcoming winter quarter.

I'll be teaching two courses in winter quarter:  the "Information and Operational Risk" course that I taught last spring; and a required course for second year graduate students in the UW Information School, titled "Policy, Law and Ethics in Information Management."  I've been knee deep in creating the course websites for students, which is also the mechanism by which they turn in their work.  It's a new tool designed to make things easier, but it's not intuitive.  The risk mitigation on this effort is being performed by an Information School graduate assistant, who helped migrate the content from old sites, and provide backup support.

Each course will meet once a week for three hours at a time, late in the day.  Students may be coming from work or from other classes, perhaps tired and certainly hungry by the time class is over.  Needless to say, it's quite different from making a 45 minute public presentation and answering questions for 15 minutes.  I'm determined to make the courses a mix of lecture and group discussion, with portions of each class discussion facilitated by a member of the class.    The op risk class will include a star-spangled lineup of guest speakers on aspects of operational risk.

I'll still be publishing articles, but I'll not be traveling much from January through mid-March.  Public speaking engagements will be easy hops from Seattle, not across the country or the globe.

When you teach, you introduce ideas for analysis and discussion -- and, if you are lucky,  what you might get back is something you did not already know.   So I like how research and teaching feeds the consulting practice and vice versa.   Most of all, teaching keeps me on my toes, testing just what I know and what I think from multiple perspectives.

Teaching is a risk well worth taking.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Take Winter by Storm

An NPR story this morning looked at how emergency planning in California has expanded since the state sent teams to the East Coast to work on response and recovery from Hurricane Sandy.  One of the officials interviewed mentioned that the amount of time it took to restore power (1-3 weeks, depending upon where you lived) after Sandy has changed their notion of what families should set aside as emergency supplies.  It's also caused California to think now about how they might house emergency responders pulled in after a disaster from other parts of the country.

In Seattle, we have a longstanding program called Take Winter by Storm.  The link I've offered here is for putting together an emergency kit that would last a family about 3 days, so you may wish to modify your stockpile accordingly.  The other thing to keep in mind is that, without power, it is hard for a pharmacy to look up your prescriptions, so it's best to see if your doctor will allow you to keep an extra order on hand at home.

In Seattle, we are right now being hit by up to 5" of rain -- so it's important to keep storm drains on the streets outside our homes clear of the leaves that tend to pile up this time of year so that flooding does not occur.

And if you are cursing the rain, please remember that in some other part of the country, others are suffering more than you are.  Compared to storm surge that destroys homes, rain here and snow in the mountains can be considered part of the seasonal cycle we agree to when we chose to live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Stay safe, everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Holiday Risk

December 2011

We are heading into the holiday season at a rackety pace.  Having celebrated Halloween and had a day off earlier this week to remember veterans, next week we celebrate Thanksgiving, my favorite occasion for reflecting on family, friends and home and for being grateful for what we have. 

Taking the time to reflect on holidays is the best way I know to reduce risk that arises in stressful situations.  I try to be deliberative in planning or accepting invitations to holiday events that seem to start in early December and run through the end of the year.  I try to avoid "Black Friday," allegedly the biggest shopping day of the year, both online and with local merchants, spending the day instead making some of the homemade gifts that we intend to give this year.  And I'll complete arrangements for travel  early in the new year.

In early December, I will re-discuss with myself the merits and tradeoffs in a fresh vs an artificial tree. And I will bring out holiday decorations for the house, trying to weed out and donate those I don't use anymore.    At the same time, I'll go back through our winter clothing for the same reason:  to donate clothing, especially warm coats, we don't really use anymore, to neighborhood youth shelters.   And I'll take pleasure in a longstanding holiday tradition, to write our annual holiday letter and put together a holiday photo card, and update mailing addresses for friends and family.

All of these actions are meant to 1) encourage thoughtful deliberation about what the holidays mean; 2) reduce the commercial aspects of the holidays; and 3) reduce risk from stress associated with the holidays.

There's a message in each holiday for each of us if we can but find the time to re-discover it.