Articles and insights related to happenings on the global stage.

“Roger, go at throttle up.” — Commander Dick ScobeeSTS-51-L.

Today I showed a The New York Times documentary from June 2014 titled “Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: Major Malfunction” in my MGT 205, Organizational Behavior class at the American University in the Emirates.

The documentary is about the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters; it explores how poor decision-making resulted in the death of the astronauts in both ill-fated flights.

Notably, the documentary is complimented by an article about the same subject matter from January 28, 2016 titled, “The Challenger Space Shuttle Disaster, 30 Years Later.

I shared this article with my students to provide background information and to ensure their understanding of both tragedies.

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In addition to watching the documentary and discussing the article, I asked my students to get into small groups. I then gave them a worksheet with the following five questions to pair and share:

  1. What was the external image of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) before the Challenger disaster on January 28, 1986 – and how did that influence the internal culture at NASA?
  2. How did the need for NASA’s Space Shuttle program to be self-funded influence it’s organizational culture, managerial operations, and decision-making process – especially as it relates to their willingness to take risks?
  3. How did pressure to launch the Shuttle and “amorally calculating managers” result in the death of the 7 astronauts?
  4. What changes were made to the Shuttle program as a result of the Challenger disaster? Did any of the recommendations address changes that needed to be made within the culture at NASA?
  5. What were the similarities between the Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia disasters? Why did NASA’s engineering culture, leadership philosophy, and safety policies still cloud its decision-making and lead to the second disaster?

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After 30 years the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster still brings tears to my eyes; I was 11 (almost 12) when it happened and it affected me profoundly. It shattered my innocence.

The Columbia disaster was equally as emotional, though by that point, I had experienced many other trials and tribulations of adult life, so it was a less shocking. Knowing that many of the same organizational issues caused the loss of a second Shuttle and her crew made me equally as frustrated and sad.

As a child of the 1980’s, the Space Shuttle program was a pivotal part of my early life experiences; it defined my generation to a large degree. When Space Shuttle Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on July 21, 2011, it signaled the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

Although a troubling topic — one of my students commented that it was “heavy” — challenging my students to think about something significant revealed many insightful observations. They were intrigued and engaged; I’ve never had a class as quiet as the one today.

Catfish fools? Since April 1st is widely celebrated as April Fool’s Day I wanted to share a post that, while not a prank, is a bit out of the ordinary: it’s a case of catfishing and catfighting. So, get your rod and reel ready and prepare to pull in a catfish!

On social media it can be hard to tell who is real… and who has reeled you in. As an example I present the following case of suspected catfishing and catfighting. Can you help solve the mystery?

Image via Flickr; Courtesy of Brent Moore

Two people — let’s call them Mark and Nate — met on Twitter and subsequently became Facebook friends.

Nate is a writer known for experimenting with social media as a channel for creative fiction. Keep that in mind for now.

They met thereafter in person. They had some mutual business together and discussed a potential partnership.

Nate also had friend — Molly — who became friendly with Mark through Nate’s Facebook page. Mark and Molly soon became Facebook friends.

Mark and Molly developed a strong friendship, but never physically met. However, Mark wondered — and still wonders — if he was being catfished by Molly (with Nate possibly having been Molly). Details include:

  • Absence of Authentication: Molly allegedly worked overseas as a lawyer for the United Nations. However, here was no record of her being a member of the bar in the state from which she claimed to be. There was also no information about her anywhere in association with the United Nations.
  • A Shallow Digital Footprint: Molly has NO digital footprint beyond her Facebook account — despite presumably working in a position of some prominence. Countless Google searches for her name yield no results. Who has no search results on Google?
  • Missed Meeting Opportunities: Molly claimed to have flown back to her home state in the United States, but never contacted Mark during an extended layover while in the city where he lived. She told him of her travels after she had presumably arrived back home.
  • Mysterious Medical Maladies: Molly would occasionally disappear for stretches of time. Usually when she resurfaced, she had some amazing story about almost dying or having some other medical malady. Again, no proof of any kind, just creative storytelling.
  • Odd Area Code: Molly called Mark from an area code in New Jersey — not a number remotely related to her stated overseas location or her home state. Molly explained this as due to her using a prepaid calling card. They did speak on the phone a few times, and her voice was female, but there is no guarantee she was who she claimed to be.
  • Unable to Video Chat: Molly was never available to Skype; there were always technical limitations or issues. She shared some pictures, but they were clearly dated by at least five years; maybe more.

Consider the concerns above in relation to the points in the video below:

Mark and Molly eventually had a falling out and defriended each other on Facebook. Nate later defriended Mark in solidarity with Molly, but never directly discussed the situation with Mark.

A year or so later Mark and Nate reconciled and reconnected on Facebook. A short time later Mark and Molly posted replies right after each other in one of Nate’s Facebook threads, randomly “bumping into each other” in the process.

Wanting to resolve the past issue, Mark messaged Molly with a conciliatory message. Molly replied positively and they agreed to put the past behind them. Mark and Molly were once again Facebook friends.

Mark and Molly began to message each other, catching up in the process. However, Molly had stories about what she had been up to. They all seemed overly dramatic — or at least lacking in some logic and details. Mark overlooked this in an effort to be optimistic.

Strangely, upon realizing Mark and Molly were again connected on Facebook, Nate became incensed and messaged Mark with a very confrontational direct message. The edited exchange follows:

Nate: “Leave Molly alone. You bugged Molly once before. That betrays my trust, and uses my friends for your aims.”

Mark: “I bugged Molly once before? Please, Nate; Molly is an adult who can make their own decisions. Why do you feel it is your place to intervene if you don’t know or understand the specifics of our previous interactions?”

Nate: “Buzz off, predator.”

Nate then blocked Mark on Facebook; Mark disconnected from Nate on Twitter and LinkedIn. Mark defriended Molly on Facebook as well.

Consider the case above and share your answers the questions below:

  1. Was Mark being catfished by Molly — and was Nate possibly involved?
  2. Should Mark have asked Nate for permission to re-friend Molly?
  3. Was Nate justified in his communication to Mark?

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…”

— The Beatles, Revolution

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As 2014 draws to a close people start listing resolutions they intend to achieve in 2015. Although well intended, 77% of people who make new year’s resolutions abandon them — many as early as the end of January.

I’ve never been much for making lists of resolutions, though as 2009 started I was inspired by Chris Brogan’s call to list three words that would inspire me and inform my decisions.

Ironically, in the months that followed my life took an unexpected turn that forever changed who I am and how I see the world. My three words were incredibly relevant some of the time, yet totally irrelevant at others. I survived a shock to my system that jarred me out of my comfort zone.

I learned that nothing is certain except the uncertainty of life. Yet, looking back over those five years I also realized something essential to my philosophy of lifelong learning: I evolved. What does that mean?

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If you look at the definition to the left the word that pops out at me is “gradually.” This means change takes time and therefore requires something we all could use more of: patience.

Because most resolutions are transactional they are nearly impossible to achieve unless you precede them with a transformational realignment. If you don’t change how you see yourself and your situation, any short-term goals are doomed to fail because you won’t have an accurate benchmark.

So, with all due respect to The Beatles (see the lyrics to their song Revolution, above), evolution is more realistic than revolution, especially on a personal level.

Am I perfect now? Far from it; I am full of flaws and continuing to evolve as an individual. I suppose that’s the point, right? But I am more aware of myself and more engaged in my life than ever before. I am embracing ambiguity more than before and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The impact has been exceptional, both personally and professionally. Most notably, I relocated 8,000 miles away to Dubai, UAE for a full time teaching position  — just two short weeks after being offered the job(and having never before been to Dubai)!

Although Dubai is westernized in many ways, it has still provided me a wonderful opportunity to experience an entirely different culture than the one with which I was accustomed.

I am endeavoring to become the person who I should be, not who other people want me to be. I refuse to let others define me and decide for me.

I am doing this as much for myself as I am to show my two sons — whom I miss a great deal — that there is a world beyond the boundaries of the city in which they live. I want to inspire them to adventure by my actions. In the spirit of Robin William’s character in Dead Poets Society (John Keating) I embrace a philosophy of “Carpe Diem!”

I understand evolution is a process that happens  — wait for it — gradually. Ask Darwin: evolution is a transformational process that fundamentally changes something over a length of time, not a short period of time.  Just as I will never stop learning, I realize I will never be “done” evolving.

My evolution might have happened naturally as a function of maturity when I turned 40 earlier this year, but the process was was undoubtedly accelerated by the five years before it. While in the midst of the moment I was often overwhelmed with the challenges thrown my way, I now look back with gratitude for having been strengthened as a result.

Certainly you don’t have to go through what I did; you can find inspiration anywhere. If you need a little boost, however, you might enjoy reading the book “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander. You might also find insight by completing the StrengthsFinder analysis; it was fundamental in helping me realize teaching was my perfect profession.

So, will you resolve to evolve in 2015?