Friday, 5 October 2012

Newsletter Issue 224, October 2012

Sam Young Newsletter

Issue 224, October 2012
Hi guys,
I take a wander around what it might mean to be an academic in the The Academic/Business Divide below.
Carol Kinsey Goman has another great piece on how to tell if those we are speaking to have the Body Language of the Disengaged, AND she lets us in on how to fix it.
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The Academic/Business Divide

At a meeting with an old friend recently, we found ourselves on opposite sides of a divide that I didn't even know I entertained; that of "academics versus business". It sparked what has been a period of pondering on what does it really mean to be an academic, and is that different to being a  business person... and am I now an academic?
I had all this fluff wafting around in my head about integrity, objectivity, freedom, learning, teaching, research, exploration, theory to practice, thin-slice experts, boffins, ivory towers, tenure and so on, but no real idea as to what all that puffery added up to.
Of course, what I did immediately was to google "What is an Academic?". But for once, google was almost wilfully unhelpful.
Baby g abandoned, I then I headed off to Google Scholar and the databases.
Nixon, Beattie, Challis & Walker (1998) had some pearls: "for each of us—as a shared, contested concern—is the moral authority [by which...] we teach and enquire" (p. 278) and Nixon's own view that academics provide freedom for others by ensuring they "have the responsibility to speak their own minds, to learn in accordance with their own interests, and to enjoy a secure framework within which to learn" (p. 278).
For me it started to get really interesting when Nixon said that academics "protect the interests of [their] occupational group [which] espouses and, at best, practises supremely important values—intellectual honesty, scholastic rigour, self-examination, respect for divergent views, etc" (p. 279). Nixon went on to talk about having a primary teaching relationship, research, professional development and - interestingly - being ethical; "ensuring openness and transparency in our professional dealings with one another" (p. 283).
Beattie explored the idea that "academic professionalism is understood as responsibility. It is grounded in relationships with students, research participants, and colleagues, and position's learning [...] at the heart of the academic endeavour" (p. 384). Challis also stated that academic lecturers generally "consider the interests and aptitudes of the individual learners to be of paramount importance" (p. 290) and perhaps should consider themselves to be "academic 'educationists', who are up to date with current trends in teaching and learning" through on-going best-practice professional development (p. 290).
There is also this issue of independence. When you work for a company, it is assumed that you can't be an academic, because you are being paid to prioritise corporate interests and goals. Danah Boyd (25 August 2009) tackled this in her blog post asking "Am I an Academic?" because she had left her Uni research post and started work for Microsoft. She felt that she remained an academic, despite being paid by a commercial venture, arguing that universities are largely property barons with a monopoly on learning. While I respect her point of view, I still have the sneaking suspicion that independence comes more from being paid by the community, for the community, and that perhaps private US educators aren't really 'pure' academics... hmm.
Further regarding the public/private debate, we have an additional complication with the dirty-boots brigade - the applied learning sector. The 'tradies', where I teach. There is a wonderful cloud of perceived snobbery between Unis and Polytechnics where it is assumed that academia would have to be at a pretty low ebb to include Polytech lecturers as academics. However, in applying Nixon's ideas of that primary teaching relationship, research that contributes to their profession, personal development, ethics, learner focus and teaching expertise, I would say that those lecturers with whom I work are largely true academics.
They, like their state-funded Uni compadr├ęs, are also finding it hard to reconcile the understandable cuts that are being forced on them by governments in order to balance the public purse in these times. There is an enormous tension between teaching best-practice and getting the numbers through, between objectivity and expenditure, that rests uneasily with those who teach.
Here in New Zealand, budgets are being trimmed continuously. I know of two long-serving lecturers who have gone on stress leave this year: one has now taken early retirement. Both felt there was enormous pressure to teach in what they saw as in an expeditious way, in order to acheive government markers, which was not what they should do as 'academics'.
Whether that view is correct or not, it brings me back to this core question of what an academic is. There is obviously a lot of principle involved, as many academics find they are broken on the wheel of their own principles.
So what is this area of principle? Part of it is the pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself (although this has been seriously eroded by funding constraints), part of it is academic rigour - honestly developed, fairly attributed, expert-drawn, rational and balanced argument - and a large chunk is this is focusing on what is best for the learner. Boy, the latter is a can of worms.
Trying to get to what makes for effective teaching is something that I am currently studying, and it is hard to find sensible data out there. We know it when we see it; but measuring it? That's another thing entirely!
So how is this different from being a business person? The duty we have when working for a corporate is both to our organisation's and to our professions; we will each have our own principles, but while we should make rational and objective decisions, no one minds too much if we get subjective from time to time. But there is a difference.
Weick cited John Gardener (1968, p. 90, as cited in 2002, p. S71) who felt that learning institutions stand "for things that are forgotten in the heat of battle, for values that get pushed aside in the rough-and-tumble of every day living, for goals we ought to be thinking about and never do, for the facts that we don't like to face, and the questions we lack the courage to ask". Wow. Big responsibilities, in a stewardship role for society.
I suspect that an academic is someone who is principled and concerned with fair, objective and rational evaluations of students. They focus on teaching, using best practice. Can we then say that an academic is an honest, objective and independent professional who takes responsibility for delivering best practice teaching and research that will facilitate student, the education sector and the community's on-going learning ...?
I would be interested to hear what anyone else thinks.
  • Barcan, Ruth (Sept 1996). The Body of the (Humanities) Academic, or, "What is an Academic". Australian Humanities Review, September/November 1996. Retrieved 20 September 2012 from
  • Boyd, Danah (25 August 2009). Am I an academic?. Retrieved 26 September 2012 from
  • Dittmann, J. Paul Ph.D (2008). Bridging the gulf between business and academia. Retrieved 20 September 2012 from
  • Karlsson, Jan; Booth, Shirley & Odenrick, Per (2007). Academics' Strategies and Obstacles in Achieving Collaboration between Universities and SMEs. Tertiary Education and Management, 2007, Volume 13, issue 3 (pp. 187-201).
  • Nixon, Jon; Beattie, Mary; Challis, Maggie & Walker, Melanie (1998). What Does it Mean to be an Academic? A Colloquium. Teaching in Higher Education, 1998, Volume 3 issue 3 (pp. 277-298)
  • Rynes, Sara L.; Bartunek, Jean M., & Daft, Richard L. (2001). Across the great divide: Knowledge creation and transfer between practitioners and academics. Academy of Management Journal, Apr 2001, Volume 44, issue 2(pp. 340-355)
  • Weick, Karl E. (2001). Gapping the Relevance Bridge: Fashions Meet Fundamentals in Management Research. British Journal of Management, December 2001, Volume 12, Issue Supplement s1 (pp. S71-S75)

Body Language of the Disengaged

Sometimes when we are speaking, feel the loss of energy in the room and know that we have lost our audience. Carol Kinsey Goman published the following article in Forbes Magazine about why this happens and what to do about it, which she has kindly allowed me to share with you all.
You’re in a meeting, and it’s going well. You can tell because of the positive body language that your colleague has been showing you. And then, something happens – you’re not sure what — and everything changes.
In business communication, engagement and disengagement are the most important signals to monitor in the other person’s body language. Engagement behaviors indicate interest, receptivity, or agreement while disengagement behaviors signal that a person is bored, angry, or defensive. Here’s how it looks from head to toes:
  • Eyes: When someone is disengaged, the amount of eye contact decreases, as we tend to look away from things that distress us and people we don’t like. Similarly, a colleague who is bored or restless may avoid eye contact by gazing past you, defocusing, or glancing around the room. And, instead of opening wide, eyes that signal disengagement will narrow slightly. In fact, eye squints can be observed as people read contracts or proposals, and when they occur, it is almost always a sign of having seen something troubling or problematic.
  • Mouth: Disagreement also shows up in compressed or pursed lips, clenched jaw muscles, or a head turned slightly away, so eye contact becomes sidelong.
  • Shoulders: When you see people turn their shoulders and torso away from you, you’ve probably lost their interest. In fact, orienting away from someone in this manner almost always conveys detachment or disengagement, regardless of the words spoken. When people are engaged, they will face you directly, “pointing” at you with their torso. However, the instant they feel uncomfortable, they will turn away – giving you “the cold shoulder.” And if your colleague is feeling defensive, you may see an attempt to shield the torso with a purse, briefcase, laptop, etc.
  • Feet: If someone is sitting with ankles crossed and legs stretched forward, they are probably feeling positively toward you. But when you see feet pulled away from you or wrapped in a tight ankle lock or pointed at the exit or wrapped around the legs of a chair, you would be wise to suspect withdrawal and disengagement.
Whenever you notice your co-worker exhibiting any of these disengagement signals, there are six things you can do in response:
  1. Think about the context in which the disengagement occurred: Did you alter your body language? Did you ask a question or touch on a particular issue – a “hot spot”? Did someone else enter the room or join the conversation?
  2. Check your body position. Are you exhibiting any closed or disengaged behaviors that your counterpart may be mimicking or reacting to?
  3. Change your body posture into one of increased engagement – and see if he/she will follow suit. Lean forward, smile, and put your hands on the table – palms up.
  4. Make them move. For example, if the person’s arms and legs are tightly crossed (a combination that frequently signals disengagement), hand him/her something – a brochure, a report, a cup of coffee.
  5. Change your “pitch.” Realize that what you are proposing isn’t being well received, and now may be the time for “Plan B.”
  6. Bring their disengagement behavior to their attention: “It looks as if this may be a bad time for us to talk. Would you prefer to postpone this meeting until tomorrow?”
Author bio: Carol Kinsey Goman (PhD) is an executive coach, leadership consultant, and international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. She’s an expert contributor for The Washington Post’s “On Leadership” column, a leadership blogger on, a business body language columnist for “the Market” magazine, and the author of “THE SILENT LANGUAGE OF LEADERS: How Body Language Can help – or Hurt – How You Lead.” To contact Carol about speaking or coaching, email or visit Carol’s website 

Finding Duplicates in Excel

For any of you who have ever run into a problem with combining spreadsheets or trying to harmonise data, TechRepublic posted a very handy little tip on how to find duplicates in Excel.
They have come up with a way to find duplicates or across multiple columns using formulas.

TLAs for SMEs

Here are this newsletter's TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) for you:
  • MMU, memory management unit. PC hardware which handles all processor memory and caching functions.

Please feel free to email me with any TLAs that you want to get the bottom (meaning!) of.

Tips, Short+Hot Keys
Over the next few newsletters, we are going to look at all you can do with panes. This time we look at Excel:
  • Excel "Move to the next pane in a workbook that has been split" F6
  • Excel "Move to the previous pane or move to the previous pane in a workbook that has been split" Shift & F6

Hot Linx
To brighten up your day, take a look at what the OED have to say about chocolate, at
See what Sehaam Caselberg thinks makes for good board inductions at
So what really makes for flexible workplaces? Check out what HR Daily have to say at
NZ's IOD has released a short video on their updated four pillars of effective governance. Check it out at!

                                Catch you again soon!! E-mail your suggestions to me here

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