Category Archives: Articles

Are You an Entreptreneur or a Leader?

Source: CBS News
January 9, 2012 at 7:22 AM

Entrepreneurs and business leaders each have their place in the business world. It’s the entrepreneur that forges the path and the leader that turns it into a highway. Even more rare, is the entrepreneurial leader that changes our world. Think Steve Jobs (Apple), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Henry Ford (Ford Motor Co.), Sam Walton (Walmart), and dozens of others. Those entrepreneurs not only changed our lives but changed life as we know it. Read Full Article>>

Are We Living in a Post-CEO World?

Source: CNN Money
January 10, 2012, 11:17 AM

In a complex business environment, innovative companies must move from a guru model to one based on team leadership. Are we living in a post-CEO world? This is a particularly timely question, and not just because I pose it not long after the loss of tech pioneer and visionary Steve Jobs. Read Full Story >

Success: A Breeding Ground for Complacency?

Source: Forbes
January 11, 2012, 9:23am

More often than not, great accomplishments cause individuals and organizations to become comfortable with their way of doing things. Businesses turn static. Workers turn their focus inward. Even the most dynamic of organizations can turn complacent, thinking that what they are doing is right, that there is no need to change, regardless of what’s happening outside…Read Full Story.

‘No Child Left Behind’ Celebrates its 10th Birthday. Good? Bad? Indifferent?

Earlier this week I came across an article written by Sol Stern, an author for The Daily Beast, titled, “Still ‘Lying to Children’: How No Child Left Behind Corrupted Education”. In the article, Stern discusses the “No Child Left Behind Act” (NCLB) – enacted 10 years ago this week. He states that, “Expecting all students to be college ready is a hopeless utopian goal that inevitably produces test-score inflation and bad results”.

Jim Pulliam, the Vice President of Company of Experts and a former community college president, is passionate about student learning – which inspired him to establish Distance Edu Learning, the software company responsible for developing Fintelo, a content management system. When developing Fintelo, Jim ensured that the software would engage students by allowing the learner to construct their own learning based on their individual learning styles. In addition, the software has included intended learning outcomes within each lesson of a course – providing learners an increased awareness of what is required of them and allows teachers to evaluate and enhance their own teaching and curriculum. As I read the article, I was curious what Jim’s thoughts on the issue would be. In an email, I sent him a link to the online article I found and wrote, “This week celebrated the 10th anniversary of No Child Left behind. Sol Stern writes that the landmark law has corrupted education. What do you think?” His reply is as follows:

“No Child Left Behind is a deficit based model thus discouraging those that are struggling learners. The NCLB initiative requirements that were implemented measured all students by one test. Thus, if you did poorly on the first test in lower grades you were already identified as a poor learner – kids knew this – thus either quit or used as an excuse I cannot do the work. In addition when one considers the billions of dollars spent on a segment of the school population we had a tendency to forget the students the systems define as gifted. The only benefit it elevated the discussion of the importance of education, although there is a better way than penalizing kids in addition to spending billions of dollars. This does not even address the profession of teaching where as we defined teachers as either good or bad based on their students performance.

I visited classrooms ,K-12, where students were taking the exam. I observed that many filled in the bubbles without reading the questions. They were either bored, did not care, wanted to get to recess or “what the heck” they had learned that they were incapable of doing good work.

Every child has special skills and needs. We visit our existence here on earth with basically with the same intelligence benchmarks. The trouble is we try to measure the results with the money spent while at the same time not including the different ways we learn or respond to school work. If a being is told often enough or included /excluded from “special groups” other students identify with this early on- those that cannot do the work.

It all is a self fulfilling prophesy. If we “BELIEVE WE CAN” chances are we will perform.

Corrupted Public Education – I do not believe the act has corrupted education. I do believe we have lost some good teachers, hurt learners (possibility for life) and made this great nation less competitive for the short or intermediate term.

We will be back – count on it.

I have other thoughts but this is enough rambling. If you really want to know how I feel lets have coffee.”

I am curious to learn what others think of the “No Child Left Behind” Act. I invite anyone to submit their comments to begin the discussion.

Call for Articles for AI Practitioner

Editors: Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair
Working Title: Inclusive Spaces: Using Appreciative Processes to Transform Social Structures
For AI Practitioner ~ August 2012 Issue

Focus of the Issue:
The August 2012 issue of the AI Practitioner will focus on how the practice of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) fosters and opens inclusive spaces in organizations of all kinds. We invite Appreciative Inquiry practitioners to share articles, stories, case studies, reflections, art, images, poetry, research, models and theory regarding creating inclusive spaces. We are particularly interested in how Appreciative Inquiry has generated those inclusive spaces with emancipatory and social justice frameworks such as transformative education or critical theory.

Challenging and Transforming Social Structures:
Jeanie Cockell used AI as a research methodology for her doctoral dissertation (2005), ‘Making Magic Facilitating Collaborative Processes’ (available on the AI Commons). One of the primary findings of that research was the notion of ‘Critical Appreciative Processes.’ These processes combine Appreciative Inquiry, transformative education and critical theory. The critical element recognizes and challenges oppressive social structures and the appreciative element is the means for dialogue to transform those structures.

As both Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair have worked with Critical Appreciative Processes they have renamed it ‘Critical Appreciative Inquiry’ (CAI) to more clearly focus on the power of the inquiry. CAI attempts to blend the powerful work of AI with a deep understanding of the issues ofpower, privilege and diversity.

Seeking Inclusion and Understanding Difference:
These concepts from transformative education and critical theory which seek inclusion and an understanding of difference can deepen our practice of AI. Transformative education suggests the need for a critical lens that surfaces the impact of social structural differences on people’s ability to participate and be included. Transformative education and critical theory recognize that we come from different social constructions based on race, gender, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, ability, religion and class; and Appreciative Inquiry lends itself to creating inclusive spaces where people feel respected and connected to each other.

Creating Inclusive Spaces
The editors have a passion for creating inclusive organizations and seek to engage AI practitioners to share their passions for working with AI through social justice and emancipatory lenses. One brief example of using Critical Appreciative Inquiry was facilitating ‘team building’ for all of the staff in an aboriginal community school. The critical piece was acknowledging the power differentials due to race. The people with positional power, the teachers, were 75% non-aboriginal and all the teaching assistants were aboriginal. After two days of Appreciative Inquiry in early September with a follow-up day in January, the teaching assistants moved from hiding in the back of the room to full engagement, speaking confidently about their views of team work at the school. All voices were now contributing to how to the school could be a more inclusive space.

Preparing Your Proposed Contribution:
Here are some questions that may be useful to reflect upon as you think about your contribution to the issue.

  • How and where do you practice awareness of and respect for the diversity of others?
  • How do you positively address the issues of who has power?
  • Who gets included in AI processes and what processes facilitate that?
  • How do you create spaces that foster transformation?
  • How do you use re-framing and dialogue to move from a problem focus to a possibility focus when working with the profound issues of exclusion?
  • What have you considered, as an AI practitioner, as you have blended critical theory and AI?
  • How do you reflect on or find space for your own differences and worldviews?

Some possible topics:

  1. AI and creating inclusive spaces
  2. AI across differences – culture, ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class
  3. AI and power and privilege
  4. AI in highly diverse organizations
  5. AI and conflict transformation
  6. AI and social justice
  7. AI and holistic organizations
  8. Critical theory, AI and organizational change
  9. Personal reflections on diversity and being an AI practitioner
  10. Others related topics

Proposals for the August 2012 AI Practitioner issue are due by December 1, 2011. Full proposal details can be found here.

Macon Miracle Update

The excitement from the crowd at the Macon Centreplex was palpable as more than 4,200 community members, parents, teachers, Board members, local businesses, and dignitaries from Macon, Georgia convened on October 10, 2011, to complete part two of a two-day appreciative inquiry strategic  planning summit designed to reinvent Bibb County school district and ensure
that every student flourishes.

Superintendent Dr. Romain Dallemand envisions becoming the best school district in the nation. Deemed the “Macon Miracle,” Dr. Dallemand contracted with several facilitators from the Center for Appreciative Inquiry to reinvent the school system by hosting a two-day appreciative inquiry summit.

During the first day, held on September 19, 2011, more than 4,000 participants met to collaboratively discover the best of “what is” in order to create a shared image of their preferred future. They interviewed each other and shared stories about peak experiences, strengths, and opportunities to discover their positive core.  By developing bold possibility statements, and then sharing them with each other, the participants began to envision a future state where every child succeeds.

On day two of the summit, held October 10, 2011, participants reconvened to identify methods to bring their future dreams to life. They developed strategic proposals to bridge the best of “what is” with their ideas of “what can be.” Each of the strategic proposals included key concepts necessary for successful implementation. As participants shared their proposals with each other, the excitement and energy in the arena grew exponentially. In the final activity, participants began designing the action items and ideas that would be necessary to bring their dreams into fruition.  Together, along with input from the students, Dr. Dallemand and his leadership team will finalize their five-year strategic plan early next year.

Kimberley Seitz, PhD
An Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator on behalf of Company of Experts, Inc.
If you wish to contact Kimberley Seitz, PhD, please click here.

The Macon Miracle

Loud cheers and unbridled excitement are not unfamiliar sounds for any sports arena; however, the noise generated at the Macon Centreplex Arena on September 19th reverberated far beyond the arena walls.

The voices and enthusiasm of 4,500 Bibb County Schools stakeholders quickly rose as they began discovering the best of ‘what is’ in order to construct a positive future for their students.  The stakeholders included bus drivers, teachers, custodians, secretaries, administrators, elected officials (City and state) as well as parents.

This is the largest Appreciative Inquiry Summit that we have ever been involved in. The visionary Superintendent of Bibb County Schools, Dr. Romain Dallemand, sees a new dawning of education for the 21st century. From the beginning of his tenure, Dr. Dallemand has sought input from teachers, community members, and other decision makers – posing the question, “What can Bibb School District do to redesign education and create an example that ensures all students have the opportunity to learn?”

After a powerful opening message by Dr. Dallemand and keynote speaker Dr. Anthony Mohammed, participants were divided amongst six breakout rooms, including the arena floor of the Centreplex. Chairs in each of the rooms were assembled into circles of eight. No tables were present – providing participants with the opportunity to get closer to the individuals in their circle as they conducted their paired interviews. As participants began their appreciative interview, the energy in each of the rooms quickly ignited. Conversations consisted of laughter and tears and as time progressed, people moved closer to one another as their stories unfolded.

Through the use of technology, the positive core and the word image for the entire group of 4,500 was able to be electronically captured. The information collected was sorted and common themes began to emerge. These themes will be used to design and create a new destiny for Bibb County Schools. The Design and Destiny phase, of what is being called the Macon Miracle, has been scheduled for October 10th in the Macon Centreplex Arena. As the day concluded, participants were excited about the future – of what ‘can be’ for Bibb County Schools; they realized change starts with them. You could see, feel, and sense hope in the room. It was powerful for all in attendance.

We will keep you posted as the Macon Miracle blossoms…

New Beginnings for Natalie Aisoff

Today is a big day for all that have worked, interfaced, had a conversation, or requested information from Natalie Aisoff.  Natalie is leaving the Company of Experts to be closer to family in Arizona. We wish her success, good wishes and happiness in everything she does.

Since the Company of Experts was purchased by Jim Pulliam and Kathy Becker in 2005, Natalie has been a mainstay of the organization. Her never ending smile, friendly and comforting voice, mixed with a willingness and interest in assisting others are attributes we shall miss. One of the most important values for service is, did the individual make a difference for others in their journey? Without hesitation, Natalie Aisoff made a “difference”.

Natalie, in turning the page, enjoy the journey.

We welcome you to sign Natalie’s virtual “Card” via the discussion threads found on the Company of Experts’ Facebook page.

COE Celebrates Earth Day 2011

Heather Henson (left) and Melissa Robaina (right) are all smiles as they partake in a local cleanup in celebration of Earth Day

On April 22, 1970 over 20 million Americans rallied in the streets, parks, schools, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. According to, “Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values”. That day in 1970 is one to remember. As a result of everyone’s efforts, Congress enacted the United States Environmental Protection Agency in addition to passing the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species acts.

Company of Experts got down and dirty in celebration of Earth Day. The Company’s Social Marketing Director, Melissa Robaina, along with their student intern, Heather Henson, joined Get Outdoors Nevada – an interagency volunteer program – in its fight to preserve the desert ecosystem. Together they spent hours picking up trash in a remote area east of the Las Vegas strip that is often used for illegal dumping. More than thirty volunteers from around the Las Vegas area joined the cleanup efforts in order to restore the desert landscape to its beautiful, well-kept state.

When asked to reflect about the cleanup event Melissa replied, “This experience has been humbling and has ignited my desire to find additional ways to ‘go green’. I am very thankful to work for the Company of Experts’ whose principles not only value the people we serve, but the world for which sustains us all.” Heather’s response was brief and to the point, “Life is a garden, dig it.”

What’s Behind the Shine?

Everyone likes a clean home, but few of us like the chore of cleaning. Even worse, we often rely on a cocktail of hazardous substances to make our bathrooms sparkle or our floors shine. Dishwashing detergents often contain phosphates that pollute the groundwater; wood polish generally contains flammable toxins like nitrobenzene; and laundry detergent may contain bleach and other corrosives. We lock these compounds away in closets or under the sink to keep them from our children-but we often don’t consider what they may be doing to our own bodies.

Even as they help us pick up dirt and dust, many modern cleaners irritate our skin, eyes, and lungs. They can also leave toxic residues or pollute the water when we rinse them down the drain. But keeping our homes clean and avoiding toxic cleaners don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Several companies now produce “green” cleaners that avoid ingredients that are toxic or don’t biodegrade. Green cleaners can also be made from a range of safer substances we might already have around the house. If you are interested in making your own organic cleaning products? If so, lists several household items that can be used to clean different surfaces throughout your home, click here to learn more.