Cow’s eye view

Moo, moo…..

That’s how I felt earlier this week going through security at Newark airport. I was recently re-reading parts of Thinking In Pictures : and Other Reports from My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin for some posts on my autism blog, 29 marbles, in which she talks about her job designing cattle chutes for slaughterhouses (she’s world reknowned for this, despite [because of?] being autistic. Ever on the lookout for connections between apparently unrelated things, my brain presented me with the following thought: “I wonder if Temple Grandin could come up with a better design for airport security queues?”

Maybe not, but this got me thinking about cross-functional lessons learned. Too often, in my experience at least, lessons learned and best practices are explored only from the perspective of a specific functional area. There is a lot to be learned from looking at stories from similar, but completely different, functions.

Using the case of the airport security queue as an example:

  • Many people going through an airport security checkpoint have never done so before (like most [all!] cows at the slaughterhouse)
  • For all practical purposes, the way through the process is to simply follow the person in front of you
  • Occassionally, you will get redirected by a security person to a different line, told to stop, etc with little or no explanation (as if you don’t deserve it or won’t understand it anyway)
  • etc.

The situation of people in a strange (as in unknown) queue system that has no obvious explanation in some ways is not really much different from that of a cow going through cattle chutes. What lessons can we take from Temple Grandin’s success in designing cattle chutes that result in smoother operation and apply to the security line problem?

My real point here is that sometimes you can take insights learned from one thing and apply them to something completely different with great success.

Note: Temple Grandin’s personal choice of a title for Thinking in Pictures was Cow’s Eye View, a reference to how she comes up with her designs. Maybe that’s the simple lesson to be learned here: look at the problem from the point of view of the one going through the process.

Letting go…

Chandler’s mom writes the following about letting go of our kids:

Our instinct as parents is to hold on tight and protect them from the harsh world and tell them where to go and what choices to make because we know better than they do. But if we are to serve them we have to let go of them just a little bit at a time as they begin to master their own lives, occasionally stepping back in when they are having trouble navigating (done with most frequency between the ages of 14 and 16).

Of course, for those of us who are parents of autistic children, the idea of letting go takes on a whole new meaning.

Don’t give up hope

The Cincinnati Post – Noah, for one, is peeling back the layers of autism gives one mother’s example of why you should never give up hope:

Terri says Noah is emerging from autism. The official word from the medical establishment on autism is that there’s no cure. But Terri says the establishment is wrong. She insists Noah is coming back to her, getting better. His drawings suggest she’s right.

A fairly long article by online newspaper standards, but lots of good information.

I also heartily recommend reading Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder : A Mother’s Story of Research & Recovery by Karyn Seroussi. Excellent insights into the effect of diet on autism.

Which came first – the knowlege or the knowledge management?

What is knowledge? What is knowledge management? (Uh oh, here we go again!) In a recent post, Jeremy has the following to say about trying to define knowledge:

Part of the problem, I think, is that there really is no general agreement on what Knowledge Management actually is. And since one’s definition of knowledge really depends upon one’s definition of KM the knowledge question won’t be adequately answered until the KM question is dealt with.

I read the statement twice, then read it again to make sure it said what I thought it said. And it did.

If I had written the sentence above, I would likely have said “one’s definition of knowledge management depends on one’s definition of knowledge.” Because, after all, how can you manage something if you don’t know what that something is? (Chicken or the egg?)

But it does get you thinking….

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Just an interesting note: my second post to this blog, back in June ’03, was entitled What is Knowledge Management, anyway?. Amazing to reflect on how much has been achieved and figured out in that time, but how we are still trying to figure out the answer to the basic question.

“Knowledge Management is both a goal and a means” for DoD

The May ’05 issue of Signal Magazine from the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association (AFCEA) has a large section addressing the role of knowledge management in today’s Department of Defense. The articles range from discussions of technology used to create a “net-centric” force to descriptions of ongoing research into the cognitive workings of teams (that one is my favorite).

If nothing else, the article provides a glimpse at the challenges faced by military forces in collecting, processing, distributing, and using information and knowledge, both from a technical perspective and a “people” perspective. Check it out when you have a chance.

Research suggests possibility of diagnostic testing for autism at birth

More on biological basis of autism and the potential for diagnosing autism at birth.

Research suggests possibility of diagnostic testing for autism at birth:

The findings ‘suggest the possibility for future diagnostic tests for autism at birth’ and might mean that ‘we can get children into effective treatment much earlier than is now possible,’ said Dr. Helen Tager-Flusberg of the Boston University School of Medicine, who chaired the fourth International Meeting for Autism Research in Boston, where the research was reported.

Studies suggest that researchers are beginning to tease out the biological and developmental causes of the disabling disorder….

Study Shows Blood Differences In Children With Autism

Several stories today about a study that has identified a possible biological basis for autism. Representative of the stories is Study Shows Blood Differences In Children With Autism:

Amaral and his colleagues have just announced the findings of a new study that shows, for the first time on a large scale, a major difference in the blood of children with autism, compared to the blood of typical children. The hope is that there could be a routine blood test that would detect autism at birth.

‘What we’ve discovered is more than 100 proteins that are different in these children. Now, we have to go back and figure out what these proteins do, whether they are simply markers or maybe they are even causative of the disorder,’ Amaral said.

I’ll see if I can find the actual paper….

How About NOT Curing Autism?

Along the lines of my recent post Thoughts on curing autism is a piece from titled How About NOT Curing Autism?:

Autism has always had more than its share of conflict. Disagreements and debates over causes and treatments are old news. The new debate?

Is an autism spectrum disorder a ‘way of life,’ or is it an illness/disability/disorder?

The links are well worth following, and lead to an even wider array of links and discussion. No easy answers.

It goes without saying (IMHO) that we should dedicate whatever resources we can to figuring out the causes of autism, as well as a cure. The question of whether or not autistic people should be forced to accept that cure for themselves is, however, a bit stickier.