The nuclear engineer inside of me loved this post on the Three Mile Island event on March 28, 1979. Here’s my favorite part:
Suppose in learning to drive a car you are being trained to respond to the car veering to the left. It’s simple enough, simply turn the steering wheel to the right to recover. It is also what your basic instinct would lead you to do, so there is no mental conflict in believing it.
It is also actually reinforced and practiced during actual driver training on a curvy road. That response is soon imbedded as the right thing to do. Now suppose your driver training also includes training on a car simulator training machine. It is where you learn and practice emergency situation driving. After all, nobody is going to do those emergency things in an actual car on the road.
Here’s where it gets complicated. Assume virtually no one yet understands that when the car skids to the left on ice (because of loss of front wheel steering traction), the correct response is to turn the steering wheel into the skid direction, or to the left. This is just the opposite of the non-ice response. And to make matters worse, because no one understands it yet, including the guy who built the car simulator, the car simulator has been programmed to make this wrong response work correctly on the simulator.
So in your emergency driver training you practice it this way, the simulator responds wrong to the actual phenomena, but it shows the successful result and you recover control. Since this probably also agrees with your instinct, and you see success on the simulator, this action is also embedded as the right thing to do. One additional point, if you don’t do this wrong action, you will flunk your simulator driver training test.
You know where this is going, now you are out driving on an icy road for the first time and the car skids to the left. You respond exactly as you were instructed to do and exactly as the simulator showed was successful, and you have an accident because the car responds to the real world rules of Mother Nature.
An investigation is obviously necessary because, I forgot to tell you, the car cost $4 billion and you don’t own it. During the subsequent investigation everything is uncovered; the unknown phenomenon is finally correctly understood, the simulator incorrect programming is discovered, it is uncovered that the previously unknown phenomenon had been discovered before your accident, and your accident was even predicted as possible.
But the investigation results are published and the finding is that the accident was caused by your error of turning the steering wheel the wrong way on the ice. Nobody else is found to have made an error in the stated conclusions but you; it is simply a case of driver error. Do you feel you have been wronged? This is what happened to the TMI operators.
Over spring break my family spent some time in Chicago for a few days. My daughter had learned some about dinosaurs in her kindergarten class earlier this year and we thought it would be great for her to see an actual dinosaur, Sue, at the Field Museum. We also spent a day at the Shedd Aquarium. Christina and I have been to both as recently as 2008, but Carissa was only 6 month old, so it was all new to her. Both kids loved it!
While at the aquarium, we watched the aquatic show and they’ve added in a segment about their new dog training program. Shedd selects dogs from local shelters for their program to be trained and used at the aquarium and to show how their training methods can work on household pets, too. They said something during the show that is still with me regarding how they use positive reinforcement training methods. “An animal here will never hear the word ‘no’ or be punished.” Never. That’s amazing to me, considering I have a toddler and feel like a say no all the time. I was intrigued and had to look more into their program.
It seems like an impossible task. Never say the word “no.” No punishments. One of the trainers described why they do it like this: “If you punish them they’ll just swim away and they’ll never want to work with you again.” It’s just a dolphin though, right?
“If you punish them they’ll just swim away and they’ll never want to work with you again.”
I think people are the same way. I had at experience at work last week that connected this for me. Here at MachMotion, we strive to celebrate lived out examples of our core values. In only my third week here, I’ve heard multiple people commended for going the extra mile or showing integrity in a situation. However, last week it happened to me. I was complimented in front of everyone at our morning meeting. Positive reinforcement!
How much further can we build trust and relationship with someone by a positive comment than a negative one? Research shows the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio to be almost 6 positive comments for every negative one. I’ve heard this said before but I’m thankful to see this actually lived out at my workplace.
It makes me think, how do I treat people? Am I generous enough with positive comments to those around me (my wife or kids, friends, or coworkers)?
Life changes. I’m finding out how silly it was to ever imagine that it wouldn’t change. Lesson learned.
I haven’t worked in almost three months. It was relaxing at first. Finally, a break. The relaxed feeling has become anxiety, fear, and frustration. I’m done being stuck. I’m ready for the next step.
I’ve filled my time with reading (nine books so far), including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit for the first time. I’m brushing up my html and css skills (and learning a few new languages). I’m also spending a lot more time with Carissa and Noah which has been a great blessing.
I’m not sure what the next step is or what my next career will be. My intention for NathanAyres.com is to post relevant content regarding my personal interests in social media, web design, and any area that my next career may take me. Thanks for joining me.
I wanted to give a shout out to the blog theme. It’s called min. by Jared Erickson. It’s free AND simple which were my only two requirements right now.
In the near future (i.e. when I can afford it), I’m getting Standard Theme. It’s beautiful, responsive, and built really well. You should check it out.
Now I just have to work on creating quality content and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have something going here.