Sunday, November 24, 2013

Education open to God

A new book has gathered together Pope Benedict XVI's statements and writings on education in one place. Read about it here. "The editor has grouped 63 addresses on education by Pope Benedict under seven themes: the relationship between faith and reason; the compatibility of freedom and truth; education and love; pedagogy and learning; education in faith and community; culture and the university; and the relationship between science, technology and theology." Sounds important to all readers of this blog.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Remembering the present

In Beauty in the Word, I based my philosophy of education on three pillars or elements: Remembering, Thinking, and Communicating (roughly equivalent to the ancient categories of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric – the "Trivium"). The connection between these is not always obvious, but I think it can be explained in the following way.

Memory is foundational. On it is grounded not only our sense of personal identity, but our ability to think and communicate. One of the most profound comments on memory I have come across is in Pavel Florensky's The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. In it he writes, "That which in God is called 'memory' completely coincides with God's thought, for in God's consciousness Time is identical to Eternity, the empirical identical to the mystical, and experience is identical to creativity. God's thought is perfect creativity, and His creativity is His memory. God, remembering, thinks, and, thinking, creates" (p. 149). Thus for man, too, remembering is the highest form of thought. Education begins and ends with the awakening of memory – get that right and the rest follows.

It is not that we already know, or knew, every detail of what our teachers want us to learn. Rather, to remember the Being from which we come and on which we depend – to recall the Principle of existence – is to establish a context for learning everything else. It is to give thinking and communicating a place to stand. Again, in God, thinking is identical with remembering, and so, for us, to think correctly we must remain faithful to the memory of our origin and build upon it. Thought, science, argument, must be soaked in wonder to be authentic. Communication, too, must come from the heart where our most fundamental memories are pondered and treasured. The Beautiful, Ethics, and the Arts can only flourish when heart speaks to heart, which is when hearts stand on the same universal ground, the ground of Memory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Image of God

Catholic schools have a big problem when it comes to teaching about sexuality and ethics. Society at large, and the government that helps to determine the curriculum, have absorbed the modern view of body and soul as essentially separate from each other, and the body as an instrument of the mind that can be treated as we wish. This view is false, but has been accepted as common sense. The task of the Catholic school is now partly to show why it is false, and to offer an alternative – an alternative beautiful and coherent enough to convince, and strong enough to provide the foundation for a Catholic way of life. This is what Blessed John Paul II tried to do with his "Theology of the Body", founding a John Paul II Institute in each continent (under the Pontifical Lateran University) to teach and develop further his rich vision of Christian anthropology – in a sense tackling head-on one of the strongest forces behind the Culture of Death.

Since then many people have tried to simplify and express the basic principles of the Theology of the Body in more accessible, less academic terms. Dr Christopher West has become well known for this, although his approach has been criticized by some of the faculty of the John Paul II Institute, partly on the grounds that it lays too much emphasis on sexual experience per se. I do not propose to survey all the alternative resources available in the field of sex education or marriage prep, but here are two examples of courses based specifically on John Paul II that readers may find interesting.

Imago Dei has been developed by a former professor of the John Paul II Institute in Washington, DC, Dr Mary Shivanandan. In four seasons of six sessions each, her study guide, A New Language, takes participants through the scripture-based Theology of the Body to a joyful understanding of marriage, sexuality, consecrated celibacy, and single fidelity. A new element in the programme by Dr Jem Sullivan and Mary Ellen Bork will use works of art to help people understand the Church's teaching.

The Rich Gift of Love by Sister Jane Dominic Laurel OP and others – a collaboration between Newman Connection and Aquinas College – explores John Paul II's understanding of self-gift, loving through our bodies and doing it in the context of living for our families, our society and our culture.

I also recommend Called to Love by Jose Granados and Carl Anderson, a Study Guide to which can be downloaded from HERE, courtesy of the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

KEY INTAKES FROM "Leading the Starbucks Way" SEMINAR - Australian Business Women's Network

"Leading  the Starbucks Way" WEBINAR November 14 2013 12:00pm - Australian Business Women's Network 

KEY INTAKES FROM "Leading  the Starbucks Way" WEBINAR - Joseph A. Michelli brought by the Australian Business Women Network.

I do not personally would buy a coffee from Starbucks as Americans have no idea about coffee but it was interesting to participate on this seminar and get some great intakes that any other brands might be able to apply on their businesses.


  • PEOPLE. Employ people who genuinely have a passion for the product and great affinity to it. Once you get the right people, the experience for the customer will be far richer.
  • PRODUCT. Keep the basic right. Before anything else is the "Coffee". Train your employees to know all the process of developing your product. In the Startbucks culture, the baristas should feel they cannot let down the amazing process to get a coffee bean on their machines.
Leading the Starbucks Way - Joseph Michelli
  • PROCESSES. Great organisations create repeatable processes that allow people to be great at their jobs. I do not totally agree on this one as I do believe processes tend to kill creative people. For some other people processes work ok.
  • VALUE. People will pay premium if you offer an "experience" that no other competitor offers. Build emotional value: Create experiences that resonate with your customers. Experiences that make people say: "This is who I am, they care about me".
  • THE STORE WALK-THROUGH. At Startbucks, every morning, an employee walks through from the parking lot to the store tables and see the store from the customers "lense". The employee audits all aspects that influeces the customer experience ie: tidiness, cleaning, signs, etc. All the items get logged and fixed.
  • Starbucks Store - The Store Walk-Through
  • LOVE TO BE LOVED. Customers are more demanding and expect quick responses. Startbucks apply MIT Professor Peter Senge theory. The concept of love is not a fluffy idea. Love is focusing on the growth and the development on the ones you serve. It needs to be genuine. Starbucks have a section on their website about job interview tips, etc.
      Starbucks Facebook page - Multi-channel Relationships and Technology
    • REACH FOR COMMON GROUND. Starbucks close many shops in Australia when they first came in 2007 as it tried to imitate US coffee culture and were not sensitive to local coffee culture. Reaching for common ground means defining the common and different aspects of each local culture that defines value. Finding and growing strategic local partnerships is key.
    • BE LOCAL. It is all about understanding the local cultures and the rituals each local culture has around enjoying a coffee. Customers want comfort, variety, want to be seen, to be heard, to be cared about.
      What's your name? Strategy - Startbucks
    • "WHAT'S YOUR NAME?" STRATEGY. Connecting to the uniqueness of your customers in a way that is authentic. Asking for customers names in UK was not well received at the beginning with a lot of media debate however, in the long run it worked out quite well. The more you discover about your customers, the more you will be able to offer what they need and want. What sort of experience, content do they want? Then you can create relevant experiences and content for them.

    • TECHNOLOGY BRINGS CUSTOMISATION and MOBILISE CONNECTIONS. Technology that offers real time tracking and a close system between loyalty and payment allows for very customised offering. Starbucks allow customers to tweet a coffee (instant gift), consumption history allows for customised suggestions. 
    • AMPLIFYING EFFECT VIA SOCIAL MEDIA. Leverage the social and cultural values of local communities to be top of mind via social media engagement. 
    • BE WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE. Starbucks offering coffee machines for office and home.
    • INNOVATION. We love to keep doing the same thing that works. It is selling, we know how to sell it. It is hard for some business to get out there and offer something new.
    • SOCIAL LEADERSHIP. Starbucks foundation. Creating job opportunities to allow people buy more coffee. it makes sense.

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013


    If your marketing strategy is to reach a mass audience, it is very likely you need to have an "average" offering.
    Ignore the masses! Create a product or service just for believers and once those believers buy from you, their tribes will follow.

    People do not get passionate on average products.

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    eDigital at NSW Open Data Forum November 2013

    eDigital @ NSW Open Data Forum November 2013
    eDigital @ NSW Open Data Forum November 2013
    eDigital assisted to the NSW Goverment Open Data Forum on Monday 11th November 2013.

    Andrew Constance, Minister for Finance and Services presented the new NSW Open Data Policy which helps facilitate the implementation of best practice open data principles across the NSW
    public sector.

    Key note speakers included John MacMillan AO, Australian Information Commissioner, OAIC and Elizabeth Coombs, NSW Privacy Commissioner.

    Interesting findings:
    • Apps 4 NSWapps4nsw is the first State Government apps competition in Australia. The objective of the apps4nsw competition is to capture innovative ideas using public sector information and data that are useful to the people of NSW.
    • GovHack: Gov Hack Day in Sydney was held in May 2013 were hundreds of hackers joint together to form teams and work together to create best new mash ups, data visualisations and apps with Government data. It is expected for another Hack day to happen next year.

    • Australia Government spend 51 million dollars a year on a Contingency Strategy. 7 million australians with contingency issues. A public Toilet Map app was created.

    • GIPA Act establishes an open approach to gaining access to government information in NSW. The objective is to have a Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective, by authorising and encouraging the proactive public release of government information by agencies; giving members of the public an enforceable right to access government information, and ensuring that access to government information is restricted only when there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. The guiding principle of the GIPA Act is the public interest, with a general presumption that disclosure of information is in the public interest, unless a strong case to the contrary can be demonstrated.