In a recent Range Report newsletter David Epstein wrote about a concept from physicist, mathematician, and writer Freeman Dyson. David Epstein is the author of the great book Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, which I read earlier this year and The Sports Gene, one of the books I am currently reading.
Below is an excerpt from that Range Report newsletter:
In Range, I quote a speech Dyson gave in which he propounded the need for both focused frogs and visionary birds working together on complex problems. Frogs are down in the mud where they “delight in the details of particular objects, and they solve problems one at a time,” he said. Birds soar above and “delight in concepts that unify our thinking and bring together diverse problems from different parts of the landscape.” We need both, Dyson insisted. The world is broad and deep, and “we need birds and frogs working together to explore it.” The problem, he said, is that we’re frequently telling everyone to become frogs, and that limits our vision and our ability to adapt quickly in a changing world.
While I am reluctant to use the term “visionary” to refer to myself, I do see my role over the last 15 ½ years since I retired as having transitioned from a focused frog to that of the bird. While I still teach, what I teach now is concepts and principles. I teach concepts and principles of enhancing instruction and becoming a better trainer in the Excellence in Training course, concepts and principles of imagery and the application of imagery in law enforcement in the Performance Enhancement Imagery course, concepts and principles of leadership in Dare to Be Great: Strategies of Creating a Culture of Leading, and concepts and principles of What’s Important Now? in the presentations Lessons From Life’s Most Powerful Question.
The participants in the courses, workshops and seminars I teach are really the “focused frogs” Dyson refers to. It is their job / challenge / mission to take the principles and concepts I teach back to their lives and jobs, get down in the mud and work to implement the concepts and principles into their lives, their training and their agencies.
My “visionary bird” perspective has developed over the last four decades. I have accumulated knowledge, insights and wisdom from 40 plus years of working in and with the law enforcement profession. In my 30 plus years of teaching and the training I have learned from the participants in my training and the countless mistakes I made as a trainer. I have received training from many great trainers over the years. I have had the privilege of teaching around North America for over 20 years and have learned a great deal from the stories, insights, and challenges officers and trainers have shared with me. I have the benefit of attending numerous conferences and learning from the attendees and fellow presenters. I have conducted approximately 350 hour-long interviews with trainers, officers, researchers and authors for the Excellence in Training Academy and the ILEETA Learning Lab. All this has given me a different perspective into the, “diverse problems from different parts of the landscape” and potential and actual solutions to these problems.
I continue to learn a great deal from the people who are on the ground (focused frogs in the mud) dealing with the day-to-day training and leadership challenges in their Academies and agencies. During a multiple day Excellence in Training Course or one day Dare to Be Great workshop we are able to compare perspectives and collaborate on ideas to help them come up with potential solutions to their challenges.
If you are a focused frog down in the mud every day, it is helpful to occasionally bring in someone with the bird’s perspective and a new way to look at the problems you are facing. If you are a bird (consultant, contract trainer), hanging out with other birds all the time, it is helpful to spend some time down in the mud with the focused frogs to see if your perspective is actually practical and helpful.
As Dyson points out, “The world is broad and deep, and we need birds and frogs working together to explore it.” The world of law enforcement is getting broader and deeper and we all need to be working together to address problems and advance the profession.
If you have an intense curiosity, a strong desire to learn and improve your knowledge in order to become a better trainer and are looking to to gain insights from both Focused Frogs and Visionary Birds, then the Excellence in Training Academy is for you. Go to https://excellenceintrainingacademy.com and use the code eitblog to get the first month’s Individual or Training Unit membership free.
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Interested in hosting an Excellence in Training Presentation, Seminar or Course? Contact to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work together to determine what will best suit your needs.