…And Communication*

Pink Gerbera DaisiesThe word “and” appears to be fading from the English language, like Michael J. Fox faded from the picture of the McFly family in “Back to the Future.”

SPOILER ALERT!

It took a heroic moment from daddy McFly to bring Michael J. back into the picture and we might need a similar effort to rejuvenate our ability to conceive of two things on an equal footing at the same time.

See what I did there? You probably read right past it. The word “and” connects two segments of the above sentence. Both segments are necessary to understand my point. Even though one of them has to come first, the second segment is just as important.

I got on this hunt for the “and” after reading a piece by business guru Geoffrey Moore about the slavish and exclusive (Look, there it is again!) devotion we have to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. To be clear, he was not advocating against STEM education and neither am I. Moore and I agree that STEM education is a vital part of our nation’s future. Bring on the robotics competitions and the baking soda volcanoes.

The troubling thing, though, is that “and” is missing from this equation.

Moore used the writerly strategy of a flower metaphor to illustrate his point. The stem is a vital part of the plant. Without the stem, the plant is not a flower as we understand what it means for something to be a rose or a daffodil or a carnation. The stem is only one vital part of our understanding of flowers. The stem supports a complex of petals, pistils and stamens that work with the stem to create what we define to be a flower. To intellectually reduce the flower to any one of those structures is to destroy what we all mean by the word “flower.” To act on that reduction in the physical world is to rip up a flower.

Try giving Mom a handful of stems – no pistils, petals or stamens – on Mother’s Day and this richer understanding of flowers will become abundantly clear.

So by all means, let’s teach these budding inventors and designers to invent and design – AND – how to sell their ideas to investors – AND – how to inspire others to follow them in their passions. STEM without communication skills is a flower…without the power.

*This post first appeared on the Cicero’s Academy web site and is republished here with permission.

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