TEDx Repost: Don’t have 10,000 hours to learn something new? That’s fine — all you need is 20 hours

Wanting to learn something new comes from that best, most curious part of us. But then we have to put in the work. When it’s day three on the keyboard and the cat walking across the keys still sounds better than us, we can get discouraged — and often give up.

Writer Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything … Fast and The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business has figured out why so many of us get stopped in our tracks during this early learning period. “Feeling stupid doesn’t feel good, and the beginning of learning anything new is feeling stupid,” he says.

Through trial and error, he has come up with four steps that can help you scramble up the sharp slope of the learning curve in as little as 20 hours. Why 20? As he puts it, “20 hours is doable — that’s about 45 minutes a day for about a month, even skipping a couple of days here and there.”

The mastery of a new skill can be tough and humbling. This post provides practical tips for how to approach the task, or you can watch the video below.

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GAO WatchBlog Reblog: A lot of government information is freely available

Open government data is government-produced information that anyone can freely use, modify, and share for any purpose. For example, the Treasury Department publishes open data on its new USAspending.gov website, which provides detailed information to help track government spending.

Open data can foster accountability and public trust by giving citizens information about government activities and results. It can also promote private sector innovation and help industries generate revenue, such as by providing demographic, financial, or geographic information. For example, some real estate websites use Census data to provide information on the neighborhoods where homes for sale are located.

The GAO recently reported on ways that the U.S. Treasury may more transparently and effectively share government data through five key practices. While the report addresses federal data, the recommendations and insights may be relevant to a variety of state and local government functions.

You can read the report highlights and recommendations here, and check out the GAO WatchBlog here.

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(ALGA Repost) Opportunities for Improvement: We Need to Talk

“The Yellow Book addresses communication of audit scope and objective at the beginning of the audit, and audit results at the end, but much communication happens, or should, during the audit.

8.23 Determining the form, content, and frequency of the communication with management or those charged with governance is a matter of professional judgment, although written communication is preferred. Auditors may use an engagement letter to communicate key information early in the engagement.

“Written communication is preferred”? Of course an engagement letter and discussion draft are written, and at the federal level, written is probably preferred, but the federal government is astronomically larger than any local audit office, like Jupiter is to Earth. Working under the general assumption that communications must be written, I think, will limit interaction that is critical to the ultimate success of an audit.

Because you all are auditing in a large variety of jurisdictions, I am cautious about recommending universal practices and just urge you to develop your briefing (and listening) procedures around the who, what, when, where, and why appropriate to your government.”

Gary Blackmer, former director of the Oregon Audits Division, discusses how auditors can communicate most effectively with agency heads and staff in his quarterly ALGA post, with practical suggestions for making introductions, engaging the agency in the audit process, finding context for problems, and making sure that your audit is on point. Read more here.

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TEDx Reblog: How do you get from diversity to inclusion? Ask these 4 questions about your meetings

Many organizations and companies today track diversity in sex, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion, among other factors. For some of their leaders, numerical diversity is seen as the most important — and at times, the only — thing needed to create a varied and vibrant community. But by focusing on headcount, they are making the mistake of believing that diversity and inclusion are the same.

Dolly Chugh, a social psychologist at the NYU Stern School of Business, lays down some words of advice on how to tailor your meetings to create pathways to genuine inclusion. She recommends asking the following four questions, and explains why they should be asked:

Question #1: Who speaks at meetings?

Question #2: Who sits next to whom?

Question #3: Who is listened to?

Question #4: Who gets the credit?

While pathway moments may seem relatively small — those moments when we feel like we’re more or less part of the meeting, when we’re more or less listened to, when we’re more or less credited for our work — they are the ones that help determine whether we’re given greater chances for success and effectiveness, or held back. We can all cultivate the capacity to notice failures of inclusion if and when they happen, and then try to do better going forward.

Read more here, or watch the TED talk below.

 

 

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Internal Auditor Reblog: The Conditions in Which You Think

The unwitting participants in the study were eight parole judges in Israel. They spend entire days reviewing applications for parole. The cases are presented in random order, and the judges spend little time on each one, an average of 6 minutes. (The default decision is denial of parole; only 35% of requests are approved. The exact time of each decision is recorded, and the times of the judges’ three food breaks — morning break, lunch, and afternoon break — during the day are recorded as well.) The authors of the study plotted the proportion of approved requests against the time since the last food break. The proportion spikes after each meal, when about 65% of requests are granted. During the two hours or so until the judges’ next feeding, the approval rate drops steadily, to about zero just before the meal. As you might expect, this is an unwelcome result and the authors carefully checked many alternative explanations. The best possible account of the data provides bad news: tired and hungry judges tend to fall back on the easier default position of denying requests for parole. Both fatigue and hunger probably play a role.

Mike Jacka writing for Internal Auditor explores the effect that our working conditions and environment have on our thinking, and the different roles that fast and slow thinking play in our work. He asks that the reader be aware of how the conditions in which they are thinking can affect (often unintentionally) the decisions they make.

As auditors (and as humans), honing a degree of self-awareness about how we are affected by the weather (or the bad traffic, or the argument we had last week with a family member, or the timing of lunch- whatever it may be) will help us look critically at our own thoughts. Are we actually making sound decisions? Or are we making rash and unfair decisions? What effect might this have on our work? And just as importantly, how can we counterbalance our fast thinking with slow thinking to make better decisions?

Read more here.

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Association of Local Government Auditors ReBlog: Auditing in the dark corners

A police officer sees a drunken man closely searching the ground near a lamppost and asks if he can help. The man replies that he is looking for his keys. After a few minutes of looking the officer asks whether the man is certain he dropped his keys near the lamppost. “No,” he says, “I lost the keys somewhere across the street.” “Then why are we looking here?” asks the officer. “The light is much better,” the man responds.

That’s a very old joke, and it’s also a parable for auditors.

Do you audit where the light is better? Where you know the data is reliable? Where procedures are established? Where clear criteria exist? Where you’ve audited before? Do you choose your audit topics sitting at your desk without exploring around the agency?

Gary Blackmer (who needs no introduction in the auditing community. But, for those not ‘in the know,’ he has a long and storied career in public auditing in Oregon and most recently served as the Director of the Secretary of State Oregon Audits Division.) speaks to the need for auditors to peer into the darkest, most frustrating corners to identify the most serious problems that agencies and the communities they serve face. He encourages fellow auditors not to be lured and lulled by the prospect of a quick and easy audit. The smoothest path may not yield the biggest reward. After all, it’s been traveled many times before.

There is no doubt that groping around in the dark is difficult and unpleasant, but it often produces the biggest audit impacts. Conducting surprise inspections of adult care homes was emotionally difficult, but resulted in several negligent homes getting shut down. Tabulating deployment of 500 patrol officers for four months was pure drudgery, but it pointed out the mismatch with workload. It required patience and perseverance to interview a dozen agencies to learn why they were accomplishing more, but showed a pathway to success for the collections agency.

Read more here, and learn a bit about ALGA here!

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GAO Reblog: Key trends with a major impact on our nation and its government

On September 13th, GAO shared their five-year strategic plan, which addresses 8 trends identified as having potentially negative effects on our society and government.

Read more here, or watch the video below to learn more.

 

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