Planning for Preparedness

Yes, planning is part of preparedness, but organizations must also have a plan for preparedness.  Why?  Preparedness breaks down into five key elements  – remember the POETE mnemonic – Planning, Organizing, Equipping, Training, and Exercising.  I’m also in favor of including assessment as a preparedness element.  Needless to say, we do a lot when it comes to preparedness.  Each of these elements alone involves significant activity, and together there are opportunities for activities to be synchronized for maximum benefit.  In smaller organizations, these elements may be addressed by one or two people, which itself can be challenging as these are the same people running the organization and addressing myriad other tasks.  In larger organizations each element alone may be addressed by a number of people, which also provides a complication of synchronizing tasks for maximum benefit.  Either way, as with all project and program management, without a plan of action, we may forget critical tasks or do things out of order.

By establishing a preparedness plan, we can address many of these issues.  The plan can be as detailed as necessary, but should at least identify and address requirements (internally and externally imposed) as well as benchmarks to success.  But what do we plan for?

Assessment – Yes, I’m including this as an element.  Assessment is something we should constantly be doing.  Just as we strive to maintain situational awareness throughout an incident, we have to be aware of and assess factors that influence our state of readiness.  There are a variety of assessments that we do already and others that can be done as they relate to the other five elements.  In fact, assessments will inform our preparedness plan, helping us to identify where we are and where we need to be.  We can review after action reports from incidents, events, and exercises to determine what improvements must be made.  We can research best practices and examine funding requirements, legal requirements, and standards such as EMAP or NFPA 1600 which can broadly influence our programs.  We assess current plans to identify what our gaps are and what plans need to be revisited.  We can assess our organization to determine if staffing is maximized and that policy, procedure, and protocol support an agile organization.  The status of equipment can be assessed to determine what is operational and ready to deploy.  We can conduct a training needs assessment to identify what training is needed; and lastly, we can assess opportunities to exercise.  Not only should our assessments inform what needs to be accomplished for each of the POETE elements, but regular assessment check ins and activities should be identified, nay planned for, within our preparedness plan.  Consider what else can inform our preparedness plan.  A recent hazard analysis, THIRA, or state preparedness report (SPR) can feed a lot of information into a preparedness plan – especially the state preparedness report, as it is specifically structured to identify POETE gaps.

Planning – We should always examine what we have.  If plan reviews aren’t scheduled, they often fall to the wayside.  Plan review teams should be identified for each plan, and a review schedule or cycle established.  Benchmark activities for plan review activities should also be identified.  The need for new plans should also be highlighted.  Based on standards, requirements, best practices, or other need, what plans do you organization need to assemble in the next year or two?  Again, identify benchmarks for these.

Organization – Assessments of your organization, either as direct efforts or as part of after action reports or strategic plans can identify what needs to be accomplished organizationally.  Maybe it’s a reorganization, an increase in staffing levels, an impending change in administration, expected attrition, union matters, or something else that needs to be addressed.  As with many other things, some matters or organization are simple, while others are very difficult to navigate.  Without a plan of action, it’s easy to allow things to fall to the wayside.  What changes need to be made?  Who is responsible for implementing them?  Who else needs to be involved? What’s a reasonable timeline for making these changes happen?

Equipping – Many logisticians are great at keeping accurate records and maintenance plans.  This measure of detail isn’t likely needed for your preparedness plan, but you still should be documenting the big picture.  What benchmarks need to be established and followed?  Are there any large expenditures expected for equipment such as a communications vehicle?  Is there an impending conversion of equipment to comply with a new standard?  Are there any gaps in resource management that need to be addressed?

Training – Informed by a training needs assessment, a training plan can be developed.  A training plan should identify foundational training that everyone needs as well as training needed for people functioning at certain levels or positions.  Ideally, you are addressing needs through training programs that already exist, either internally or externally, but there may be a need to develop new training programs.  A training plan should identify what training is needed, for who, and to what level (i.e. to steal from the hazmat world – Awareness? Operations? Technician?).  The plan should identify who will coordinate the training, how often the training will be made available, and how new training will be developed.

Exercises – We have a standard of practice for identifying exercises into the future – it’s called the multi-year training and exercise plan (MYTEP).  While it’s supposed to include training (or at least training related to the identified exercises), training often falls to the wayside during the training and exercise planning workshop (TEPW).  The outcomes of the TEPW can be integrated into your preparedness plan, allowing for an opportunity to synchronize needs and activities across each element.

Just as we do with most of our planning efforts, I would suggest forming a planning team to shepherd your preparedness plan, comprised of stakeholders of each of the elements.  I envision this as a group that should be in regular communication about preparedness efforts, with periodic check-ins on the preparedness plan.  This engagement should lead to synchronization of efforts.  Identify what activities are related and how.  Has a new plan been developed?  Then people need to be trained on it and the plan should be exercised.  Has new equipment been procured?  Then people should be trained in its use and plans should account for the new or increased capability.

Like any effort, endorsement from leadership is necessary, especially when multiple stakeholders need to be brought together and working together.  Many emergency management and homeland security organizations have positions responsible for preparedness, often at the deputy director level.  The formation and maintenance of a comprehensive preparedness plan should be a foundation of their efforts to manage preparedness and forecast and synchronize efforts.

Does your organization have a plan for preparedness beyond just a multi-year training and exercise plan?  What elements do you tie in?  Do you find it to be a successful endeavor?

Do you need assistance in developing a preparedness plan?  Contact us!

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness

Emergency Management: Why Failure is Necessary

One of the many podcasts I listen to is the TED Radio Hour from NPR.  For the uninitiated, the TED Radio Hour is a compilation of highlights from several TED Talks (you know what these are, right?) arranged around certain topics.  I like the topical arrangement and the sampling they do of the presentations, as well as the inclusion of interviews with many of the presenters.  Yesterday I listed to one from July 29, 2016 titled Failure is an Option.  In it, I was most drawn to the points made by Tim Hartford, an economist, and began to think that this guy needs to speak at some emergency management conferences.  What can an economist tell emergency managers?  His TED Talk is titled Trial, Error, and the God ComplexIt’s worth checking out.

How often do you hear someone in public safety proclaim that they don’t know about a certain topic or how to handle a certain situation.  Not very often.  Certainly we have a lot of confident, Type A people (myself included) who will not be stopped by a problem, even if we don’t know right off how we will solve it.  At the extreme end of this are those who refuse to plan.  Why?  Maybe they don’t want to be constrained by a plan, or maybe they don’t want something put in writing.  Maybe they simply don’t know right now what they will do, either a) hoping that it never happens, or b) assuming they will figure it out when it does.  Determination and persistence is good, but we can’t become ignorant despite it.  As I often mention in my posts, this is public safety, not a pick-up game of kick ball.  To me, there is nothing more serious.

Our egos drive us to feel that everything is on the line all the time.  While some may refuse to plan, others do plan, but the approach may not be realistic.  We’ve all seen plans that begin with one, two, maybe even three pages of assumptions.  That’s a lot of assuming for an emergency or disaster situation, which we all know is uncertain and dynamic.  Those long lists make me uncomfortable, as they should you.  Why do we do it?  Sure there are some things we can expect, but otherwise we are trying to dictate terms to the disaster.  Trust me, the disaster doesn’t give a damn about the plan you wrote or the terms and conditions you try to lay out for it.  But it makes us feel better by putting the disaster in a very defined box.  I know I’ve been guilty of this.

Let’s remove the ego.  Let’s proclaim that maybe we have no idea, or we have a few ideas but we aren’t sure which one is best.  Preparedness should be collaborative.  Get lots of ideas from people.  Talk though them and figure out which ones are the most viable.  Get these ideas down on paper, even loosely, and try them out.  We need to take advantage of our preparedness work to figure out the things we don’t know.

A number of years ago, it was identified through feedback and after action reports of incidents that the flow of information and resource requests in a certain EOC simply wasn’t working the way it was intended.  While I’m a big fan of the application of ICS in an EOC, the specific role an EOC plays as a multi-agency coordination center, the cross functions of some staff, and the politics involved aren’t really accounted for in ICS, so the strictest applications of ICS sometimes don’t apply well.  A small group of us were tasked to fix it.  While we each had some theories, none of really knew why the current processes weren’t working.  So we set up a small exercise solely for this purpose.  Our observations helped us identify the root cause of the problem.  The members of our group, all experienced EOC personnel, had different theories on how to solve the problem.  We went again to exercises, this time a series of small ones.  We ushered some people into the EOC, each time giving them a flow chart and some narrative on what each person should be doing relative to the processes we devised.  The injects flowed and we observed the outcomes.  We saw what worked and what didn’t.  We then assembled an amalgamation of the best traits of each methodology into a new process.  Then guess what we did – we exercised that – and it worked.  Not only did we have a great scientific and structured approach, we also had validation of our final product – one that stood up to further exercises and actual incidents.

Does trial and error take time?  Sure it does.  Does it always yield results?  Yes – although not always positive ones – but those are still results.  It’s important to remember to collect data on each of our attempts.  Just like an exercise we want to evaluate and document.  Sometimes our ideas turn out to be epic failures, and that’s OK.  Had we not found this out during our trial and error, just like an exercise, it could have been devastating and costly in a real life application.  A severe mistake during an incident can be career ending for you, and life ending for those you are sworn to protect.

The bottom line is that it’s OK to fail – just try to control when and how you fail.  In order to accept that premise, however, we need to let go of the super Type A hero/god/ego thing.  Yes, we can learn from successes, but we learn more from failure, especially with a little root cause analysis.  Sometimes things look great on paper, but unless you actually try them out, you’ll never know.  In your trial and error, also consider different variables which may have influence on the outcomes.  It’s great to plan for a response and practice it on a sunny day, but what about pouring rain, freezing temperatures, or high winds?  How does this impact your plan?  Often we can make assumptions (remember those?), but we’ll never really know unless we try.

Do you buy into this?  Thoughts appreciated.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness

ICS Training (Still) Sucks… One Year Later

Just over a year ago, I posted my article Incident Command Training Sucks, which to date has been viewed almost 2000 times on the WordPress blog platform, alone.  Since then, I’ve written several more times on the necessity to change the foundational ICS training curriculum in the US to programs that are focused on application of ICS in initial and transitional response instead of just theory and vague instruction.  I am greatly appreciative of all the support these articles have received and the extra effort so many have taken to forward my blog on to the attention of others.  These posts have led to some great dialogue among some incredible professionals about the need to update ICS training.  Sadly, there is no indication of action in this direction.

A recent reader mentioned that it often ‘takes guts to speak the truth’.  It’s a comment I appreciate, but I think the big issue is often complacency.  We settle for something because we don’t have an alternative.  Also, I’ve found that people are reluctant to speak out against the current training programs because there are so many good instructors or because the system, foundationally, is sound.  My criticisms are not directed at instructors or the system itself – both of which I overwhelmingly believe in.  I’m also not being critical of those who have participated in the creation of the current curriculum or those who are the ‘keepers’ of the curriculum.

Much of the existing curriculum has been inherited, modified from its roots in wildfire incident management, where it has served well.  While adjustments and updates have been made through the years, it’s time we take a step away and examine the NEED for training.  Assessment is, after all, the first step of the ADDIE model of instructional design.  Let’s figure out what is needed and start with a clean slate in designing a NEW curriculum, instead of making adjustments to what exists (which clearly doesn’t meet the need).

Another reader commented that ‘The traditional ICS courses seem to expect the IC to just waive their hands and magically the entire ICS structure just would build beneath them’.  It is phrases we find in the courses such as ‘establish command’ or ‘develop your organization’ that are taken for granted and offer little supporting content or guides to application.  The actions that these simple phrases point to can be vastly complicated.  This is much of the point of Chief Cynthia Renaud’s article ‘The Missing Piece of NIMS: Teaching Incident Commanders to Function on the Edge of Chaos’.  We need to train to application and performance – and I’m not talking about formal incident management teams, I’m talking about the responders in your communities.  The training programs for incident management teams are great, but not everyone has the time or ability to attend these.

I’m hoping that my articles continue to draw attention to this need.  Perhaps the changes that come as a result of the final NIMS refresh will prompt this; hopefully beyond just a simple update to the curriculum giving us a real, needs-based rewrite.  As I’ve mentioned before, this is public safety, not a pick-up game of kickball.  We can do better.

© 2016 – Timothy Riecker, CEDP

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLCYour Partner in Preparedness

Must-Read Speaking Tips

From Forbes Magazine – originally written for entrepreneurs, but in general these are great tips for presenters and trainers!

 

For most of us, public speaking can be incredibly nerve-wracking. What if you mess up? What if no one claps? What if someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to? What if you throw up on stage? (Seriously, you should at least stop worrying about that one.)

But with the right preparation, public speaking doesn’t have to be such a daunting, fretful experience. The chance to strut your stuff and raise awareness for your brand is actually really exciting, especially if you’re a young company looking to introduce your expertise—and offering—to the world.

Here, we outline five steps to take before you get up on that stage to make sure you most genuinely connect with your audience, get your point across in the time allotted, and (most importantly) don’t pass out.

 

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The benefits of this old adage are twofold. First, becoming comfortable with the material you’ll be delivering will ease your nerves—after reading your speech to your mom, grandma, and six closest friends, the experience will feel much less intimidating.

Second, you’ll significantly improve your delivery. Audiences want to connect with the people they’re watching speak or present, and if you’re reading from a piece of paper for 20 minutes, they’re not going to have the opportunity to do so. The more you know your stuff, the more you’ll be able to make eye contact, throw in a joke, and ensure you pack in all of your crucial points before the buzzer.

 

2. Know Your Space

If you have the opportunity to do so—like at a conference or cocktail party—check out where you’re going to be speaking. Are you using a microphone? Do you have any AV requirements? The better you understand your surroundings, the more you can concentrate on the public speaking itself. And if you’re incorporating AV aspects into your presentation, back to #1 you go.

 

3. Know Your Audience

I’ve talked at great length about the importance of knowing your audience across all of the various ways you communicate. But this sentiment is arguably most important when it comes to communicating in person. Your number one goal for any public speaking opportunity is to really connect with your audience. Regardless of how well you address the topic at hand, if people don’t get it, it won’t resonate. And if you’re not getting your message across, what’s the point?

Research the event and check-in with the coordinators beforehand so you know who to expect, and then tailor your comments accordingly. For example, think about explaining the current social media landscape to a room full of senior citizens versus a room full college students. Different speech, right? (Answer: Yes.)

Another aspect to consider, thanks to our ever-evolving digital world, is any virtual audience that might be participating in the event. Is your presentation being live streamed? Live tweeted? It’s just as important to understand this community. Ask what platforms will be pushing out the content—like the event’s Facebook page—so you can further amend your speech to address this audience. And, as the technology behind this can get complicated (especially if you’re planning to engage with your digital audience in real-time!), apply tips #1 and #2 solely to this aspect prior to getting on that stage.

 

4. Find the Balance

If you’ve founded a content producing business, and you’re speaking at a Content Producing 101 workshop, it makes a lot of sense for you to talk about your company and your experience in the industry. But many times, the connection between what you do and what you’re speaking about isn’t so straightforward. And in these cases, remember that while you want to use the speaking opportunity to draw attention to your business, you also don’t want to come across as too salesy.

So how do you find the balance? Well, remember that you represent your brand, so if you give a kick-ass speech, people are going to want to know more about you. As long as there’s an easy place for them to find you and to learn about what you do (a.k.a., make sure your company’s name, website, and Twitter handle is in your slides or the event’s program), the connection will be made naturally—no awkward, forced interjections of your brand into your speech required.

That said, it’s also OK to find one or two places to seamlessly (and genuinely) tie together what you do and the topic you’re discussing as you’re crafting your remarks.

Finally, make sure to network at the event. One of the biggest benefits of public speaking is the opportunity to position yourself as an expert, so make yourself available for questions and meet-and-greets both before and after your speech so you can strut your stuff.

 

5. Breathe

Really, don’t forget to breathe. You’ll be great!

 

 

Audience Analysis Worksheet

Go to this site to view the article posted about the audience analysis worksheet assembled by Andrew Dlugan with Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills.  Andrew has a great website filled with plenty of tips on public speaking and presentations.  This worksheet is part of his recent Audience Analysis series.  This series and the worksheet are great reminders that in teaching and presenting we need to always be focused on our audience and their needs.  You should be able to run through this worksheet well in advance of the actual speaking engagement, and the data derived will help you to shape the format and content of your presentation and presentation style.

Visual Presentation Design

I’ve been following Alex’s blog for a while now – the work she and her peers do in presentation design is truly revolutionary. This post, in particular, is a great introduction to how she works. I’ve certainly been at fault for many years for designing presentations like documents. It’s a tough habit to break, but I’m committing to the visual design method from now on!

If you do any kind of training or presentations – FOLLOW HER BLOG! She gives a ton of great advice!

Creating Communication

When I learned that I would have a few very special guests attending my visual design lecture, I redesigned my lesson plans.  While these lessons aren’t quite Slideshare-ready yet, I would like to share them with you over the next few days.  I promise to debut the new visual design Slideshare presentation before the end of January!

The new lessons focus on teaching my students 7 key rules for effective slide design.  Today, we’ll begin with rule number one:

ruleone1

The most basic lesson we learn first in my visual design class is that slides are not documents.  In order to create slides that use the Keynote or PowerPoint medium as it was intended to be used – for a visual purpose – we must set up our slides for success.

Setting our slides up for failure looks a little something like this:

ruleone2

We select a template in Keynote…

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The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration – Free Webinar

Passing this along from the folks at training magazine.  It’s free!

The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration

Date: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM Pacific / 1:00 PM Eastern

Join Training magazine on Thursday, January 31, for this complimentary Webinar, presented by UNC Executive Development, and learn to create rich, robust and collaborative learning environments that can be delivered anywhere and anytime.

Follow this link to register for this complimentary Webinar, The Future of Virtual Learning and Collaboration.

Attend this live Webinar and learn to:

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Register for this complimentary Webinar today!

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Tale of An Emergency Manager in Afghanistan

I want to share this story of Mike Cook, the Emergency Manager for the City of Edmonton who spent a year in Afghanistan helping them to improve their fire service and disaster response.  He tells a wonderful, but also sad story of the state of things there.  My congratulations and appreciation to Mike, and those like him, who are committed to helping not only their own communities, but those a world away.

15 Seconds to a Better Presentation

I was doing a lot of reading last night… Another article I came across was published on Inc.com and was written by Geoffrey James.  The article is all about first impressions and how to maximize that little bit of time (the article cites 15 seconds) that you have to grab an audience’s attention.  The information in this article is great for training programs, business presentations, and even meetings.  I’m certainly going to try these suggestions for my next presentation.

I’ve included the article below.

15 Seconds to a Better Presentation

These four simple rules will help ensure that your audience sits up and pays attention.

It takes an audience about 15 seconds (at most) to decide whether your presentation is worth their attention. Fritter away those fifteen seconds and your audience will either mentally check out or pull out their phones to start texting.

Here’s how to begin a presentation so that your audience really sits up and takes notice.

1. Have somebody else introduce you.

Don’t waste time explaining who you are and why you’re there. Write a short (100 word) bio and a short statement (50 words) of what you’ll be talking about. If you were invited to speak, have whoever invited you read this information to the audience. If you called the meeting yourself, put that information in the invite.

2. Do not tell a “warm-up” joke.

I have no idea how the “warm-up joke” became part of conventional business wisdom. Most of the time, the “joke” consists a weak attempt at situational humor (like “why are these meetings always on Monday?”) that merely communicates that you’re nervous and unsure of yourself. The rest of the time, the “joke” is a long story with an obvious punch line that tries everyone’s patience.

3. Do not begin with “background.”

Many presentations begin with a corporate background that’s intended to build credibility. (Example: “Our company has 100 years of expertise!”) The problem here is that at the start of a presentation nobody cares about your company. You’re asking them to translate your background information into something that’s meaningful to them and their business. Why should they bother?

4. Open with a startling and relevant fact.

To get an audience focused on what you’re going to tell them, you must first break through the “mental noise” that causes their attention to waver. This is best accomplished by a slide showing a fact that is new to the audience and important enough to capture their attention. Build the rest of your presentation to answer the business questions that this initial fact has raised in their minds.

Here are two samples presentations to help explain these points:

BAD:

“Hi, I’m John Doe from Acme and I’ve been working in the widget industry for 20 years. And boy, has it been an exiting time (just kidding!) Acme is the industry leader in widgets with over a million satisfied customers!! I’m here today to talk to you about how we can help you save big money on your purchases of high quality widgets.”

BETTER:

“Yes, one million dollars.” (Pause.) “That’s how much money you’re losing every year because of widget failure. Fortunately, there IS a better way and I’m going to explain how you can easily save that money rather than waste it.”

Needless to say, the slides in the above example are simplistic. The “better” example could probably be made more visually rich, perhaps with an illustration of money going down a drain (along with the $1m).

What’s important here is that you realize why the surprising and relevant first slide is far more likely to capture the audience’s attention than the typical rambling intro.

Please note that the “startling and relevant” fact need not be an attempt to generate fear.  The fact could just as easily be about possible opportunity, the achievement of a long held goal, or something else that inspires. As long as it’s surprising and relevant, the audience will listen.

The Death of ADDIE?

In a recently received email solicitation for ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) membership, they are offering a free copy of Michael Allen’s new book Leaving ADDIE for SAM.  Like many practicing trainers who also design and develop training material, I’ve used the ADDIE model my entire career to facilitate the process.  ADDIE, if you aren’t familiar, is an acronym for the steps in this universally accepted instructional design process standing for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation.  This process, when used properly, is a key to success in instructional design.

 

So, being intrigued by this concept of replacing ADDIE with another model, I did some research on the new model – SAM – which stands for Successive Approximation Model.  I came across a few articles and blogs which helped explain things to me.

This article is from Allen Interactions, Mr. Allen’s company which is promoting this new model.  Here’s another blog which promotes the Successive Approximation Model.  While these articles provided me with some insight and clarification on the SAM process, I’m honestly not sold.  I don’t think the ADDIE model is broken – any identified deficiencies (Mr. Allen identifies seven of them) are, in my humble opinion, errors in use rather than the model itself.  One must know how to use the model to be effective.  That’s like saying that a computer is broken because the user doesn’t know how to operate it.  I was actually put off by the insinuation in the previously linked article that the ADDIE model lends to ‘boring, lifeless training’.  I’m sorry, but no model is going to lend itself to or prevent that – that’s completely on the shoulders of those who design the training.  Admittedly, I’d like to learn more about SAM, but these are my first impressions.

All this said, can the ADDIE model be enhanced?  Absolutely.  There have been several modified ADDIE models proposed over the years, yet none have seemed to stick.  The essential differences in these models, including what’s captured in Mr. Allen’s SAM process, is to make the model less linear and to include feedback loops within the process for regular look backs, particularly to the data from the analysis phase.  The problem with these models, including SAM, is that they seem to require redundancy.  There are certainly instances when such redundancy is not necessary.  Regardless of these differences, I’m not sure that the ADDIE model was designed to be a strictly linear process anyway, and anyone who is a slave to a process without regularly reflecting on the quality of the product/outcome (and in training it’s all about learner outcomes) is likely in need of some remedial training on the matter.  I actually prefer this cyclic visualization of ADDIE to better show the interactions between the phases.

ADDIE Viewed as a Cycle

The initial instructional design training that folks go through may actually be the root cause of the problem.  If they are not taught to utilize flexibility inherent in the process then they obviously won’t see that flexibility.

The bottom line, regardless of what process we use, is that we must produce quality outcomes.  No outlined process will give us all the answers or a turn by turn roadmap to lead us to success.  We need to use our brains and apply what we’ve learned while keeping our ultimate goal in mind.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.