The picture to the left is - Dr Lee R Berger and Wife at an Banquet Dinner for the awards presentation of "Academy of Achievement". The "Golden Plate" is the Academy of Achievement's official award, which is presented to honorees at the end of its annual Summit. The Academy's Golden Plate Awards Council annually reviews a broad spectrum of candidates for invitation to the Summit. From this list, the council, composed of past "Golden Plate" honorees of the Academy, selects the 20 new awardees. Award recipients are selected for significant achievement in their fields.
One of Lee's achievement's was introducing me to a new term, and prehapes one for you. It is a term once you understand you will never forget. "Backyard Syndrome". He did not recieve an award for this, but I think it should qualify.
"Backyard Syndrome" - the inability to see something new because we are so comfortable with what we've seen or done before - can keep us from new, potentially exciting discoveries that are right under our noses.
This was drilled into my head recently as I accompanied my cousin Dr. Lee Berger on five days of multiple lectures, including St. Mark's Boys School, Ross Petrol Museum where he teleconferenced a lecture to 500 schools, the Young Presidents Organization and the Boy Scouts of America. It was a thrilling time to bask in the glow of his achievements and to reflect on the importance of overcoming Backyard Syndrome.
Lee arrived in the US from South Africa just before Hurricane Sandy hit, where he had been working on an exciting find of ancient fossils in a cave there. By his own account, he had overlooked these fossils many times before as had others. The caves had been surveyed maybe 70 to 100 years ago as a source of materials to make concrete. He came to find these caves using a new technology called "Google Earth". Should I say new to Lee.
My cousin Lee had explored the same general area for 17 years and had become so comfortable with the surroundings that he continued to miss the fossil remains that were there. It took his nine-year-old son, who was going along for the first time, to see something new.
Lee was so familiar with the area that he dismissed his son's discovery at first. Falsely assuming it was what would turn out to be what is so commonly found just another antelope fossil.
After going through the formality of getting permissions from the Government for further study. He went back to the new site with many colleagues with lots of degrees all with thoughts of being added to the history books. After all if a nine year old boy could find such an exciting find in minute and half just think what they with their many degrees would find. After three hours they had found absolutely nothing. He did like most British will do when facing disappointment, he sat down discouraged, and broke for tea. Ready to give up, when the sun moved just right to reveal a mandible with tooth fragments, and scalpel of a skeleton that purportedly was 2.0 million years old. At first he said nothing and walked over for a closer examination and as he reached out to balance himself two teeth fell into his hand. Then he said something.
The finds are the most complete ever found and even included food particles in the teeth.
None of this would have been possible without his son who did not have "Backyard Syndrome" because he was so young. Lee says we should all look at our own surroundings, lives, the people we work with and our family in a new light. There might be something new and wondrous to discover. Science, business and every aspect of life is held back by "Backyard Syndrome," he said.
Business is the same way. We continue to do the same thing over and over expecting a new outcome, thinking this is the way business is done rather than making changes. It is better, in my opinion, after being with Lee for five days, to run the company without the hamstrings of how it has always been done.
Many teachers and professors have never experienced what they teach. They just teach what is in the books, and never experience real knowledge. They never open their eyes.
My Cousin said we must all fight "Backyard Syndrome" if we want to advance. From high level business to pumping gas. Do not let yourself become blinded by the familiar - the comfortable.
After all, he had been looking at this area for nearly two decades and found nothing. It took a nine-year-old boy only minutes to make the most exciting discovery of its kind. What would you see?
You have read through my comments abouts Lee's lecture, and a little of what I got from his words. I like everyone else get a different interpretation of the lecture's words all due to personal life experiences. So I end with inviting you to listen to Lee's Lecture in his words. On the menu to the left you will find a link titled videos, and that will take you to his lecture it is in 6 parts. These 6 parts are worth your time... enjoy. I did skip the into, and went directly to Talk 1...