The Founders Institute

Founder Francis Sopper's personal statement

Born curious and driven, I've followed my polymathic interests and have spent the last three decades exploring in a multi-disciplinary way how humans manage information and transfer that information from one mind to another.

What's been an eclectic career path has been at the intersectional discovery edges of psychology, learning, cognition, and behavioral economics.

My story

It was the 70's. It was an all-boys Catholic High School run by a religious order of men. It was the dawning of the age of Aquarius. One of the older teachers -- we referred to them by the honorific, Brother -- was moved to prepare the senior boys to go out into the broader culture. Brother, let's call him Gildea. launched a course for senior boys called Love, Sex, and Marriage. I was a senior boy.

I was educated in elementary school by the Sisters of Providence and in secondary school by the Xaverian Brothers and I hold enormous respect for those dedicated women and men, which included the parish priests, who gave me a rigorous education in the classical academic subjects, set high expectations for our moral development, and beginning in elementary school pushed back against our racism, sexism, and homophobia.

And, nonetheless, Brother Gildea was in over his head. Early on one of my classmates, Joe, raised his hand. "Brother, how do you as a celibate feel qualified to teach this course?" Another quality for which I remain grateful is they encouraged us to challenge and debate. Brother was prepared for the question and responded. "One doesn't have to personally experience a thing to know a great deal about it. I have read a large number of books." I can't remember anything he said after. We had read every possible magazine and knew we didn't have a clue.

Like Brother Gildea, I've read a large number of books.

In addition --

My first job was delivering morning newspapers on foot -- beginning in my Irish-Catholic neighborhood, moving through the Chassidic neighborhood,(Shabbos goy duties on Saturdays) ending in the black neighborhood, earned my college tuition pressure testing water pipelines in my family's business including a -10F day in Agawam, Massachusetts, that my partner in that task and I still remember as the coldest day of our lives, and supported grad school painting houses. Consequently, I spent seven years teaching third grade -- in the process practicing Richard Feyman's dictum that to really understand something, explain it to a nine year old. In my adult life, I've experienced six economic recessions, one divorce, started three businesses, had five significant shifts in job roles and responsibilities, married a second time, reared two children, moved more than 1200 miles twice, traveled so much internationally that i had extra pages sown into my passport, and experienced serious illnesses and deaths among my loved ones.

Kairos Cognition

Kairos Cognition developed from a confluence of influences brought together when Patricia Albjerg Graham took over leadership of the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1982. Graham brought in classroom teachers working in the neighborhoods near Harvard and put them in conversation with some of Harvard’s foremost thinkers and researchers. Albjerg coined the term “thoughtful practitioner” to describe people working in the world under the light of research-identified best practices. In this environment as a young teacher, I got guidance from Howard Gardner Ph.D. developmental psychologist, MacArthur Fellow, and author of Frames of Mind; Magdalene Lampert Ph.D. then studying how boys and girls with their teachers engaged in mathematical thinking; and from leading computer scientists at the newly formed Harvard- MIT Educational Technology Center working to develop personal computers as tools to enhance thinking and learning. In 1985, Dr. Charles Drake, Ed.D, Harvard, self described as profoundly dyslexic, founded Landmark College as a laboratory school for the development of successful learning-performance solutions for college students identified with learning disorders.. I joined the faculty in 1992 and served as Dean of Admissions In 1998, in my role as Dean of Admissions, I consulted with Robert Lefton, Ph.D., CEO of Psychological Associates and Anthony Montebello, Ph.D. of Psychological Associates, headed up the preparation of learning-performance materials for the commercial market. The resulting cognitive preference survey underwent further revision in 2000, following evaluation by Carnegie Mellon researcher Suguru Ishizaki, Ph.D. MIT MediaLab.. The work is always under review as new data emerges from published research in neuro- and behavioral sciences together with OpenBook’s engagement with high-performing individuals In 2002, I joined OpenBook Learning, inc. as a founding partner. I was appointed CEO in 2008, and acquired ownership control in 2016. OpenBook Learning includes an integrated English language and literacy software spun out of IBM’s Eduquest called OpenBook Academy, the Kairos Assessment -- a historic breakthrough, the Kairos Assessment measures the energetic cost of activating your time, attention and energy. This measurement is distinct to you, which gives us a path to working with how we engage the world so that we can achieve your best thinking and working, and GTD Focus, a partnership with best-selling author David Allen to deliver his Getting Things Done individual coaching in the US and Canada and Kairos Cognition, a consulting practice for individuals who need to make decisions under voluminous information flow. As a result, my clients come from multiple disciplines including heads of global organizations, leaders in finance, medicine, the military, media, sports, education, design, and entertainment.

People working under these conditions are getting things done typically to a high degree of effectiveness. At the same time, they bump up against the 24-hour wall and need to be engaging the optimum thing at the optimum time. In short, they need to achieve kairos. Their work with me begins with a three-stage metacognitive process to align their time, attention, and energy. This happens through a systemic process of previewing expectations, developing a broader awareness of the dynamics in the moment, and using reflection to repeat success and redirect from suboptimal engagements. Ultimately and, often through extended coaching, individuals increase their ability to choose their self-assessed highest value activity for each moment of the day.

Kairos Cognition is driving this concept through organizations in partnerships with management consultants, HR professionals and others in talent management. The goal is to align an organization with kairos in order to build an organizational culture of unmatched fluidity of communication and cooperation.

My wife, Susan, says in my spare time, “He interrogates the universe.”

My personal practice

The Optimum Thing at the Optimum time

My personal practice is with people who always want to get better.. The people I engage are from diverse walks of life and there's no job or role concentration. What's common is we're all doing stuff that's hard, and we want to keep our eyes on raising the value.

Our work together doesn't engage in hypotheticals. We join in the real stuff of life amidst the mud and blood of the struggle. Working with me won't take away the blood, toil, tears, and sweat. The goal is to keep raising the value of that work.

Every session generates a real accomplishment. One accomplishment at a time until you arrive at every moment of every day aligned with what's most generative to you.

The process

First, identify your comparative advantage. You have a specific way of being that includes your knowledge, experience, skills, aptitudes, cognitive alignment, and factors yet to be uncovered. What this means is that no two of us, standing in the same place at the same time; looking in the same direction, experience the universe in exactly the same way. Understand these and you'll uncover your comparative advantage: the things you do that if you don't do them, the universe won't get them. Second, become aware of the particular alignment of time, attention, and energy that gives you your personal best advantage for certain things. Third, align your best engagements with the optimum time, attention, and energy for those things. Fourth, screen out, ignore, delegate, leave to the universe all those lesser engagements that crowd out your time, attention, and energy for doing your best. If you've read this far, you're getting things done -- invariably to a high degree of effectiveness. At the same time, you bump up against the 24-hour wall and the need to be engaging the optimum thing at the optimum time, There is a surfeit of compelling opportunities competing for your attention. You'll keep moving toward what, for you, is most deserving of your attention.

It's a process of becoming more rigorously and resolutely who you are.

Here’s the nut of what we’d do: quarter by quarter, we’d identify the time you have available and, over a year, gradually refine your commitments so you are only doing your most impactful things in the time you have available.

This will require the hard work for you and your collaborators, to negotiate and renegotiate, shift roles and responsibilities, push things off to time-certain later, to someday/maybe, or to leave stuff to the universe: it's not yours to do.

Time Commitment

Two days in person to start the program. One in person day per quarter

At least six virtual sessions per quarter

Fees based on 24 virtual sessions/year -- 14,400 USD/year In person based on 10,000/day USD plus travel, meals, accommodations Any consecutive days billed at 8,000/day USD

Text, emails, ad hoc calls included

Scope and cadence to be re-evaluated quarterly. All sessions may include other participants and you may designate any session to be solely for another participant of your choosing.

In-person days may include group sessions and individual sessions with other personnel.

Seminars with Co-creation groups

Small groups composed of genuine thinking partners and, as a result, are co-creators, fall in a special category. This engages a core principle of Kairos. We can all stand in the same place at the same time, look in the same direction, and take a different sample of what's out there.

The job of co-creators is to blend our diverse points of view. Classically, it involves engaging the dialectic, which is, systematically engaging divergent, often opposed or contradictory ideas, to resolve their conflict. My role is to coach leaders, and often groups in the use of the tools of Kairos. We'll engage these tools to make visible the cognitive perspective in each of us.

Again, there's learning of the constructs and tools, and my personal engagements include this learning. Most important however, is my participation with groups engaged in their current problem solving, often as coach and referee; other times, stepping into the leadership role to model the craft. The power of Kairos emerges when we can engage and struggle in our differences with objective candor.

With co-creators, my work begins with individuals beginning to unpack their personal Kairos. Then we look at interactions with dyads, triads, and, if the group is larger, with the group as a whole. In my experience, it's rare to have more than five people in a genuine co-creation relationship, although many can be vital contributors to decisions without having a role as decision makers.

Talent Development Advising

How we acquire information, manage it, and share it with others is the essence of my life's work in cognition. In the Kairos Assessment, we have a direct and informative tool providing fundamental insight into an individual's preferential approaches to managing and transferring information. This understanding gets underneath learning and aptitude and is distinct from our emotional processing. It's our foundational awareness on which our knowledge develops. In my experience, validated by historical examples, and extensive research, teachers, coaches and trainers become great by finding their own way to this understanding and how to leverage it. My work with leaders in education, training, and development is to get them there faster. Again, no hypotheticals, I work with leaders with content and learners to make content lean toward the cognitive receptivity of the learner, and to support learners inherent abilities to lean toward challenging aspects of content. This call and response creates powerful acceleration of all participants' knowledge and skills and their ability to accelerate others' knowledge and skills.


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