Each of us matters in moving forward with intentionality
We all are people and people can grow, change and evolve
Progress starts with understanding the present
“What is . . . is”
And by having a clear vision of a preferred future . . . progress has direction
Then bridging the gaps between “what is” and “what might be” becomes the mission
Movement towards a preferred future will likely require:
welcoming the unknown
motivation to learn
Progress comes from embracing opportunity in the middle of uncertainty
We all must be willing to use our current knowledge and dispositions as fertile ground to grow more
more knowledge, and
more willingness and ability for:
welcoming the unknown
being sincerely motivated to learn
Jerry Jennings March 3, 2015
As I read Roger Lewin’s and Birute Regine’s Weaving Complexity and Business: Engaging the Soul at Work (2000) I was impressed with their message regarding ‘complexity’. Yes, they write from a business perspective where managers are many and their roles are very important. And yes, some educators and educational leaders might not like to think of ‘businesses’ and ‘managers’ when they think about schooling.
Given that, please read the following quote from their book. “When managers accept that periods of chaos are natural – even desirable – in business, then they will come to see chaos with different eyes. Specifically, periods of chaos can be embraced as a portal to change, which may be enhanced through respectful and limited influence, not as an aberration that needs to be avoided.”
Most of us would likely agree that education is going through a time of dramatic change. And that the concepts of maintaining the status quo or going back to the specific order of less chaotic times are not reasonable. So, the times we live in, raise our families in, help with our grandchildren in and work in are changing.
These times may lead to a better and different future. Maybe our influence on the future may be limited yet respecting the fact that change is here and is continuing to unfold – we need to be part of the ‘unfolding’.
Our vision has to be on the future and not on the past. Helping to shape tomorrow for our children and grandchildren is important work. To do that we need to be clear on our vision of all children benefiting from schooling and all children being effectively launched as citizens of tomorrow.
The people in the organization need to be willing to learn, grow and develop and, the organization must support their learning.
“Learning” is not a ‘straight line’ activity for individuals or the organization. To move ‘off’ the status quo and into new patterns of behavior and culture is adaptive. We grow our strengths and develop a new normal.
Actually, this kind of adaptation and forward movement is not only for organizations. Our families and social groups will also benefit from developing cultures of learning and adaptation.
Yes! To be willing to adapt and learn requires an experimental mindset. We have to be willing to try things to see if they work and be willing to let go of things that don’t work and further develop things that show progress. We, in our work and in our families, will benefit from embracing an experimental mindset.
Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky define experimental mind-set as “an attitude that treats any approach to an adaptive issue not as a solution, but as the beginning of an iterative process of testing a hypothesis, observing what happens, learning, making midcourse corrections, and then, if necessary, trying something else.”
“It is not surprising that in organizations with significant adaptive capacity, there is an openness and commitment to learning
Adaptive challenges cannot be solved by taking a course, hiring a consulting firm, or copying other companies’ best practices. Instead, people throughout the organization must open themselves to experimentation, giving up some old truths that have become irrelevant with changes in business, social or political landscape.
What does a continuous-learning mind-set look like in action within an organization? Here are some signs:
People who make mistakes or experiment with new ways of doing things are not marginalized.
When something bad happens (a client is lost, a bid is rejected), the news is acknowledged and the event is debriefed for its lessons, not treated as a cause for punishment.
Communications and interaction are nurtured across all formal and informal boundaries.
People view the latest strategic plan as today’s best guess rather than a sacred text.”
Today’s challenges require more than a technical response. We must be willing to adapt, learn and discover our future. Further, we must be ready to go on this journey with others.
Tomorrow is an opportunity
Tomorrow belongs to those that can create an adaptive culture
Tomorrow’s promise is complex and welcomes learners striving to thrive
People and organizations that learn will realize tomorrow’s opportunities
Pages 105-107 of The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky 2009 and the definition of experimental mind-set from page 304
From my point of view, the challenge of being intentional about connecting – mind-to-mind is worth accepting – because the stakes are so very high. I believe that we live in times where interdependent thinking holds real value for all mankind.
People engaging in conversations where transformation has the potential of occurring are people who can help form adaptive interactions. Adaptive responses to the status quo can help create futures focused on the common good. Yes, I use the word “can” because there is no assurance that common good will be the shared focus.
Ron Heifetz, Alexander Grashow, and Marty Linsky in their book: The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009) write about adaptive leadership. Their definition: Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive (page 14) sounds like the kind of leadership many of us might want to experience. Tackling tough challenges and thriving is the direction to the future that I want to put my energy into. For me that sounds like the ‘common good’.
These conversations need to be more intentional than casual. Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman in their chapter Creating Communities of Thought: Skills, Tasks, and Practices from The Power of the Social Brain edited by Arthur Costa and Pat Wilson O’Leary (2013) write: “When, how and with whom we participate shapes the possibilities of our lives. Participation fuses with purpose when catalytic questions energize the cognitive reaction.
Purpose, process, and reflection are the essential components of provocative and thoughtful inquiry. The challenge of the questions that we ask ourselves, and now we ask those questions, make the difference between committees and communities.
Laura Lipton and Bruce Wellman offer the following formulation: Purpose + Participation + Catalytic Questions = A Sustainable Community of Thought”
The ‘with whom’ part of the above quote is crucial to think deeply about. I suggest that we need to get very good at engaging with people across differences.
The ‘how and when’ part of the above quote is not to be taken lightly either. These two components are fundamental to reaching the potential that is possible when people think together across differences. Working toward reaching a solid consensus is a worthy goal as is being sure to tackle tough problems when there are engaged people ‘in the room’ who look at the issue or topic from varied perspectives and are willing to work together to attempt to find a consensus agreement.
Thinking together in complex times requires being willing to develop our skills, abilities, and dispositions. We have knowledge to gain. We have capabilities to develop. Connecting mind-to-mind is worth the effort. Thinking well across differences is essential in these challenging times. It is worth our effort to begin this journey toward developing our social brain.