Just by luck, I happened into a possible consulting job. A major, large-size institution (not in the US wants) to be more competitive and is willing to put all their cards on their somewhat rickety table. When they asked a local authority to take a look at this, he asked someone else, who happened to be a member of Abundance 360. That person happened to run across me in one of our many free-for-all Zoom breakout rooms where i must have been holding forth extra-abundantly that day.
Now this education / tech / futurist who has always wanted to change the world has the chance of a lifetime. To date, I never had a very big canvas to work on. As a matter of fact, the small canvas in which I resided for the past 24 years was ripe for similar change, but did not include a coalition of the willing, shall we say.
So where’s the key? What’s the secret and how does the special sauce taste? I don’t yet know the answer to any of those questions because I have a feeling they don’t exist.
Large scale change in an organization is probably a chimera. Dreams of paperless offices, open air workspaces, cross cutting collaboration, synergy, breaking things, moving fast… are all illusions.
Change only comes from within individuals deciding to try something new because:
- They are tired of doing things the old way – which doesn’t work anymore and hasn’t for a while. For example, teaching through lecturing. Noticing that the ‘bright eyes’ you saw in the class you taught in grad school as a grad assistant have disappeared as their eyes now stare downward at phones hidden behind their laptops. You get so discouraged you actually ask another professor/teacher, ‘what do you do in your class?’ making yourself so vulnerable you’re almost naked. The ultimate act of contrition.
- You have heard that some people are doing ‘other things’ in their classrooms and look it up on the internet to find something so you won’t have to bear your soul (ass) to anyone.
- You got hit on the head while plugging in a charger under your desk, getting up before clearance was available. Passing out you had a dream about a world where students asked questions, discussed the topics of the class with each other, and made suggestions for the homework they would like to do: act out a simulation of the decision making processes for a major economic commitment in a corporate, political and family setting, and doing a compare and contrast game afterwards. Waking up you think, “I have to do this in a class.”
- You lost all of your lecture notes on yellow pads in a catastrophic collapse of the roof of your office – which has been housed in a ‘modular’ building for the past twelve years, two years beyond the original useful life of the building as it was procured. You decide to recreate those notes, try and give up and decide a new method is necessary anyway!
Could a visiting consultant make any of this happen?
Given enough planning time, a significant budget and team of hench’theys’ and a few moonless nights, maybe. But it would be preferable to create the following:
- A culture of change.
- Self-interest in change.
- Rewards for creating new effective and efficient methods and processes.
- New ways of thinking about teaching and learning that brings students into the process, lowers the costs, and improves equality.
I’m not going to say that this is impossible no matter how much I really want to. I am going to say it is possible with inspirational leadership and action. People generally like to work hard when they can see the benefit for themselves and their community – and change is the HARDEST work.
So, I am going to put together that proposal and include some crazy things to do to inspire and ground change in the purpose – a new institution, more effective, efficient and resilient – one that makes everyone notice it.
I think the force will be there – the force that many humans do have which drives them to be better, try harder, and make something rather than just go along. If that can happen for 20% of the people and institution, I’d declare victory and go home. If they invited me back, I’d do it again for the next 30%. After that you really have to depend on age and attrition. Or you could move the campus and not tell EVERYONE.
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