Closed=Safe vs Open=Risky


Last week, one of my team members asked me, "How's your Moodle course coming along?" At that question, I had to pause. In the first place, I was grateful someone cared enough to ask me a question about my work. In the second, I felt terrible because I hadn't made much progress on it since starting it. Admittedly, I've been a trifle busy the last few weeks, but isn't that the way it always is? 

"You know," I replied, "a previous team member spoiled me for developing content alone. I could sit for hours working by myself, but now I feel a bit at a loss without someone to bounce ideas off of. Maybe we can bring everyone together and brainstorm ideas and chat about the possibilities." At that, we ended the conversation with a promise to schedule a meeting with all the team to go over Moodle course development.

That feeling of trying to create alone, especially a course you're going to teach other people, is tough to overcome. When I think back on it, many of the courses I developed that were worth something had a collaborator. In my work at the Education Service Center, Region 20, Jim Baldoni and I often cranked out courses together. The synergy between two minds kept us going. As a director, I'd forgotten the power of collaboration to create, instead trying to create situations that promote authorship, as Bolman and Deal would say. 

Discovering my own power to create is, as I recall Dan Pink in "A Whole New Mind" although quoted out of context, is insufficient. Creativity has to be a team sport, and it has to go beyond the people around you. Yet, I continue to find it hard. 

How about you?

"Innovation is a team sport, not a solo sport. It depends on a culture of openness". 
--James Mcnerney, CEO, Boeing Co
Reflecting on the image at the top of this blog post, creating on your own can signal a lack of commitment, an unwillingness to throw one's ideas on the table and mix it up, to share defeat or victory...probably more of the former than the latter. But if we aren't willing to risk it as educators, why should our students?

What if we acknowledge that we can achieve more together than alone? More collaboration by reaching outside of our offices and/or classrooms to others? It seems obvious but the doing is hard. You have to change a culture that is focused on being closed and safe. That's what the big change is, isn't it? Open=Safe now. . .the more you connect and collaborate, the better. The more closed you are, the greater the risk what you come up with won't matter or be relevant.

Argh, that's what so tough. All this seems obvious when reflecting here, but accomplishing it can be difficult because you're dealing with the confines of the box. As Seth Godin put it so eloquently:

When you think outside the box, what you're actually doing is questioning the decision before the decision.
That decision is far more important and much more difficult to change than the decision you actually believe you're about to make. (Source: Seth Godin)

Nothing happens unless you speak up, until you open up. Stay closed, you have the safety of illusion and no hope of starting the dialogue to open things up.


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

Too good example of teamwork, Thanks for giving this blog,too informative and superb.
nashworld said…
I appreciate the way you frame the "principals as teachers" idea as either rather simple... or terribly complex. I'm going to assume a great deal of how a person's sees that one is going to relate to their current perspective and where they sit.

Therefore... it seems to be to be simultaneously be both simple and complex. I think that's possible. It might just be one or the other depending on the set of lenses each individual chooses to use in order to view the situation.

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