August 23, 2011

Create Emergent Possibility


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Creating emergent possibilities should not be left to happenstance or synchronicity. My belief is that creating emergent possibilities is the important and primary responsibility of the leader in today's environment which is calling us to adapt to new realities both in the economic side of our schools as well as the programming and community side of our schools.  Creating emergent possibilities is born of disciplined focus and structured conversations around questions that stimulate our renewal as institutions:

What skills, habits of minds, and elements of ethical character and values do students need to navigate their worlds successfully now and in their futures?

How can we instruct and influence innovative thinking and the skills of initiative and entrepreneurship?

How do we create environments focused on continuous inquiry and learning for students and faculty alike?

How can we leverage technology to connect and learn but also to create economic efficiencies in our environment?

Who in the world can benefit from our educational philosophy, experience, environment, and enthusiasm? How can we make this happen?

How can we make the learning experience we offer available to more students and their families?

How can we evolve our perception and reputation from elitist to empowering and egalitarian?

The questions are many and they are important.  What is at a deficit are two important things:  a lack of drive and a lack of time.

The questions are big. Big questions take time to understand and deconstruct, and time to answer. Everyone's time is finite, overtaxed, limited, and limiting. Our focus on time, or lack of time, generates a task list mentality that keeps our minds in a small orbit of efficiency, not really concerned with expansion and possibility. We default to I have more than I can handle now! The result is a focus in our daily lives and of our institutions on getting things done, regardless of if they are the right, relevant, and most appropriately adaptive things. We do what we have always done because that is what we have time for. We have given up the pursuit of considering anything different in the name of efficiency.

In leading change, the most important first step is creating a sense of urgency. Urgency for what? about what?  The necessary urgency is for the emergent possibilities and the necessary adaptations.

Unless we develop structured and honored time to hold generative conversations that deal with big questions at the board level, the administrative leadership level, the division leadership level, the departmental level, the grade level team level, and in the parent community, our future will be more of the same, and only that which we have already known and focused our time around.

To have these conversations that cultivate the emerging possibilities, we have to be willing to enter into areas where the answers are not known, but have to be designed and created. The work is messy and takes time. The trek is circuitous. But, the results are absolutely invigorating and stunning. It's sad that more people and more institutions don't experience this emergence and creative energy firsthand and often.

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