Attracting FacDev Talent

I have been exploring the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals, but I have been looking at it from a faculty development perspective.  The report is based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, and noted ten trends.  I discussed the second of these – careers and learning – yesterday.

The third trend involves talent acquisition…which at first glance does not have much to do with centers for teaching and learning and faculty development…or does it?  The report noted that in…

“…today’s transparent digital world, a company’s employment brand must be both highly visible and highly attractive because candidates now find the employer, not the reverse.” (Emphasis mine)

In ten years in faculty development, I have been involved in many search committees for members of CTLs.  I am sure many of you have as well.  The time honored process of crafting and posting a job description, forming a committee, screening a large number of applications…many of which do not fit the requirements, phone and maybe web interviews, campus visits, and the hope that through all of this, a candidate that actually is a good fit will be found.

The Deloitte report suggests this model may be changing … that tech solutions may disrupt this process.  AI systems like IBM’s Watson can now sort through cloud networks like LinkedIn and quickly identify good fits based on career experiences, endorsed skills, and analysis of social media dialogue.  Organizations are already employing simulations and gaming into the interview process to analyze potential performance on the job.  The report noted that “…a consensus is emerging that traditional interviewing – subjective and unstandardized – may be an unreliable method for predicting a potential employee’s success.”

Joel Osteen has been quoted as saying “See, when you drive home today, you’ve got a big windshield on the front of your car. And you’ve got a little bitty rearview mirror. And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what’s happened in your past is not near as important as what’s in your future.”

Perhaps the way we have staffed CTLs in the past is our rear-view mirror, and the future staffing of CTLs might involve leveraging technology, focusing on the center’s brand to attract new talent to desire to come to the center, and thinking outside the box to find the right talent that can help faculty enhance student learning.  We tend to think that the past is crystal clear and that the future is fuzzy…just like the picture below.  True…but the future is also always not what we expect…so staffing for what we expect seems out of sync.

If you were starting a CTL from scratch now, what are the talents you would want with you as you look to this future?

{Graphics: Deloitte Press, Bill Frymire}

UPDATE:  After hitting publish yesterday, FastCompany published “The War For Talent is Over, And Everyone Lost.”  It took a slightly different tack than I did, but it illustrated that organizations seem better able at waging war on talent as opposed to attracting talent.  This article noted that talent is largely personality in the right place…which brings me back around to the idea of making CTLs attractive and the right talent will find you…as opposed to the other way around.

 

Half-Life of Skills

Earlier this week, I noted that I was beginning to dive into the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  Based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, the report noted ten trends.  I discussed the first of these – the organization of the future – in yesterday’s post.

The second trend in the Deloitte report was “Careers and Learning: Real Time, All the Time.”  The report began by noting – again, for businesses and HR professionals – that the concept of “career” is in flux.  The beautiful question asked is what does “career” mean in a world of 100-year lifespans, 60-year careers, and half-lives of skills that continue to fall to only about 5 years.  While this report is for businesses, one can easily see the overlap with faculty development.  A tenure-track position is a life-time commitment, yet the concomitant development of teaching and research skills can be problematic.  In the world of business, the report noted that organizations with dynamic career models outperform their peers by providing continuous learning opportunities and a deeply embedded culture of development.  Institutions of higher education, particularly those with centers for teaching and learning (CTLs), provide the continuous learning opportunities, but as one who has been in faculty development for a decade…and considering the numbers of faculty I did not see versus those I did, I question whether institutions of learning have cultures of development?

The report goes on to explore the explosion of high-quality, free or low-cost content available through such platforms as Youtube, edX, Coursera, Udacity and Khan Academy, as well as micro-masters offered at some universities.  The commoditization of content raises the question of for CTLs – develop content in-house or link to these resources outside the institution?  A parallel question is whether CTLs should even develop content…the report highlights General Electric’s Brilliant You – an online learning platform in which GE employees develop and share learning content with peers.

The report suggested that for businesses – and I would suggest for higher education as well – that “learning” is a highly strategic business area.  A decade ago, businesses were interested in building out some content in an online directory.  Now, they are moving towards agile learning opportunities, promoting true lifelong learning, and retraining for multifunctional teams.

“…Forward thinking L&D departments are facilitating this growth in interdisciplinary thinking by viewing the corporate university as a commons instead of a training center…”

This suggests new roles for the leaders of CTLs.  As catalysts for change, they have to become curators and facilitators more than trainers.  The culture of the faculty development within the university – ironically – has to shift from teaching to collaborative learning.

To illustrate new approaches, the report highlights the University of Southern California.  One example was the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and STEM Cell Research, which teamed science faculty with cinematography faculty to develop new approaches to problem solving using digital imaging and virtual reality.  Another example was the Iovine and Young Academy for the Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, which used interdisciplinary teams of faculty for breakthrough design thinking for audio headsets.  The lesson learned is that CTLs have to move beyond interdisciplinary and focus on convergence.  What are the problems that if solved would have high impact…and what groups could make this happen?  CTLs are in a unique position to leverage university assets to quickly form faculty learning communities that could address these problems.

As was done with the first theme, the report provided a series of old and new rules.  Once again building off their work to focus on faculty development:

Old Rules New Rules
No requirement for skill development for teaching or learning
Faculty decide what new skills are needed and have the resources to learn these skills
Tenure track is “up or out”
Tenure track is one of many options, careers can go in multiple directions
CTLs exist to train faculty
CTLs curate learning opportunities and create useful learning experiences
Faculty learn in workshops and sometimes online
Faculty learn all the time, in micro-learning, in physical and virtual workshops, and across disciplines
CTLs are considered the one-stop for training
CTLs are the learning commons, bringing together faculty and cross-functional learning communities
Offerings are based on compliance and technology
Offerings are always on, collaboratively developed and shared, and curated from multiple sources
Learning is provided by experts
Learning is provided by everyone
Credentials come from the university
Credentials are loosely bundled from multiple sources

.

Such an approach requires some fundamental rethinking of the core mission of CTLs…but these are disruptive times, and the time is ripe to begin this rethinking.

What rules would you add or change?

Faculty Development of the Future

Yesterday, I noted that I was beginning to dive into the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  Based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, the report noted ten trends, the first of which is the organization of the future.

The chapter in the Deloitte report on “The Organization of the Future: Arriving Now” was authored by Josh Bersin, Tiffany McDowell, Amir Rahnema, and Yves van Durme…a global team which in itself models what follows.  The report noted that organizational design was top of the trend list because high-performing companies today operate radically different than they did 10 years ago (which is when I first moved in to faculty development).  I would suggest that – as in business – the trend in faculty development is to move faster, adapt quicker, and facilitate rapid learning.  This may suggest a different organizational structure for centers for teaching and learning (CTLs).

Organizations …including CTLs… were designed in the past for efficiency and effectiveness, which led to a typically hierarchical structure.  Yet, as Harold Jarche has noted often, networks are the new companies…and in today’s environment, networks can be both on site and digital.  The Deloitte report suggested that high-performing organizations are shifting from hierarchies to team-based (and project-based) nodes.

networks of teams

In the past decade, we have seen CTLs grow nationally.  Two years ago, I looked at the trends across 42 public and state institutions.  There was no one pattern to center design.  Nationally, there were 8 megacenters that covered both teaching/learning and edtech, 28 centers that focused just on teaching and learning, and 15 centers that focused just on edtech/online.  Seven institutions had no centers of any kind.  Center staffing ranged from one part-time member to 90+. The average CTL had a staff of 5.7, the average edtech center had a staff of 25.9, and the average megacenter had a staff of 30.3.  Those that split the duties tended to staff the edtech side better, and there generally was duplication of services when centers were split.

Whether staffed with 6 people or 60, it would seem that the CTL of the future would involve teams that would form, deliver and disband…potentially using faculty in temporary CTL roles (such as Northeastern’s CATLR Faculty Scholars program).  The Deloitte report suggested an intriguing concept (at least intriguing when it comes to faculty development) of using organizational network analysis (ONA) software to study who is talking to who, allowing an organization to tap into existing networks.  The report also suggested that the leaders of these networked teams would need skills in negotiation, resilience, and systems thinking.  The past skills that allowed leaders to rise to the top might be the wrong skills for agile networked teams!  These new networked teams would not necessarily be co-located, and would use a variety of social collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello, Facebook’s Workplace and/or Google Team Drives.

Building off this chapter’s “rewriting the rules” …the title of the report… the following emerges:

Old Rules New Rules
Organized for efficiency and effectiveness
Organized for learning, innovation, and faculty impact
CTL viewed as hierarchy, with chain of command decision process
CTL viewed as agile network, empowered by team leaders and fueled by
collaboration and knowledge-sharing
Structure based on academic functions
Structure based on work and projects
Advancement based on longevity
Advancement based on accomplishments through multiple assignments
People become leaders through promotion
People create followers to grow in influence
Culture ruled by fear of failure
Culture of safety, risk-taking, and learning through innovation
Rules-based
Playbook-based
Roles and job titles clearly defined
Teams and responsibilities clearly defined, but roles and job titles change frequently
Process-based
Project-based
Lead by direction
Lead by orchestration

.

Would higher education embrace such a model?  It is difficult to say.  In some respects, higher education continues to look forward by looking in the rear-view mirror.  Yet, there are calls for change…and CTLs have been innovators in the past.  Quickly evolving times call for new approaches.

I would be interested in your thoughts?  Is this realistic or a pipe-dream?

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

 

 

Rewriting the Rules

I downloaded the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looks at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  This report suggested that with a more digital, global, diverse, automated and social workforce, HR rules need to be updated.

Drawing from Tom Friedman’s 2016 book Thank You For Being Late (which I just ordered), this report noted that organizations face gaps between the rate of change for technology, individuals, businesses and policy.  For instance, Twitter rapidly evolved in the past decade, and individuals rapidly adapted to Twitter.  But the adoption rate by businesses (and higher education) lagged that of individuals, and the creation of policy governing the use of Twitter lagged even more.

Based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, the report noted ten trends:

  • The organization of the future
  • Careers and learning
  • Talent acquisition
  • Employee experience
  • Performance management
  • Leadership disrupted
  • Digital HR
  • People analytics
  • Diversity and inclusion
  • The augmented workforce – Robotics, cognitive computing and AI

The ten trends noted apply well beyond just HR.  I see application not only to the leadership courses I teach for Creighton, but for higher education as well.  I continue to teach for Northeastern University, and I am consulting for the School of Social Work at VCU, helping them conceptualize the digital course components for their Masters and Bachelors courses.  In the days to come, I hope to devote a post to each trend, pulling the strings on how the trend might impact leadership and higher education.

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

The Metaphor of Sloths

 

Thinking Outside Box

Back in 2014, one of my colleagues, Enoch Hale, posted the following blogging challenge:

“I want to pose an open challenge: Post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for 30 days.

What followed was an amazing six weeks (we decided to do 30 work days) of out-of-the-box brainstorming.  Our collective questions were captured here.

Yet, while it was fun and intellectually stimulating, did it change me?  Maybe…it certainly flavored my teaching.

I thought of this thought-exercise as I was reading Joe Brewer’s Medium post “The Look and Feel of 21st Century Science.”

Brewer noted that humanity is going through unprecedented global change.  And while some processes adapt to change very quickly (our use of smartphones for instance), other things move more slowly.  He noted historical sloths such as academic disciplines at universities and libraries.

His point about libraries reminded me of Dave Weinberger’s earlier book, Everything is Miscellaneous.  Weinberger noted that in a digital age, there is no one way to classify information.  Rather than trying to put books in one place (like the Dewey Decimal System does), he suggested that information can live in multiple places.  This premise of information and knowledge living in multiple nodes and the concept of networked knowledge was expanded in his book Too Big To Know, which is the textbook for my ILD-831 classJoe BrewerBrewer noted that “…libraries are “going digital” and building up a network ecology framework for organizing the knowledge of societies.”

Brewer suggested that science is currently in crisis alongside the political and economic systems of the world.  He points out:

“So we must envision a look and feel for science in the future that is networked, agile and ever-evolving, relevant to the pressing issues of the day, and deeply, DEEPLY ecologically human.”

Brewer suggested that part of the problem lies in our adoption of systems thinking…the “illusion of separation between machines and living things.”  He pointed to the need to adopt instead ecological networks.

“…The look and feel of 21st Century science will be human through and through. There will be holism and integration; emotion and reason recombined in resonance with findings from the cognitive and behavioral sciences. And it will be ecological; embedded in human networks which are themselves embedded within physical and social geographies.”

Weinberger in Too Big To Know captured some of that library thinking when he concluded:

“…We thought that knowledge was scarce, when in fact it was just that our shelves were small.  Our new knowledge is not even a set of works.  It is an infrastructure of connection…”

Coming back to our 30-Day Challenge, Enoch had us questioning our teaching in ways that surfaced holism and integration…that surfaced integration of human and technology.  I have tried to bring aspects of that thinking into my current courses – Creighton University’s ILD-831 – Technology and Leadership – and Northeastern University’s EDU-6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning.  In both classes, I struggle to move past the sloths of old…of hierarchical thinking in leadership…of classrooms based on scarcity of knowledge.  Yet, I am encouraged and even buoyed by ideas surfacing from my students in our blog aggregation for ILD-831 and our Twitter hashtag discussions in #edu6323.  The first stirrings of ecological networks appear to be developing!

I would be interested in your thoughts.  How do we move the sloths of academia and leadership in our digital age?

{Graphics: Bud Deihl, Brewer}

The Leaky Social Media Question

There is supposedly an old Chinese curse that states, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”  I would think that this last week – the first week of President Trump’s administration – qualifies as interesting times.

As someone who teaches about social media in both leadership and education classes, it was fascinating to watch unfolding events around social media in the federal government…which has lessons for those of us anywhere in leadership.

On Tuesday, the new administration attempted to control any communication with the public, ordering employees at multiple agencies to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence.  This raised a firestorm of reaction, with the Department of Agriculture amending its policy:

“Yesterday, we sent an email message about Agency informational products like news releases and social media contact,” another email to employees said. “This internal email was released prior to receiving official Departmental guidance and is hereby rescinded.”

Not all agencies quietly complied. A series of tweets that went viral appeared to come from one of the National Park Services, quickly generating the hashtag #badasslands:

Officially, the Park Service reported that the tweets came from a former employee who still had access to their account.  The Park pulled down the tweets…but by then, many copies were circulating (as I am doing here).  A number of “rogue” Twitter accounts surfaced to continue pushing back against the perceived attack on science by this administration.

So one of the lessons is, in a digital age with multiple channels of communication – and the ability of anyone to communicate – “controlling” the message, whether from a federal department, a business, or an educational institution, is problematic.

Eighteen years ago, Jon Husband coined the term “wirearchy” – “a dynamic flow of power and authority, based on information, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected technology and people”.

Unlike a hierarchy, a wirearchy assumes openness and transparency.  In a digitally connected world, information is going to flow…control is no longer possible.  A 2014 Gartner report suggested:

“…Digital business is not just about expanding the use of technology. Digital business leaders must think about technology in a fundamentally different way than in the past…”

Westerman, Bonnett, and McAfee, in their 2014 book Leading Digital, noted that in the past, standardizing limited empowerment.  Controlling impacted innovation.  The desire to orchestrate action suggested “leashing” rather than unleashing employees. The wirearchial world in which we lead today requires the opposite – empowerment, innovation, and the unleashing of employees (or students).

My students in ILD 831 next week will be grappling with the implications of leadership in a hyperlinked world.   I look forward to seeing their thoughts on our class Netvibes site.

{Graphic: Hugh McLeod}

 

Leader Strength is the Pack

As ILD 831 was wrapping up this week, I was down in Rhode Island spending spring vacation with my grandkids.  That meant a trip to the movies to see the latest Disney Movie, The Jungle Book.

pack_The-Jungle-Book-2016

Great movie for adults and kids alike!  A key feature of the movie which is repeated throughout is “The Law of the Jungle”, dutifully true to Kipling’s original:

lawofjungle

As the picture above showed, the “pack” morphed into a diverse group binding together to overcome the danger that the tiger Shere Khan represented.  I was thinking about the line “…the strength of the Wolf is the Pack” as I read through the final blog posts for this term of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership.  It is clear that one of the readings I shared, Michele Martin’s “A Deep Dive into Thinking about 21st Century Leadership” really resonated with the class.  Michele wrote about moving from leader as hero to leader as host – “hosting the space for people to come together to discover solutions through meaningful conversations and structured exploration and action.”  Sounds a lot like networked leadership…and on depending on the strength of the pack!  Here are some quotes from my students’ final reflections as they came online this week:

“…What has changed the most in my leadership style through this course is my understanding that I must be an adaptable leader … and wiling to be more flexible if I want to succeed and lead successfully for many years to come. Being more adaptable means far more than embracing technology, which is important, but more importantly is the growth that I experienced knowing that in order to be successful as a leader I must lead through areas that I know little about, such as technology and be willing to learn about them and embrace the changes in the digital age…” LeadershipandTechnologyBlog

“…The amount of information available to any employee connected to the Net provides seemingly endless opportunities for creative and free thinking. Therefore, leaders must create, or host, work environments that welcome individuals to meet, share ideas, and create solutions…” ILD831BlogChris

“…The greatest message within this lesson that I have learned is you will get back what you as a leader put in. I may be able to do an adequate job as a leader without embracing some of the opportunities the internet and collaborative discussion allows. However, if I put myself out there as a leader, sharing what I know, and opening my mind up to the knowledge that is out there from others, I have more of a chance for success…” AdventuresInTeachnologyandLeadership

“…If the public’s romanticism of technology is accurate, and the future is about creating tools making work easier for individuals and the organizations they work for, each must learn and adapt to evolving technology in order to remain competitive. For myself, beyond the discussion about specific technologies and our networked world, this course has reinforced a number of thoughts or forced me to consider the following as action we need to take today in creating an appropriate culture moving forward…” TechLeadershipCanada

“…As individuals, we are compelled to participate in using technology if we want to be socially connected, knowledgeable, or contemporary in our relationship practices. As organizations, technology can empower and enable services, increase productivity, improve efficiency, advance quality, and take over mundane or routine tasks.  The most significant challenge, however, is the nexus between man and machine.  The creation and application of technology happens because humans use their divine talents and gifts to create and the result has been breakthrough innovation and advancement of technologies that can change lives…” Raven765

“…Traditional hierarchies that operate from principles of command and control, the chain of command, and unity of command are a threat to increasing organizational adaptability and diffusion of technology.  In many government, tenured organizations, and institutions, much of its talent in information technology exists in lower ranking positions in the organizational structure. The percentage of personnel competent in the internet, technological tools, and social media platforms generally diminish the closer you get to the top of the pyramid.  The emerging principles of wirearchy (Husband, 2000) and leaders as social artists (Martin, 2015) offer non-traditional solutions to organizational management which maximizes idea management and diffusion of technology…”  CochranCreighton

“…Leading from the middle moves the sole liability of the organization from one person or a small group of individuals towards the entire community as a whole.  The idea of leading from within or the middle sets the named leader to become a host or guide rather than the hero (Martin, 2015). Maxwell (2010) discusses leading from where you are as being a way to share the responsibility and allow others to find their inner leadership strength and lead as well as the named leader…”  TechRyuu

“…With the rapid development of technology, trying to keep up with it is going to be not only a personal project but an organizational one also. Organizations will have to navigate the digital world in order to maximize the benefits it can yield…”  CupOfTeaWordpressom

“…I begin to conceptualize the notion that each of us could possibly be living within our own paradigm(s), which are defined by our own unique experiences, both formal and informal, and that that may also be influenced by other paradigms espoused by others. For example, if it is one’s practice to typically use or rely upon a certain type of technology or preferred leadership approach, this might be inferred as living within a particular paradigm that may or may not be shared, or completely shared, by others. However, if one were to discover, or unearth, new knowledge or ideas that would challenge and consequently cause one to question one’s current paradigm(s); and thus prompt one to remodel it—a shift would or might occur. This could be a shift in one’s thinking or practice that would cause one to act or operate differently. After reading Michele Martin’s article, A Deep Dive Into Thinking About 21st Century leadership, the idea of living within one’s own paradigm seemed to emerge as well…” SitiSnyder

“…Stephen Covey’s, author of The 7Habits of Highly Effective of People, noted that people who were able to use synergic communication, that is, the ability to open their minds and hearts to new possibilities, alternatives, and options are leaders (cited in Sprung, 2012). To be a leader in the digital age, we need to be open to innovation and welcome any and all ideas that may impact the learning outcomes for our students…” AlohaILD831

“…I continue to appreciate the importance of recognizing that successful leadership starts at the top, but it does not mean “top” in the traditional sense of hierarchy (or in this wirearchy). Instead, as a result of this course (and my Ed.D program) is that leadership is an intentional, interactive and based in relationships. While this particular posts focuses on leadership in the digital age, the core values and characteristics learned are applicable regardless if it is in person or online. Leaders and follows are connected and bond by the work we are doing…” lrILD831

Some have suggested that “it is a jungle out there” in referring to the world in which these leaders work and lead…perhaps it is time to update the Law of the Jungle:

For the strength of the Network is the Leader,
And the strength of the Leader is the Network.

I have really enjoyed our 8-week journey together exploring the intersection of technology and leadership.  I look forward to this cohort doing amazing things in the days to come!

{Graphics: RogerEbert.Com}

Exploring the Intersection of Leadership and Technology

I am always stoked when I get a chance to teach ILD 831 for Creighton University.  This course in their Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership Program has an eclectic group of leaders from around the world exploring the impact of technology in general and the internet in particular on leadership in organizations. Through this examination, these students struggle with how leadership does (or should) adapt to a changing world. In the past decade, the internet has certainly become a part of life and work. The internet has moved from a virtual space where people went to find information to an active place that is open, social and participatory. This shift has profound implications on leadership. How does a leader manage information (and knowledge) when the sum of all human knowledge is available to anyone in her or his organization from their smartphone? How is communication evolving? What are ethical issues associated with networked employees, students, or patients? What is on the horizon? This course gives students the opportunity to explore leadership mediated by a digital world.

My course map shows the flow of this 8-week course, which is starting this week:

coursemapILD831

This Spring class has teachers in K-12 and higher education, technologists, industry managers, a fire chief, and the CEO of a health system.  I always love the mix of experiences these students bring to this examination.  As we move through these eight weeks, they will all be blogging.  You can see their posts – and interact with the class – at our Netvibes site.

ford_riseofrobotsThese are interesting times to examine this intersection.  I am currently reading Martin Ford’s 2015 book, The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.  It paints a rather bleak picture around the idea that technology – and in particulary artificial intelligence – is creating a future where lots of jobs are eliminated but few jobs are created in their place.  In other words, according to Ford, we face a future where unemployment and inequality will reach catastrophic levels.  Scott Santens in an article in the Boston Globe last week mirrored similar thoughts.

Last week in Medium, danah boyd discussed “What is the Value of a Bot?”  She noted that as systems get more complex, it becomes harder for developers to come together and develop “politeness policies” or guidelines for bots. She noted that it is getting increasingly difficult to discern between bots that are being helpful and bots that are a burden and not beneficial.  One of the key points she made:

Bots are first and foremost technical systems, but they are derived from social values and exert power into social systems. How can we create the right social norms to regulate them? What do the norms look like in a highly networked ecosystem where many pieces of the pie are often glued together by digital duct tape?”

This is the world these leaders are and will be leading in…and there are no easy answers.  I am looking forward to our dialogue on the open web over the next two months!

 

Two Weeks, Three Books, and A New Role

In that short period between end of Spring semester, our Online Course Development Initiative, and the start of my summer teaching, I dove into some books:

summerbooks

The first was assigned reading.  The VCU Center for Teaching Excellence in which I have been a member for the past 8 years is merging with our Online@VCU staff to form the Learning INnovation Center – LINC.  Our new tag line for LINC is “Connected Learning For a Networked World.”  It is not coincidence that LINC was the forerunner of the modern personal computer.  🙂

So last week, our new LINC staff held a retreat with our Vice Provost for Learning Innovation – Gardner Campbell, to begin the process of growing our new organization.  It was a good day to help align each of us with Gardner’s vision for LINC.  As part of the retreat, each of us completed the Clifton Strengths Finder online assessment to find our top five strengths out of a possible thirty-four that we each brought to LINC.

As might be expected, we were a diverse group…though ten people shared the strength of “strategic”:

Strengths List

My own top five strengths – which did not surprise those who knew me – were:

  • Responsibility – one who, inexplicably, must follow through on commitments
  • Learner – one who must constantly be challenged and learning new things to feel successful
  • Input – one who is constantly collecting information or objects for future use
  • Belief – one who strives to find some ultimate meaning behind everything they do
  • Futuristic – one who has a keen sense of using an eye towards the future to drive today’s success

LINC themesSo I had no unique strengths…but rather shared my strengths with at least two others…though no one had my combination.

LINC will have four areas of focus – Faculty Development, Student Engagement, Communities of Practice, and Technology Enhanced Active Learning.  Jeff Nugent and I will be acting as the research arm of LINC.

Moving from a role of faculty consultant to one of active research is quite a change!  It was with this change in mind that I read the other two books noted above.

The late Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace (1998) was the right book to set a frame of reference for this change.

As Anna Muoio of FastCompany magazine explained:

“…A hairball is an entangled pattern of behavior. It’s bureaucracy, which doesn’t allow much space for original thinking and creativity. It’s the corporate tendency to rely on past policies, decisions, and processes as a formula for future success.

All of this creates a Gordian knot of corporate normalcy — an entanglement that grows over time. As its mass increases, so does its gravitational pull. And what does gravity do? It drags things down. But hairballs can be effective. They provide a necessary stability. It’s not the job of the hairball to be vibrant, alive, and creative…”

By this definition, higher education is as clearly a hairball as the corporation MacKenzie worked at – Hallmark.  MacKenzie suggests that the path to creativity and innovation is to orbit the hairball – benefiting from what it has to offer in terms of stability and resources without being sucked in to its gravitational pull.  As Muoio noted, “…It’s a symbiotic relationship: without the hairball, the orbiter would spiral into space; without the orbiter’s creativity and originality, the hairball would be a mass of nothing.”

Or as MacKenzie puts it – The Hairball is a twisted mass of “policy, procedure, conformity, compliance, rigidity and submission to status quo, while Orbiting is originality, rules-breaking, non-conformity, experimentation, and innovation”.

paradoxOver the coming month, we will all be developing our new job descriptions within LINC.  I loved MacKenzie’s approach when told to develop a job description.  The word “paradox” came to mind, and he looked up the definition.  He turned it in and said, “These are the definitions of the word I would like as my job title.”  MacKenzie thus became the Director of Creative Paradox.

Now, no one knew what a director of creative paradox actually did, but they assumed it was something meaningful.  So people at Hallmark would take ideas to him … and he would validate them.  With that validation, they would then make it happen!

So as part of the research arm of LINC, I see a bit of creative paradox playing out here at VCU.

As I was reading Orbiting the Giant Hairball, I spotted Levitt and Dubner’s latest book at Barnes and Noble – Think Like a Freak.  It was also a fun read, though not as relevant (for me) as MacKenzie’s book.  As noted in their Freakonomic’s website, thinking like a freak means:

  • First, put away your moral compass—because it’s hard to see a problem clearly if you’ve already decided what to do about it.
  • Learn to say “I don’t know”—for until you can admit what you don’t yet know, it’s virtually impossible to learn what you need to.
  • Think like a child—because you’ll come up with better ideas and ask better questions.
  • Find the root cause of a problem—because attacking the symptoms, as often happens, rarely fixes the underlying issue.
  • Take a master class in incentives—because for better or worse, incentives rule our world.
  • Learn to persuade people who don’t want to be persuaded—because being right is rarely enough to carry the day.
  • Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting—because you can’t solve tomorrow’s problem if you aren’t willing to abandon today’s dud.

Good lessons…but not as captivating (or innovative) as MacKenszie.  As I move in to my new role, I will hope to orbit the giant hairball, being more of a creative paradox and less a freaky sideshow!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Evangelizing Teaching

As we approach the end of Spring semester in GRAD-602, our students are beginning to submit their reflections on the book they read for the course.  They had a choice of five books:

books

It is interesting to see these books through the reflections of upcoming PhD’s and post-docs.  They are just starting the transition from expert student to novice teacher…and the future is both exciting and uncertain.  They have been grappling with their own identity as a teacher through our course.

Our identity as teachers continues to surface in my thoughts…given the interesting times in which we live.  In the last month, as Enoch Hale and I explored his 30-Day Challenge, we surfaced some radical ideas about teaching and learning.  In many ways, we aligned with what Tony Bates noted:

“Teaching in higher education is about to go through as major a revolution as one can imagine.”

Here on the fourth floor of the Academic Learning Commons at VCU, we spend a lot of time discussing both the evolutionary and the revolutionary changes for teaching and learning in higher education.  Our evolutionary ideas probably might make some faculty uncomfortable…and our revolutionary ideas might cause sweat to break out.  At the end of the day, though, I come back to the foundation – what does it mean to “teach”?

Jen Ross, Christine Sinclair, Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne and Hamish Macleod – my professors in the Coursera MOOC E-Learning and Digital Cultures – explored this question in an article this month in the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching: “Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy.”  They note that the literature on open courses has focused so far on students or the technology, but has been silent on the “matter of the teacher.”  They note that teacher identity is influenced by discipline, the institution and personal contexts:

“…The lecturer will both feel and project a teaching identity through negotiation of disciplinary, institutional, theoretical, professional, and personal stances. Diminishing or mischaracterizing the teacher role could result in a lack of appropriate attention to the ways in which complex negotiations of people, space, objects, and discourse constitute any educational setting, including MOOCs.”

In other words, it is complex!

Focusing on teaching has been central to what I think we have done for the past 7 years at the Center for Teaching Excellence…but I am not sure we have ever “evangelized” teaching.  I started considering that this morning when I read “The Art of Evangelism” by Guy Kawasaki.  Guy noted that years ago at Apple, his job title was “software evangelist,” and then went on to discuss his involvement with a new design company called Canva (which does look pretty cool by the way!).  What I found interesting, however, was his explanation of how to evangelize a product, which I quote in part below:

  1. Make it great. It’s very hard to evangelize crap. It’s much easier to evangelize great stuff. …Great stuff embodies five qualities:
    • Deep.
    • Intelligent.
    • Complete.
    • Empowering.
    • Elegant.
  2. Position it as a “cause.” A product or service, no matter how great, is a collection of parts or snippets of code. A “cause,” by contrast, changes lives.
  3. Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn’t a job title. It’s a way of life.
  4. Localize the pitch. Don’t describe your product using lofty, flowery terms …People don’t buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives, so localize the pitch and keep it simple.
  5. Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion when he worships another god. The hardest person to convert to Macintosh was someone who worshipped MS-DOS. The easiest person was someone who never used a personal computer before. If a person doesn’t “get” your product or service after fifteen minutes, cut your losses and move on.
  6. Let people test drive the cause. Evangelists believe that their potential customers are smart. Therefore, they don’t bludgeon them with ads and promotions. Instead they provide ways for people to “test drive” their products and then decide for themselves. Evangelists believe that their products are good—so good that they’re not afraid of enabling people to try before they buy.
  7. Learn to give a demo. “Evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron.
  8. Provide a safe, easy first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope, so remove all the barriers.
  9. Ignore titles and pedigrees. Elitism is the enemy of evangelism. If you want to succeed as an evangelist, ignore people’s titles and pedigrees, accept people as they are, and treat everyone with respect and kindness.
  10. Never lie. Lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because when you lie, it’s necessary to keep track of what you said. If you always tell the truth, then there’s nothing to keep track of.
  11. Remember your friends. Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down.

Guy explained the difference between an evangelist and a salesperson:

“A salesperson has his or her own best interests at heart: commission, making quota, closing the deal. An evangelist has the other person’s best interests at heart: “Try this because it will help you.””

As I reflect on our graduate students and the world of teaching into which they soon will go…I hope that part of their identity involves evangelism.  I hope that they create great teaching and learning opportunities.  I hope that they see their teaching as “a cause”…and love that cause.  I hope that they remember that they are in the business of changing lives, not delivering content.

I hope they teach “Try this because it will help you…”

Peanuts Evangelist

Thoughts?

{Graphic – Charles Schulz}

Enhanced by Zemanta