More on the Change Lab: Creative Innovations 2012 Day 1 (still)

(Yeah, I’m slowly adding content. I just came from a dinner that pretty much defies description so you’ll have to just give me love for actually taking the time to write this at midnight instead of going to bed. šŸ™‚ )

I spoke before about the Change Lab but here are the key steps.

1. An innovative approach that is systemic, participative and creative
2. Collective effort to address a vital, complex challenge in a given systems
3 A committed alliance of political, economic and cultural leaders in the system
4 A rhythmic process of acting and reflecting
5 A structure container for building capacities for co-initiating co-sensing co-presencing co-creating and co-evolving
6 A safe space for practising how to exercise both power and love

Whoah – what? Power and love? This is a form of framing to show how two very different camps think about the work.

POWER: One camp says that the only thing that matters is individual interests, ambitions and capacity to act.
LOVE: Ā Other camp focused on what’s good for the whole, the best solution, that’s the only thing that matters

Here’s the quote from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior:

“Power without love is reckless and abusive. Love without power is sentimental and anaemic.”

So we must attend to both the power and theĀ love as part of the whole.

Ok, this kind of things is easy to say but the guy who was saying this was Dr Adam Kahane – he’s gone to places to look at difficult situations and if he thinks this works then I’m willing to listen. Adam was in Bogota with politicians and militia in one room, including people who had made death threats against each other, and had guerrillas calling in on the phone to be part of the scenario generation.

“Do I have to agree to a ceasefire to take part in the scenario?” (Random guerrilla)

(The answer was no – no preconditions to the scenario because you just wanted people in the same place)

What we have to face is that some problems are so big that it will take more than our friends and family to solve them. We may have to work with strangers – or our enemies.

Think about that.

You’ve been fighting someone for so long that you don’t really remember all the details – but you know that you hate each other and that you have both done bad things to each other recently. Suddenly, something comes up and it’s huge. It’s a wicked problem, one that is complex and hard to deal with or even understand. You can’t solve it alone. Your enemy can’t solve it alone.

Can you solve the initial problem of getting these two people into the room just to even talk about things? Then, having done that, can you work out how to work together on the thing that threatens you both and, somehow, act in concert to deal with it?

What if it’s so big that it’s bigger than both of you? Now, not only do you have to work together on something, you have to find someone else who will work with your semi-dysfunctional mutual hatred society. Maybe the only person who can help you is the person that you both hate second to each other? Point 2 of the approach talks about a collective effort and 3 demands that the leader, the people with agency who can change things, are the people who should be at the table.

Does it have to be Kings, warlords or CEOs? It depends on how entrenched they are in the status quo. If all the CEO is going to say it “Hey, we’re great”, then send someone who is nearly as powerful but actually has their eyes open.

I spoke to Adam tonight at the dinner and our exchange went like this:

Nick: “Thanks for a great talk, Adam. Listening to you talk about Bogota gave me hope. I don’t have to deal with warlords and guerrillas, I just have to get some academics around a table.”

Adam: “You’re welcome, but I was trying to change academics for years and I just gave up. Remember Kissinger’s quote about academics? (Kissinger, who was apparently quoting Sayre on Issawi)”

Issawi (from the grave): “In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake.”

Sayre (from the grave): “That is why academic politics are so bitter.”

Now I realise that Adam was being facetious, he’s a highly amusing man, but it is slightly scary to hear this from a man who was willing to tell people to stop complaining about sitting next to someone who had tried to kill them five times, because he was trying to stop the sixth attempt.

I like the Power and Love framing – I think I’m far too prone to that sentimental ‘love’ approach,without giving enough attention to the requirement of people to be people! I think I’ll have to buy Adam’s book tomorrow!


First day of Creative Innovations 2012

It has been a hectic day. Up early to go to the gym and then, from 9am on, it’s been solid meeting, thinking, talking, networking and writing furiously. Regrettably, it appears that almost all of my notes may have just disappeared due to an application crash but, to be honest, I learned a great deal from writing it all down! (I’m still trying to recover all the notes!) (Whew – after a nervous hour that included a complete failure to boot, we appear to be going again. Sleep? Who needs sleep?)

This morning started with the Change Lab: solving complex social problems through design thinking. The key to all of this is, instead of getting caught in Challenge/Response cycle, you take a step back, get the useful (active) parties involved and get all of the problems out onto the table. I’ve given a very, very high level description but I’m going to need some time to go through my notes to distill it properly!

However, we were looking at problems in terms of whether they were dynamic (cause and effect a long way apart and interdependent), social (no one has the same lens on the problem) and/or generative (products of an uncertain and unknown future). We were asked to think about the problems in our institutions and how we’d classify them. I thought about two:

  1. Gender imbalance in the Engineering and ICT disciplines, which I assessed as dynamic (a dearth of female students years ago has not helped the numbers today) and social (in the amount of argument about this, due to personal perspectives and agendas).
  2. Increasing student workload to self-support. Most of today’s students are working to pay bills while they’re at Uni. I regard this as dynamic (changing social structures over the last few decades as well as reduced government funding), social (because the view of how people ‘should’ go to Uni is highly subjective) and generative (as we have no idea what this will do in the future and how we will really tackle it.)

I found it an interesting way to think about the problems in their overall scope. Other people’s problems included the health sector and their shift from acute care to chronic care as the population ages, and what was happening for students who don’t even make it to Cert IV in a workplace where further education has become expected. We then got a question that, to be honest, is one of the core themes of this conference:

What is the single greatest challenge you’re facing in trying to make progress in this problem(s)?

Well, that’s a good question. Speed of adaptation is a big one here – just because we were taught a certain way doesn’t make itĀ right by any stretch of the imagination. Getting everyone who can solve either of my problems to even meet in the same room can be tricky, let alone agreeing to anything. We may end up spending all of our planning and organising time just putting a meeting together!

The Change Lab approach is designed to be systemic, participative and creative – so you need to be able to address the whole system and talk to all of the key players, while being able to step outside of the current constraints. (Hey, no-one said it would be easy!) The big problem with a big problem is that you can getĀ stuck. You do the same thing because it’s what you do, even when you know it’s not working. Are we there yet? I don’t think so, but as someone else said today Ā (and I paraphrase) “The time to innovate is not when it’s inevitable, it’s when it looks like it’s not yet time.” We have some bad situations (gender balance being one of them) but we’re not yet completely stuck in it and there’s a lot of action for change.

Ok, must get some sleep but will blog again shortly.


Rapid Fire Quote: Creative Innovations 2012

Attended a great panel over supper on “Now to Next: How will Science and Technology help solve our wicked problems” moderated by Robyn Williams, with Baroness Susan Greenfield, Michael T Jones, Professor Nadia Rosenthal, Dr Iain McGilchrist and Jason Drew. Tons of great stuff from a very talented panel but my favourite quote of the night was from Iain McGilchrist:

“We are in a race between education and catastrophe.”

(Edit: Alan has noted that this is normally attributed to H. G. Wells. Thanks, Alan!)

Can you think of a better description of what we do or a more important reason to get up in the morning? The burning deck analogy, where crisis forces us to act, may not always apply – after all, as Baroness Greenfield noted, Quantum theory wasn’t developed because of a looming crisis, Barry Marshall’s work on ulcers wasn’t because of war and global warming had nothing to do with the work on Nerve Growth Factor. So thinking of scientists as firefighters is not a good way to think. But thinking of educators as essential and of education as the way to avert disaster – now that’s a much more useful approach.


Creative Innovations 2012

So much to blog about from the conventicle but, surprise!, I’m not at home, I’m in a hotel preparing to attend the first day the Creative Innovations 2012 conference. I have a ‘wild card’ entry (sponsored ticket) courtesy Ā of the Vice President of Services and Resources of my University and I’m really looking forward to it.

This is not a free lunch. (Readers of fine literature will know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.) I need to look at the activities of the next three days through a lens that could bring five concrete proposals back to the University. I must be honest – I had been expecting somethingĀ like this because it’s too good an opportunity to go to waste. Take a group of people from the Uni and throw them into a giant melting pot of entrepreneurs and creative thinkers… well, you’d hope to get at least five ideas!

Our Uni is a big place, with many complex systems, so I’ll definitely have my thinking cap on for the next few days!

This entry is short because I suspect I’ll be live blogging quite extensively tomorrow.

And I have my conventicle notes to write up as well.

Expect a lot from me over the next few days!