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Herdsa Reflection

Well it’s a conference, tiring and hard work especially with the 10 ½ hour days that they run. As always the people, networks and connections that you make seem the most rewarding part of a conference.

The conference theme is Engaging Communities and the opening address was eloquently given by Dr Pita Sharples gave that a New Zealand context with reference to the trials and tribulations that dogged the development of Maori specific educational opportunities.

The first keynote was presented jointly by Barbara Holland and Judith Rameley and dealt with what Community Engagement meant and strategies for developing this within tertiary education. We must be wary of false gods and realise that true engagement is for life, not little projects that follow academic lifecycles. Developing buds that then wither when funding disappears or key personnel move have a very negative impact on communities and their perceptions of academia.

Adoption CurvePartnerships should be sustained and bring mutual benefits. Neither partner should be dominant and communities should be afforded respect. Learning with consequence is a key benefit for students and makes their learning active and authentic.

What I found most interesting was how much this addressed the organisational change agenda. Getting rid of the ghosts in the corner that don’t really exist – the ‘They’ of ‘They won’t let us do this’ and other such statements. Taking lessons from the history of previous experiences; picking the right targets; choosing meaningful goals; and developing a cycle of innovation that makes change the norm. Ignore the nay-sayers (Roger’s laggards) – they are not worth the effort.

I think that if we don’t embrace change then we stagnate (rather than remaining static). What strategies do you use when enabling change in your organisation?

3 Responses to “Herdsa Reflection”

  1. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Nigel!

    This is the second time this week I’ve seen this bell-curve pertaining to innovators-adopters etc. Britt Watwood’s recent post also featured it.

    Enabling change is easy with things. It’s more difficult with people. Recently I’ve had opportunity to think about this phenomenon when considering some new learning I did earlier this year.

    Alexander Graham Bell was a persistent Scot and a teacher. I put it down to his persistence as an entrepreneur that we have the phone systems we have today. Frankly, I think that they would still be around if Bell hadn’t brought it to the world. But we’d be much the poorer because of it for progress and development would not have moved the way it has.

    While demonstrating his new invention to prospective developers, a business man said to Bell “an interesting toy but with no commercial value.” There are similar quotes of what was said of the aeroplane when it was first invented.

    We certainly need Pollyannaism with this Nigel. But let’s not permit it to get in the way of what can be done practically to achieve the end goal. :-)

    It’s a dynamic system we are dealing with here. Although usually applied in Chemistry, Le Chatelier’s principle works for other dynamic systems like this one. It is similar to Newton’s mechanical principle: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. But the latter pertains to static systems. Static systems can’t transform.

    But as with any dynamic system, there is always the possibility that it can transform with persistent application of action that moves it in the desired way.

    So what strategies would I use?

    Persistence of actions leading to the desired situation.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  2. easegill says:

    Hi Ken

    Great to hear from you again. I’m going to take the liberty of replying and commenting on your own post here, if that’s OK?

    Thoughts on reading down your post are – Complex systems as you describe speak of Siemens and Downes on networks and connectivism. You note though that there is no centre and no edge and this is somewhat at odds with Wenger’s view of communities and induction into them. That said, at the recent HERDSA conference, Wenger did not press this point and seemed in acceptance of the idea that CoPs could be grown quickly and without a pre-defined body of knowledge. There would then be less of a periphery, less of a developmental and acceptance induction into the mores of the community.

    In terms of change, although organisations have many people, they also consist of many systems, not all of them in equilibrium! Changes in one place will not always have concomitant changes elsewhere. If anything, I think I am the pessimist and cynic of the change conversation rather than being overly optimistic :) Nevertheless, I think that change can be managed. Many small changes can have an effect from the bottom up but it is also important to make the systemic changes that result in a culture of change and acceptance of that change. These need the support of the upper strata of an organisations’ management.

  3. Ken Allan says:

    Tēnā koe Nigel!

    Wenger speaks with caution when he refers to the periphery of a community of practice (CoP). If you think about it, where is the periphery? Who in any well established community (not a newcomer) sits at the periphery? The newcomer isn’t really physically in the community as a newcomer and therefore cannot be positionally seen as being anywhere in it. I know, it is a moot point.

    But communities of practice are tangible things. Complexity is a way of looking at learning systems (the term learning system refers to ANY system that is capable of adaptive, emergent behaviour).

    While it is true that cultural change within a community is enhanced with support from management, it does not necessarily follow that transformation in some direction will not take place despite effort from management (to attempt to prevent it or divert it in some way).

    Communities of practice, rather than forced work teams, have one special quality that likens them to complexity systems – that of permanence. One simple way to prove the permanence of any suspected CoP is to remove the guiding forces imposed by management.

    Managers don’t like this idea, but if the working group is a CoP it will continue to develop along the lines that management envisaged. If it’s not, it will revert to some other culture, thereby indicating that it is really a forced work team not a CoP.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

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