SHIFTNEWS // EPISODE #5
Gimme 5. Today’s episode #5 will look at what Thoreau really did in the woods, why lonesome heroes are a dying species, why schools should get rid of content, and how Mark Twain can collaborate with a Nobel laureate.
1 // WISDOM OF THE KRAUT
(a little different editor’s note strictly guided by serendipity)
What is the opposite of fear? Courage?! There’s hardly a leadership article that doesn’t include a call to be more courageous. But people tend to forget that calling on others to be more courageous is far from being courageous (and perhaps it is even quite cowardly). It really doesn’t take a lot of courage to demand more courage.
However, courage is a radically subjective category (like all attitudes that make up a state of mind by the way). What is a courageous step for me, is business as usual for others. Therefore, it is absolutely pointless to ask others to be more courageous. The only thing we can do is create spaces of experience in which everyone can reflect on their own attitude and, if necessary, change it bit by bit. For this to happen, however, people need safety. Otherwise they won’t move at all. In other words, we don’t need more courage, but psychological safety. The goal must be to build organizations in which courage is superfluous. An environment where a lot of mental, moral or even physical strength is needed to venture and persevere cannot lead to more innovation.
Lonesome hero*ines withstanding danger, fear, and difficulty will not collaborate but protect their silos. In an ideal new work world with flat hierarchies, courage is no longer necessary but in order to get there we might as well need stronger leadership (and protecting hierarchies) – as paradoxical as that may sound. Otherwise we will pay lip service, pretending to be courageous without any courage. Instead, we need spirited men and women who lead by example, create and protect the environments where change can truly happen, and are able to ask for help and support in times when their courage leaves them. cto
2 // GRATEFUL READ
(a refurbished book club for transformative leaders)
WALDEN: or Life in the Woods
This 19th century classic by Henry David Thoreau is not only one of the most compelling books in American literature, it is also the mother of all Simplify-Your-Life initiatives. Most Walden quote posters have probably never actually read Thoreau, but somehow the book has come back to me since my high school days, becoming a source of inspiration for designing our leadership expeditions and retreats.
This book is apparently timeless. It is striking how modern and how awake Thoreau’s description of his secluded social experiment in the woods is. Thoreau’s ideas about simplicity and spiritual cleanliness are probably even more relevant today as they were back then. Despite Thoreau’s archaic prose and lofty descriptions, the book embodies the longing for simplification, focusing, and clarity – attributes that are once again topping the bestseller lists today (and there is now even an outdoor magazine that carries Walden as title). So, why reach for the self-help imitators when you can read the original? I really think it is really worth sticking with it because there is a lot of true wisdom in those pages.
Keen on this book? Let’s buy local, like here.
3 // FLEXICON
(a Shiftshaper’s guide to the 21st century and beyond)
\ kə-ˌla-bə-ˈrā-shən \
Transformation is a collaborative effort. The dictionary describes collaboration as the act of working jointly with others or together, especially in an intellectual endeavor. But in real life, this thinking and acting as one is easier said than done. On the surface, there is much agreement that we desperately need cross-disciplinary collaboration to generate new ideas and to leverage the full potential of innovative wisdom in an organization. Among them, however, there is little agreement on how to achieve this.
Theoretically giving everyone the possibility to participate, to speak up, and involve sounds nice, but in reality it has not yet been clearly demonstrated that a team does necessarily generate more ideas than the sum of individuals. In fact, often the opposite is the case – due to cultural forces that prevent new ideas from arising or being pursued further. The cry for more collaboration is often just the wish for increasing speed and flexibility in order to keep up with the circumstances out there.
Good collaboration is not so much about infrastructure and formalities but rather about building good and sustainable relationships. And good relationships are made of the desire to understand each other, mutual trust, the willingness to transfer responsibility and enable people to make better use of their potential. This takes time and patience. But I am firmly convinced that good relationships increase speed, agility and mutual support. Which leads directly to better quality, and better business. Don’t wait for others to make the first step. Don’t wait for tools and processes either. Start with yourself and then change conditions step by step.
4 // PONDER WONDER
(Troublemakers’ statements to provoke good thought)
What would happen if Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafza shared ideas about the importance of education with the one and only Mark Twain. The good intent of single quotes doesn’t stick for long. That’s why we combine two troublemaker’s quotes into a short story to make people ponder a little longer …
Malala: “When someone takes away your pens you realise quite how important education is.”
Mark: “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
Malala: “True, I say education is education. We should learn everything and then choose which path to follow. Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human.”
Mark: “So, education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.”
5 // DAYDACTICS
(eclectic didactics for everyday life)
SCHOOL WITHOUT CURRICULUM
What we need today is more contact, not more content. In a digitized world where learning content becomes abundant, we need to think of school differently: As a framework providing the environment to make learning successful. A guiding superstructure on top of the learner’s personalities that helps them to fill in their individual content at the right place and the right time .
In a world with abundant information, the problem is not providing more learning content but a framework that shows people how to make sense of all this abundance. Learning is way more than just the mere transfer of knowledge. Learning becomes successful when we can use all this abundant knowledge meaningfully and apply it to drive change. Once we have acquired the skills and mindset to learn how to learn, we can tap into new online and offline resources of the abundant world of content ourselves or together with our peers.
The main function of future schools is to create learning environments that ignite the passion of people’s life projects and offer a framework to reflect the life-long learning attitude.The masterskills taught in those project-based schools will be to acquire new content in self-organized fashion, to understand the dynamics of change and to shape transformative processes.
Thank you for reading. Happy to discuss my thoughts with you