SHIFTNEWS // EPISODE #9
Here it is: the first episode of 2022. In this newsletter we will look at past resolutions and future projects. Introduce the best productivity book ever, define how to gain sovereignty in agile environments, look at what great minds think about great minds, and we will try to persuade you not to be persuasive in education. Enjoy the ride!
1 // WISDOM OF THE KRAUT
(a little different editor’s note strictly guided by serendipity)
The new year is already six weeks old. Slowly but surely, spring is coming and we are hopeful to leave the seemingly eternal pandemic winter behind and finally get going again. Against all odds, we have already launched a SHAPE Trek and a SHIFT Growth Path this year. I am really thankful and happy that I can finally work live and in color with people again. I can clearly see that now everyone wants to get away from the screen and out into nature again. Learning together with other people is something completely different. I am all the more happy that we have now found two excellent retreat partners with the Adventure Camp Schnitzmühle in the Bavarian Forest and the Workation Village in Piedmont in Italy, with whom we will be setting up many unique retreats. Already in May we will host the SHIFT program for 5 days in Italy and in autumn the next SHAPE trek will start at the Schnitzmühle. If you are interested let us know. We have prepared an Early Bird Special for all newsletter subscribers.
And now, I sincerely hope that you can also feel the same pre-spring spirit of departure so that you can now put your resolutions into action again with full force. For my part, I have made a resolution for this year to no longer want everything at the same time, but to tackle one project after the next. Bird by Bird, as Anne Lamott says. And as promised in the last newsletter, we have now planted a tree in SHIFTSCHOOL forest for each New Year’s card you ordered. And our little CO2 compensation project will grow. Not all at once but Tree by Tree. cto
2 // GRATEFUL READ
(a refurbished book club for transformative leaders)
FOUR THOUSAND WEEKS:
Time Management for Mortals
Please, not another productivity guide, you might think when reading the title. But the very first sentence of the book shows that this is not about working through to-do-lists, zero inboxing, or squeezing out a little more time somewhere: “The average human lifespan is absurdly, frighteningly, and insultingly short.” (About 4,000 weeks on average; hence the title.) Impressively and consistently, Oliver Burkeman describes what is supposedly obvious, but which very few of us want to acknowledge: Burkeman clearly describes that we can only make good decisions if we become aware of our own finitude and act accordingly (we all know this, but constantly suppress it and act as if we had an infinite amount of time). He then dispels the efficiency myths of our modern lives, showing us that much of what we think we control is actually beyond our control. This book (just like this newsletter) is definitely not for type-A personalities who still think they can get their lives under control with the next top 10 life hacks. Oliver Burkeman gives us a philosophical, thought-provoking push that the age of efficiency may be coming to an end, and that we should be rushing to make the best (better) use of the time we have left. In any case, Time Management for Mortals has encouraged me to resolutely continue on the path we started with the SHIFT® Self Leadership program. Meet you on the way.
Keen on this book? Let’s buy local, like here.
3 // FLEXICON
(a Shiftshaper’s guide to the 21st century and beyond)
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Gaining sovereignty in transformational endeavors is the first dimension of the SHAPE® dimension. The dictionary defines sovereignty as a: the power or authority to rule, b: the freedom from external control, and c: as controlling influence. In Transformational Leadership we use the term to describe the autonomy, decisiveness, and preparedness of a team before stepping out into unknown territory. Innovation will always be a very risky endeavor. Sovereignty means to accept this risk and the uncertainty that comes along with it. Creating the New will always take place under conditions of extreme uncertainty. We have to accept this fact and, instead, concentrate on the things we can influence: first and foremost this is our behavior.
Agility does not mean anarchy. Implementing new methods can help but is not sufficient. Seemingly outdated virtues such as discipline, responsibility, commitment, and a high level of self-honesty and humility are essential to drive transformation. Creating such an environment without the classic predict and control is the real challenge in any transformation. And it is way better to define those things – despite the pain it causes – before you set on a journey than realizing afterwards that you didn’t really want it that way.
4 // PONDER WONDER
(Troublemakers’ statements to provoke good thought)
Building great minds are a prerequisite for change: We have asked two who should know this well: The children’s books wizard Dr. Suess and the pioneer of feminist criticism Virginia Woolf.
Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself, any direction you choose.”
Virginia: “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”
Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Virginia: “Mental fight means thinking against the current, not with it. It is our business to puncture gas bags and discover the seeds of truth.”
5 // DAYDACTICS
(eclectic didactics for everyday life)
Since video games have become a primary form of entertainment, the use of game design elements has gained massive influence in non-game contexts. What started as – by today’s standards – seemingly innocent gamification to increase customer engagement and retention, has now merged into the excessive use of persuasive design in many tech applications (first in the so-called social media) to encourage compulsive behavior of the users. The question now is whether it is ethical to use similar (behavioral) mechanisms in education?
The latest generation of digital educational applications has the power to increasingly engage users in terms of quantitative (duration) and qualitative (intensity) metrics. Following the latest research in behavioral psychology, gamification of education seems to work. Game features are now more and more applied in educational products to make them more engaging, exciting, and enjoyable.
However, this very positivistic and even technocratic view on (digitized) education is again too short-sighted. Ultimately, the good old desire for greater efficiency (and scalable business models) can often be seen behind these efforts. And that often stands in blatant contradiction to the goals we proclaimed with teaching 21st Century Skills. Let alone the question if this automatization of learning can lead to a more fulfilling, rewarding and therefore happier life.
Learners (children and adults alike) are therefore well advised to look twice when a very, very fun and short-cutted remedy to learning is advertised somewhere. It is absolutely true that learning should and can be fun. But that it can be done faster and without effort is an outright lie. In a nutshell, behavioral-enhanced mechanisms in learning are great; as long as the goal is to produce better results for the learner, not for the institution selling it. Good content is easy to scale, but good education is not. The goal of a school is therefore not to make learning more efficient, but to implement behavioral design elements wisely to create lasting learning experiences that lead to the curiosity, creativity and courage we all seek in ourselves and others.