SHIFTNEWS // EPISODE #6
This is episode #6.
The slowly-but-surely-get-ready-for school edition. Today, we try to find out why hope is bittersweet, why dystopian literature can help us to grow, what a Beginner’s Mind is, why teaching is like tennis, and what pink and grit have in common.
1 // WISDOM OF THE KRAUT
(a little different editor’s note strictly guided by serendipity)
The Covid-cases are rising again. That made us quickly forget that recently it seemed that half the planet was on fire and that many people also lost their lives in floods right on our doorstep. A fact that for many of us was unthinkable until recently. So, the impacts are really coming closer. Climate change is not coming someday in the future. It is already here. And we still keep going back to business as usual, hoping that it will somehow go away on its own.
None of this is new. This reaction is only human. And it is certainly necessary to move on, because our brains cannot stay in constant alarm mode. And yet I keep asking myself: Since we all will be personally affected by this, why do we keep constantly failing as a collective? We seem to be perfectly capable as individuals of recognizing the dangers, but absolutely incapable as a community of taking the necessary action. Instead of taking action ourselves, we all wait for salvation. We hope for the technological miracle or the (political) leadership that will finally tell us what to do.
There is nothing wrong with hoping. Hope is fundamental to our psychology. We need something to look forward to. But we also need the feeling that hope can be fulfilled. Optimism and positive thinking are a great thing. And it’s absolutely true that pessimism doesn’t really help either. But in order to actually change something, we shouldn’t just hope blindly, but add two more dimensions to our thinking: the degree of comfort we feel with the status quo and the sense of agency we experience. I have found for myself that I only change something if I am convinced
that things have to get better (discomfort with status quo)
that it can get better (optimistic outlook)
that I can contribute to the solution myself (sense of agency)
So, change needs dissatisfied optimists who know where they can make a difference. That is what shiftshaping is about. cto
2 // GRATEFUL READ
(a refurbished book club for transformative leaders)
The Brave New World probably began on day 1 after Brexit, in the country that once invented capitalism. At least if Sibylle Berg has her way. The story is incredibly interestingly written: fast, cool, cynical but also exceedingly brutal. Not for the faint of heart. A recommended read with a package insert: The story comes across as a real dystopia. As a kind of European nightmare. A horrific portrait of a near future that in many ways is reminiscent of aspects of our own society and its recent history. While dystopian fiction is certainly not easy fare, it does show us what could happen in this world if we are not very vigilant. In this literary shocker, Sibylle Berg succeeds impressively in creating a devastating (but unfortunately not at all far-fetched) scenario that will hopefully remain just great fiction.
Keen on this book? Let’s buy local, like here.
3 // FLEXICON
(a Shiftshaper’s guide to the 21st century and beyond)
\ bi-ˈgi-nər-z ˈmīnd \
Once you become an expert in a domain you most likely stop seeing the new and the obvious. And all the more you do not dare to challenge what you have achieved so far. Problem-oriented thinking is helpful to make existing things better. If we are just looking for problems to solve, we might make customers happy – at least for a while – but we move too slowly. Looking for solutions to existing problems is of little help when wanting to make big leaps. So beware: Not everything that has disruption on the cover is actually about disruption! More often than not, it’s just incremental innovation disguised as disruption. A sheep in wolf’s clothing.
True innovation is radical by default. And being able to think radical is not a matter of method but of attitude. It is so much easier to call for an open mind than to actually develop and maintain one. The zeitgeist demands that we think like children again – yet we don’t even allow them to really think freely. Let alone ourselves. We are obsessed with expertise and perfection. But that is what is preventing us from really moving forward. If we keep on fixing problems that we ourselves have created beforehand, we may increase sales in the short term, but we will never get to the heart of the matter. Changing things for the better requires to let go of expert knowledge and open the imagination of what a better world could look like.
An open mind is able to destroy and deconstruct the status quo just by gaining empathy for the world around us. Only a beginner can do that, for she is the only one that is willing to put at risk what has been achieved in order to gain something even better. Zen teaches us that „in the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” If we keep our self-sufficient way of thinking we will never be able to open up. A closed mind cannot imagine a better future, only an empty mind can. And empty means being ready for anything. Let’s start over (again and again).
4 // PONDER WONDER
(Troublemakers’ statements to provoke good thought)
What would happen if rock ’n’ roll-activist Pink sang a duet with psychology professor Angela Duckworth about choosing excellence over comfort. Two game-changers’ quotes = great food for thought.
Pink: “Comfort zones are places where average people do mediocre things.”
Angela: “That’s why gritty people train at the edge of their comfort zone. They zero in on one narrow aspect of their performance and set a stretch goal to improve it.”
Pink: “That’s why I want art to make me think. In order to do that, it may piss me off, or make me uncomfortable. That promotes awareness and change, or at least some discussion.”
Angela: “And if you’re never able to tolerate a little bit of pain and discomfort, you’ll never get better. Nobody gets to be good at something without effort, no matter what your aptitude is.”
5 // DAYDACTICS
(eclectic didactics for everyday life)
TEACHING LIKE TENNIS
A common expression says that it takes two to tango: Two partners are by definition understood to be essential to cooperate, to bargain, or to dance. The same is said to be true for learning: A teacher and a learner. One that guides and one that follows. Under certain circumstances by a series of rhythmic and patterned bodily movements. The more harmonious the better. However, our vision of learning goes beyond that. Conventional roles and rules are no longer appropriate when learning content is abundant while conditions where to apply this content are constantly changing.
Learning in the 21st century should promote engagement, curiosity, and experimentation. Those skills are not obtained by memorizing a piece of information but by developing a mental position towards an uncertain future or outcome. Less a matter of “knowing what” but of “knowing how.” Rather than being ‘instructed to’, learners should therefore be empowered to explore subjects by asking questions and creating solutions. This inquiry-based form of learning is more an adaptive philosophy than a strict set of how teaching is going to be conducted. However, that does not mean that learning happens in a free floating space. Despite the abundance of almost all learning content, self-education is a myth. Even the most dedicated autodidact needs a resonance space to apply her learnings. In fact, information only turns into knowledge through the interaction, the feedback and the guidance with the outside world. Learning is a social endeavor. That is how we are wired. The back and forth is essential to all successful personal development. In other words, teaching is not a one-way street but a rebound game in which the players alternately hit the ball into the other player’s half of the court. Just like tennis!
Tennis cannot be played alone. It needs a second player who brings her racket, accepts a few simple rules and then starts hitting the balls back that are served for her. The net in between is not a barrier but a metaphor for the shared and alternating responsibility of learning and teaching on both sides. There is no progress without effort. Struggle and discomfort is part of the game. Every player must own their game and is directly responsible for the outcome. However, it is not so much about winning or losing but about growing to become a better player. Learning, just like Tennis, is not a teamsport but a clubsport. A game played by committed individuals that share similar interests and gather in a club that provides the necessary framework for everybody to succeed.
Thank you for reading. Happy to discuss my thoughts with you