“Just the Way I Roll”

January 24, 2009

Recently, when I asked my son (politely) whether he planned on taking his clean clothes out of the hamper and putting them away or leaving them there as his new dresser, he answered, “that’s just the way I roll these days.”

I have found myself silently inserting this answer in response to many situations since then. I wouldn’t say it is a phrase that comes close to characterizing my modus operandi, so I have to say it feels quite deviant and satisfying to adopt as a pseudo cynical yet self-affirming mantra. You can see (am I stretching it here?) how it might lend itself to the philosophy espoused in Gallup Inc., build on your strengths. For anyone who is high in the Executing domain, this should come as a welcome release. Perhaps Gallup should change their title, to “Which Way do You Roll?” in order to attact some of my son’s hipster friends (OK, he says they aren’t hipsters, but what do I know?).

Trent Batson has a good article on Campus Technology today, “Tipping Point for “Content” — Dynamic Interaction, Not Static Stuff.” There are some nice quotes from Michael Korcuska, the Sakai Foundation Executive Director, on the changing role of the “publisher” (It might be OER rather than a traditional publishing house) providing more interactive experiences, and that being the value of the future. It parallels a recent discussion held by the Content Group at the Open EdTech Summit in Barcelona. One of our 10 assertions (there will be a white paper representing the Summit outcomes sometime in the future) was that Content is not static and that, in fact, it is multi-directional. What we meant by this is that it is no longer solely owned by Publishers or the instructor.  That it is the learner,  and the learners interactions with the content and their ability to make connections and enhance and inform that content is the next wave. Web 2.0 has helped begin that process, but it may be Web 3.0 that really begins to define the ways in which those interactions and contexts are managed and manipulated and built upon by learners to follow. It may  dramatically change our perception of the role of “repositories” before it is even fully birthed…  It is also this change that may be one of the final gentle (?) pushes of the Sage on the Stage to the Guide on the Side.

So what is the role of education in this new world? It is to help foster informed inquiry. It’s all in the question!

Positive Deviance

November 1, 2008

I attended the Frye Institute’s Alumni leadership workshop prior to Educause ’08 last week. The best part of the session was the morning when a small group of about nine of us set off to explore open source, open content, and collaboration. The conversation quickly headed down the path of ways in which the trends toward Open technologies (and we can include web 2.0 here) and open content are enabling stronger and more meaningful collaborations.

During the course of the conversation, Gardner Campbell introduced the concept of Positive Deviance. I don’t even remember how it came up, but it hit me like a great new hot salsa. I wanted more. It seemed so pertinent to challenges we face as managers in fostering innovation and encouraging creativity. But instead of being some great new “System” (yes, with a capital “S”), it is something that emerges through individual characteristics.There are people who do amazing things without batting an eyelash. They do not fit the norm, they make great things happen. And, like that new hot salsa, we want more of them. We need them helping to lead the way.

So I have started to do a little research on the subject (that is research with a lower case “r”). It has a fascinating history in the health services in developing countries but can also be applied to organizations. The University of Michigan Ross Business School states,

“A growing number of scholars believe positive deviance may be important for promoting subjective well-being and long-term organizational effectiveness.”

In an article in Fast Company, Jerry Sternin, the fellow responsible for testing out this theory in Vietnam back in the 1990s, says,

“The traditional model for social and organizational change doesn’t work,” says Sternin, 62. “It never has. You can’t bring permanent solutions in from outside.” Maybe the problem is with the whole model for how change can actually happen. Maybe the problem is that you can’t import change from the outside in. Instead, you have to find small, successful but “deviant” practices that are already working in the organization and amplify them. Maybe, just maybe, the answer is already alive in the organization — and change comes when you find it.”

Wikipedia provides a more general view:

“Positive Deviance (PD) is an approach to personal, organizational and cultural change based on the idea that every community or group of people performing a similar function has certain individuals (the “Positive Deviants”) whose special attitudes, practices/ strategies/ behaviors enable them to function more effectively than others with the exact same resources and conditions.[1] Because Positive Deviants derive their extraordinary capabilities from the identical environmental conditions as those around them, but are not constrained by conventional wisdoms, Positive Deviants standards for attitudes, thinking and behavior are readily accepted as the foundation for profound organizational and cultural change.”

The Postive Deviant Network names Seven Characteristics of Positive Deviants:

  1. Passion
  2. High Moral or Social Purpose
  3. Seeing Holes vs. the Net
  4. Moving Towards, Not Away
  5. Rapid Cognition
  6. Checking the Edges
  7. Low Regard for Social Convention

“Don’t teach new knowledge — encourage new behavior.”

If you are interested in learning more about these 7 characteristics, visit their web page (doesn’t work well in Firefox unfortunately) which has more detail about each characteristic.

I have more to learn about this concept, but I fully expect to continue to find some wonderful insights and ideas as I reflect upon and apply some of the concepts within the work environment at UC Berkeley. Thanks, Gardner, for the tip. Nothing like a little collaboration to expand our world! And of course, thanks to the open WWW for enabling me to find all this great information and thanks to those positive deviants that started it…

Studs Terkel, the great American Oral Historian, died yesterday. I was introduced to his work in high school when we read his book, Working, as part of a class. It made a huge impression on me. It was the first time I actually spent any time thinking about how people might feel about their work and began to recognize that passion, pride, and creativity can occur in any job and in any field. The SF Chronicle obituary mentions that Studs wanted this as his epitaph: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.” If have often thought that curiosity is one of the signs of a great leader. Curiosity and listening. Studs did both. While not a politician, Studs dedicated his life to service. His service was in providing a window into the perceptions, the joy, and the pain of people all across America, breeding respect for diversity and offering an opportunity for empathy.

Open EdTech Summit

October 19, 2008

Now that the Opencast Deep Dive is over, I can starting to look forward to the upcoming Open EdTech Summit sponsored by the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC, or Open University of Catalunya) to be held in Barcelona on November 10 & 11, to be followed by the UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning Fifth International Seminar, Fighting the digital divide through education. The Open EdTech Summit promises to be an interesting time, with the program focusing on

  • Personalization of the learning process
  • Learning content development and delivery
  • Future technologies at the service of learning
  • Learning: everyone, everywhere and anytime

This is a lot to cover in one very very full day (unless the “Typical Barcelona Activity” is actually putting us to work…) but by the attendee list, I expect it to be quite interesting.

Of course, the Educause Annual comes first…

Opencast Deep Dive — Wow

October 19, 2008

I just came off two days of the Opencast deep dive. Prior to the Deep Dive, we had 3 days of pre-deep dive (really!). It was the central developers working together to define a proposal for the roadmap and architecture (now code-named Matterhorn).

The deep dive was an intense two days with around seventeen universities/organizations attending. The minutes, videos, and action items will be posted on the Opencast site next week.

Some random thoughts:

  • Building an open source community is an evolution
  • Bringing people along, building consensus, breaking through assumptions takes time
  • People feel better with concrete things to react to, but too much detail is inhibiting
  • The people and institutions involved in Opencast are incredibly diverse and multi-cultural, we have to be careful to ensure we understand eachother. Check and double check.
  • Building community around doing real concrete work is always best (see some of the good stuff going on in the Sakai Pedagogy group, for example)
  • There is a lot of great knowledge out there, the work is figuring out how to leverage it and extend it to new contexts

Generally, I am feeling really hopeful in regards to the ability of this community (growing rapidly) to be able to deliver on a common infrastructure and project. If you are at all interested in the idea of an enterprise podcast system, I encourage you to join the opencast forums and email lists. Lots of good stuff going on.

Thanks to Seamus and Julian at Graphic Mint we are able to launch our first Opencast Community Workshop with a new logo and look and feel. Check it out.