The topic last week was on the issue of swearing and my perception before the discussion was that we would spend the hour agreeing among ourselves that swearing was unacceptable, and that the main outcome of the session would be that we would spend the hour “preaching to the converted.”
As it turned out, just like the week earlier when peoples' views on mobiles in the classroom changed as a result of the chat, my perception was wrong and there were a number of interesting angles that needed to be considered on the topic in a post-16 learning environment…It’s never straightforward is it?!
But my preconceived perception was beneficial, as it allowed me to wonder if and how the chat session might be used as more than a forum for “preaching to the converted.” Could the hour be used as a change agent? Sound ambitious? Ridiculous even?
Affecting Change – MIT Hospital Study
In their book “Switch – How to change when change is hard” Dan and Chip Heath highlight what is required for changes in organizational culture to take place. One example that they use is from MIT’s Katheryn Kellogg’s work in hospitals to encourage Doctors to work less hours, which was a challenge as working long hours was seen as a badge of honour for interns. Please find a link to Kathryn’s work on the following link "A Different Operating Procedure"
Chat Sessions - All the Right Ingredients
Kellogg argues that in order for change to be effective you need to get reformers together and give them free space to discuss their ideas. I would argue that Twitter provides these two ingredients required to affect change – there are a group of early adopters/reformers/people interested in trying new things… or maybe it’s just that they have nothing better to do on a Thursday evening!
From Chat to Change - A Call to Action
As far as I can see, the only thing that is missing from the hospital study is a “call to action.” The hospital study looked at ways to get people to adopt the fact that less hours is a good idea as opposed to working til you drop being a badge of honour? Could chat sessions instigate “call to action” homework to explore new ideas?
But people in chat sessions work at different institutions, with different cultures and within different departments, so any call to action would need to be up to the individual, but what if we said “OK this week I am going to try and do…XYZ” and we can use the blog to highlight our experiences, whether good bad or indifferent.
As and when anyone hits upon a winner then others will see the impact (both at the college and online). There are a variety of positive development that may result from this. These positives will mainly be cultural.
In Kelloggs study the “free space” of the “reformers” created a counter-culture which at first seems counter-intuitive surely we want the same culture across the organization? Not when you are trying to affect change… By getting those who are enthusiastic about the change together and giving them the space then this acts as a catalyst. Don’t believe me?
College Example – Enterprising Spaces
Consider the FE Colleges that have made space for their enterprise initiatives – the Peter Jones Academies and other start up lounges. This may start out as a space where the people who are not involved with it see as “those crazy start up people” – an opinion that may be shared by both students and staff.
However slowly but surely the start up and entrepreneurial spirit that was started by a “handful of wacky people” pervades all aspects of the college and enterprise is built into the curriculum so hairdressers who previously would look for work in a salon will be more likely to start up on her own.
I have seen this work in practice by having had some involvement with an organization called Entrepreneurial Spark (E-Spark) who have created a fantastic space for entrepreneurs in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayr. After 1 year their “Chicklet” Companies have created nearly 200 jobs, made a turnover in excess of £3.5m and secured more than £2.5m worth of funding. All of which has been made possible by the efforts of the E-Spark team to get support from Entrepreneurs, mentors, politicians and banks to achieve their goal of creating a renaissance in Entrepreneurship in Scotland. This approach could even work in some unlikely of places... The Last Mile Programme - Finding Hopein Prisons
Apple for the Teacher – Or #TeachLikeaPirate
Finally there is the example of Steve Jobs who did this with his Apple 2 team. Apple had two competing products; the project backed by the board, the Lisa computer, and the Apple 2. Jobs created a similar counter culture with his Apple 2 team to what Kellogg describes – the team were in their own space, had different ideas and a separate identity... which was how the comment “Why join the Navy when you can be a pirate” came about.