The conveners of #FUSE14 chose the perfect image as metaphor for the event: a swimming pool. I was a swimmer growing up; learned how to swim at age three and was competitive in all four strokes by age five. Am still at home in the water as I am on land. Like our students in the classroom, things we learn at a young age stick with us, the muscle memories of limb and brain are set through practice and repetition. If you don’t learn to swim until you are an adult it is uncomfortable until you both learn and practice the skills; that is the nature of learning.
Design thinking, what I hope we can agree to as a highly effective process that allows us to find, unwrap, and solve complex problems in an equally complex world, involves a set of skills, just like swimming. Perhaps more than anything else, we have to decide to enter the water with a mindset that yes, we can swim. Then we learn some skills and put them to practice. We don’t expect to be a great swimmer right away; it takes practice.
There was discomfort at #fuse14; that is a sign of learning in an important zone, as opposed to just listening and spewing back. I have now both organized and attended many active learning programs where we disdain or disallow the traditional “sit-and-get” model of educational conferences. #fuse14 sets a new bar. Attendees were pushed to challenge themselves emotionally, intellectually, and socially. It was the noisiest, most interactive, most collaborative event I have ever attended...and my own workshops are pretty darn noisy, interactive, and collaborative. Going to have to play some loud music to really pump up the crowd during brainstorming!
I imagine some of the attendees will leave and not practice what they learned; that, too, is the nature of learning. Others have already expressed that this the event was utterly transformational for them. I have been thinking, teaching, writing, and trying to practice this kind of evolutionary problem solving for more than three decades and I still learned a lot, mostly from watching people dive into the pool, make a few mis-strokes, and then correct and swim just a bit better and with more satisfaction.
Here is my main message to those hundreds who have followed from outside the walls of the event: this kind of approach to solving problems is powerful stuff. Yes, it takes some time and attempts to begin to master, but real personal and organizational change can be successfully achieved in short periods of time. The solutions are just flat out BETTER than when we approach problems from an old school model. We have way too many examples now of the efficacy of design-like thinking to ignore its impact.
I could go on with more and more, but the airplanes call. I hope those who took a dive will encourage others to follow, overcoming our natural fear of the pool. You will be happier and your school/organization/group will be increasingly comfortable and capable with dealing with a rapidly changing world.