Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Creative schools need 'weak links'!

Seeds ( like ideas) settle and germinate where the conditions are right.

I have been really enjoying reading Steven Carden's book 'New Zealand Unleashed'.

His book challenges the readers to think about where we have come from as a nation and the attributes we will need to develop if we are to be successful in the future. Steven is hopeful of our success but he believes it will depends on what kind of society we become and this, he says, depends on how we view the world.

We will become a successful country, he writes, if we are guided by three simple rules; developing the creativity of everyone; absorbing valuable ideas from anywhere ; and being willing to change.

This applies to school as well - particularly if they are to develop the creative talents of all students; something they fail to do at present. To do this, however, schools will have to free themselves from their industrial aged structures and 'mindsets' and transform themselves into agile, flexible, learning communities.

An idea that appealed to me, in Carden's book, was the importance of weak links necessary to develop creative cultures.

Cultures, he writes, are like ecosystems with people being linked together through a range of tangled patterns. Connections, or relationships, between people are important and he writes not all relationships are created equal. There are individuals ( he calls them super connectors) in the human ecosystem that are vitally important - remove them and the impact is soon felt. Such people have good networks, are able bring in new ideas, and also have the personal power to make things happen.

Making things happen is important because any ecosystem is aways in flux, ever evolving, to suit the conditions. With no new ideas organisations are stifled and become fixated on the past. New idea may upset the equilibrium, or certainty, of all involved but they also provide the necessary energy, enthusiasm and excitement. The secret is to have enough stability to allow creativity to occur - the 'edge of chaos' is where it all happens. This is an uncomfortable place for conservative organisations.

The idea of powerful 'super connectors' seems obvious but not so the the idea of the importance of 'weak links'.

Weak links are people you know of through others who are not connected to your close friends or workmates. These random relationship connect us with other networks and their potential, very different, ideas.

Such weak links offer organisations, including schools, the opportunity to gain new ideas to act as creative sparks. The more creative the organisations the more weak links they cultivate -it is all about being open to new ideas. Modern information technology allows the ideas of such people to spread, like a benign virus. Such weak links add the diversity of thinking that have the potential, if acted on, to dramatically change the learning culture. Creative ideas are necessary to break down the worst effects of traditional, conformist, change averse cultures. A diversity of ideas are vital to develop creative communities.

Ironically only strong well connected communities, with positive relationship, are able to take full advantage of such diversity. Diversity, according to Carden, 'is the salt that gives our society real flavour'.

It would seem, to me, that many of our schools need a taste of salt to release the creativity and talent that has been locked up due to the conforming managerial pressures of surviving in a complaint audit culture, for far too long.

I am happy to sprinkle the salt!


Anonymous said...

Lots of salt will be required to transform our conservative industrial aged dinosaurs - secondary schools! All the best in the attempt -the Lord loves a trier! David Hood called his book 'Our Secondary Schools don't work Anymore'for good reason and personal experience

Bruce said...

David Hood's book could be suggested reading for all secondary teachers - followed by discussion groups to consider where to now! It could be part of a new 'conversation' about education in the 21stC. We need a 'peoples' education movement ( to develop schools that develop everyones talents in democratic communities) similar to the current environmental movement.

Anonymous said...

Education ought to simpler ( using Carden's three 'rules') and then it could become more diverse and creative.

1 Tap everyones talents (kids and teachers).
2 Encourage ideas from anywhere.
3 Be open to continual change

As de Bono says, 'Simplicity develops focus; complexity confusion'.

Confusion and lack of focus rule supreme in our schools today -everyone waiting for the next 'evidence based', 'best practice' idea, to be 'delivered' to them by distant experts.

And talent development is very much an optional extra!