Thursday, May 20, 2010
We need a new story for our future.
Charles Darwin was one of the first people to make use of 'mind map' to visualize his emerging theory of evolution. When it was finally published it provided a new narrative, or story, about the creation of the world. It changed forever ( except for those who cling to past certainties) how we now see the world - one of continually emerging and evolving. This new mindset has yet to change many organisations, such as schools, established in an earlier age. We all know what evolution can do to seemingly dominant species when conditions change! Are we seeing in our school the final dance of the dinosaurs?
What we need, as we make our way into the new millennium, is a new way of thinking to align our thoughts behind. We need a new story , myth, narrative, or metaphor, to replace current thinking - thinking based on a mechanistic emphasis on economic progress, exploitation and short term thinking.
It is obvious that current thinking is unable to solve the problems of inequality in our society - the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow. Our Prime Minister is telling us not to be envious of the rich as they are the key to our prosperity. Current thinking is also unable to solve the problem of environmental sustainability and our leaders refuse to see the situation as a challenge to make New Zealand a truly sustainable country - to lead the way.
What we need to create in our country is a 'silicon valley mindset' but with asocial conscience. To develop our country as a creative, innovative and caring country - this is the 'new story' we all need to get behind. In such an environment the 'mindset' should be to continually try new things, to keep what works, and most importantly to learn from our mistakes. This is an evolutionary approach; one impossible for the technocrats to measure and assess. It is approach that requires the establishment of the right conditions and faith and trust in people to explore new ideas.
Instead we are becoming increasingly conservative and risk averse. In education, which ought to be the place where such an creative and caring mindset ought to be the number one concern instead, we are moving backwards, introducing standards in basic areas, which will narrow the curriculum and fail to value the innovative and creative . The same conservative and punishing thinking also applies to our justice and welfare systems. All it seems our 'populist' politicians want to do is to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic to get a better view of the icebergs!
We need to move beyond tinkering and need a real transformational shift. We need a 'big bang approach'. We urgently need to establish national conversations, led by respected citizens, to develop a wide range of ideas about all aspects of our society. And, most of all, we need to think about what kind of country we want to be seen as in the decades ahead.
It is time for creativity and imagination - two attributes not associated with politicians with their short rem views and need for popular approval.
Whatever is developed needs to be inclusive and owned by all. This requires a Darwinian shift of mindset and personal sacrifice for the common good. This is not about the rich getting richer - or propping up wounded dinosaurs.
And all involved must appreciate that such a shift, as mentioned above, comes with real pain. Real change is never easy. Self, organisational, and national delusion is far easier! Imagine, for example, changing secondary schools, with their genesis in the past century, into a true creative learning communities dedicated to developing the talents of all their students and ensuring all students leave with 21st century learning attributes in place!
A national agreement needs to be in place to give politicians the necessary courage to act. New structures and regulations need to be agreed to be in place to ensure changes are made. New Zealand could become a leader in developing the creativity and talents of all its citizens? A leader in developing sustainable industries and research. A model for others to emulate.
New Zealand is the first country to see the light of the new day. We ought to be seen, as well, as the country at the leading edge, the cutting edge, of new ideas.
Whatever evolves it needs to deliver to all members of society - change must be worth the pain. There needs to be a consensual understanding of what is required by all. In 1939 t hose living in the United Kingdom had this realisation -even if was only realized at the last moment.
The conservative element in New Zealand is strong but, deep in our collective DNA, we all share the innovative strands of the explorers, Polynesian and European, the colonisers, the immigrants, and the creative that marks out or most successful citizens.
It is time for us all to reach out towards new horizons.