It occurred to me that I’m probably being too hard on the early sessions that we attended for our new building – cultural change is difficult at the best of times, and this site is intentionally designed to be intentionally out of the ordinary. The first project manager couldn’t go too hog-wild, as she would have been at risk of completing going down the wrong path, and getting upset with her for tamping down the discussion isn’t fair.
Adding to her difficulties were the existing features/functions/culture already existing here, a culture that had resisted change in a lot of ways mostly to ensure its survival. So suddenly asking them to think about learning spaces in a completely different way was and is asking a lot.
The prevalence of this fear of change can be readily seen in the way various faculty approach the building. It seems to be as at best a curiosity, and at worst a curse. While some might see the third floor prayer and reflection space as a way to step outside the group think of ‘collaboration and team work = always good’, others see this use of these spaces as being a waste. Others see the fact that there will be no faculty offices in the building as a vague insult of some sort, harbingers of the days in which institutional power is often directly denoted by the amount of space you have in your office. Again, change might seem valued within our larger culture, but at the level of the organization, one that is most critical to our own lives, change is frightening.
So, as I continue to think about the ways in which this tableau plays out, I think I’ll focus as much on the vagueness of phrase as I will organizational resistance, and look at a couple of questions that I didn’t ask, due to my comfort level with the second round of discussions.
As is obvious, I loved the way those discussions worked, partly because I felt validated in trying to be creative, and partially because the design team so consciously tried to incorporate active learning in their approach. Using TED discussions (or the idea of designing one) should have made me vomit, because I’m not a fan of this learning approach, but just the fact that the developers were willing to try a new approach helped me to buy in. Designing an ad that captures Walsh is an activity that I use myself, many times, and so again I found myself investing in this process in ways that should have made my punk rock soul