I am just wrapping up a course on constructivist learning techniques, which is one of my favorite topics. As usual, it gets me thinking a lot about what it means to construct reality. It’s heady stuff.
Join me in thinking this one over in your drive times this week: If you could re-construct reality, what would you change?
For example, most business people would define good performance as exceeding some mutually agreed standard. What if we decided that good performance was defined by the degree to which we are each using our strengths to become “better, happier, and more productive at work”? (You might guess I’m a big fan of Marcus Buckingham’s approach.)
Or consider this example: Business literature has recently been understandably focused on the role of business schools in shaping our current financial crisis. (See the current HBR Debate from Harvard Business Publishing.) A question that keeps coming up is the impact of an ethos that defines the success of an organization solely by return for shareholders. What if, instead, we agreed that organizational success would be defined by the company’s impact on all its stakeholders – including employees and communities?
Here’s one closer to home for those of us in learning and development: In the recent edition of the HRD Review, Laura Bierema argues a strong case for rethinking the whole purpose of HRD in organizations. She’s dismayed by the degree to which our field has a adapted a performance mindset (a belief that employee growth and development needs to serve business performance goals) rather than being committed to “humanistically facilitating development and change” on a broader scale. I’ve been thinking about how our approaches might be different. (I’m still mulling over her point of view – I highly recommend the article.)
We have a tendency to be trapped in “the way it is around here” and to throw up our hands as if we have no control. But even on the big, important things, we create reality by enlisting people to our point of view. Scientific revolutions are sown by lone thinkers who dare to ask a different question. Societal changes are made by visionaries who dare to have a dream. Coups are pulled off by people who decide they won’t take “it” anymore. Deep and serious changes happen all around us every day.
It’s easier to go along… but it’s intriguing to wonder what would happen if we didn’t. What would you change?