Goodness over Time

2 Sep

Sarah Walkowiak and I came up with the following chart while trying to characterize for ourselves various differences–mostly in one’s approach–between making a new thing happen (what David Perkins and Daniel Wilson call “bridging the idea-action gap”) and improving an established thing.

Our hypothesis: that the new thing covers the biggest distance on the scale of goodness and the least distance on the scale of time.  That it is scary, and takes a certain quality of mind, comfort with doubt, self-assuredness (indeed the whole thing is in doubt and your own value dubious until you do it), an artfulness, maybe a bit of thaumaturgy.  That improving the established thing, conversely, is less doubtful (because it exists), and the payoff is less (but more consistent), and the quality of mind needed is slightly different.  (I might note that this is a Bergsonian duality for those wise people who love Henri Bergson).

We thought this was all fairly self-evident stuff, but significant for us because in the world of higher education, and libraries, and IT departments (our world), we felt a long, relatively static cycle had led us to be well-positioned to iteratively improve existing things, while not being particularly good at the evocation of novelty.  And we felt that cultivating a certain amount of novelty was the best way we could prepare ourselves for a changing world.


2 Responses to “Goodness over Time”

  1. Alex Chaucer March 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

    Hola! Love the graph! I think you are definitely onto something with the idea-action gap, and bridging it…somehow.

    I was a little confused about the placement of Leadership and Management on the graph. Managment, and the string of projects, indicates high “goodness” according to the graph, while Leadership falls much lower on the “goodness” access. I was curious about this, and if I was even reading it properly. Can you help clarify?

    Much thanks for this blog post. I work in instructional technology and there absolutely are management/leadership tensions, idea/action gaps, and different levels of operations. It’s a lot to address in one graph, but you are close to capturing some of this complexity, and I think the essence is right on! Keep up the good work.


    • D. Grainger Wedaman March 14, 2013 at 9:04 am #

      What a good point!

      We were thinking not so much about the placement of those two activities on the scale of goodness but rather more about their relationship to the relative amount of overall change in goodness. Our point wasn’t that management is better, but that management (we thought) was associated with incremental returns and leadership with larger leaps. Or the reverse–incremental slippage, and larger drops, respectively–since it occurs to me now that the graph probably should allow for downward motion, too, since we know things get better and worse, and for any big success, there must be a few big failures . . .

      In the time since we created this, I’ve become less enthused about that simple leadership vs. management contrast. A binary is a doorway into a system-level understanding. What’s the system there? It probably needs to include the social dimension of the people led and managed, at least, their culture, how they work together, how they participate in leadership and management. It also probably needs to include the environment in which their organization operations, and what it’s doing.

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