John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Four Sure Fire Ways to Kill a Conversation about Innovation and Change

John N. Gardner

Twice this week I have had the privilege of advising groups of higher educators at two different colleges on processes for effective self study leading to improved institutional effectiveness. While these were two very different institutional cultures and situations I found myself giving the same counsel in one respect, and that has to do with this suggestion. Specifically, group process like this will move ahead much more productively, collegially, and efficiently, if the group will adopt as ground rules the agreement that no member will say the following things which are sure fire ways to shut down, redirect, stifle delay, frustrate an otherwise positive change process:

  1. Oh, we could never do that, because institutions like us do not do that……
  2. Oh, we could never do that because we tried that before and it didn’t work…….
  3. Oh, we could never do that because we can’t afford it………….
  4. Oh, we could never do that because—so and so (an influential) would never allow that…….

I am sure the above list is not a comprehensive one for conversation and progress killers.  But, hopefully, the above list will get you recalling your own and you can build on my list.  The main thing is to nip in the bud defeating mechanisms like the above utterances. This will increase your success in getting good ideas out on the table for consideration and then adoption by all.

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