Adaptive Challenges

I keep promising myself, “I’ll do it tomorrow. “

I suspect blogging for me must be something like dieting or giving up smoking or maybe meditating is for some people. Or like any of the  other good things we want to do but dread the effort. Forgive me #DigiWriMo for I have transgressed. It has been four days since my last blog post.

Cynefin Framework as of 1st June 2014

By Snowded (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, no, tonight the idea of complexity is on my mind. This morning Bonnie Stewart spoke to a group of educators at our college. She asked what problems we encounter as educators living in an age of abundance. A number of people spoke up stating various things they encountered. Bonnie then went on to point out that each of the problems we mentioned are complex problems, not merely simple, or even complicated.
She reviewed the Cynefin framework with us, showing there needs to be a different approach to solving problems in the different domains. Bonnie then introduced what was a new concept to me, Heifetz’s technical problems versus adaptive challenges. This suddenly made a lot of sense, confirmed some vague ideas that were rattling around in my mind. I suddenly realized how will this fit with a rather complex issue I am facing as a member of a board of an organization in which I serve. It was born home to me how easy and tempting it is, and how unproductive it is, to treat adaptive challenges as though they were merely technical problems – as though they could be solved by authority or by an expert.  It helped me to realize, being someone who likes to play it rather safe, that the radical, outside the box solution our board was taking was not only the correct, but the necessary process in this case.

I also realized that we often look for technical solutions to complex issues like unemployment.
Provide more training programs.
Provide more focused training programs.
Provide more intense training programs.
Provide more personal development training programs.

I’m just wrapping up a seven week employment training program. The course materials are excellent. They focus on personal development. They focus on essential skills. They use sector-specific content. The course participants are having a great time, but their focus is on gaining a credential that will be the magic ticket on their resume. They have been conditioned to view unemployment as a technical problem. Taking a course is viewed as one of the solutions that can be applied to that problem.

I took this framework to our board. Tomorrow I think I will take it to my class.
Let’s see what they think about changing values beliefs roles and relationships. Is it somebody else’s duty to value my beliefs to except my values?
See what they think about people who have the problem working to solve it. How much are we depending on someone else to open the way to employment for us?
How patient are they willing to be with taking a long time to experiment, to use trial and error. Will they feel frustrated and give up if they don’t get a job after taking this course?

Dictated to Google Doc on iPhone – minimal editing for links (and a little bit more, but not much)

About Jim

Community Adult Educator & Adult Literacy Instructor
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