Monday, October 5, 2009

A Dollar...and change

I am thinking today about the nature of change in institutions like a University or Community College and the challenges that "change champions", and change agents face in organizations that seem sometimes hard-wired to resist change at all costs. So much of my work and my life seems to be about facilitating change and working through the resistance that change might present. A few chestnuts to start with:

Q: How many academics does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: CH-CH-CH-CHANGE? What do you mean change!!?

"Why is it that faced with the option of either making change or proving why it isn't needed, so many academics will get busy with the proof?"

Sorry I can't provide reference for either of these - they aren't mine, but I don't have the originating source at hand. However, I just finished reading a novel (State of Fear) by Michael Chrichton presenting an alternate view of the current take on climate change. In the epilog at the end of the book, Chrichton pontificates on a lot of issues relating to the current state of science research and politics. Some of it is pretty controversial, but I particularly liked one comment relating to the inability to change the model of science research. "The world changes; idealogues and zealots don't". He also states "I am certain there is too much certainty in this world."

It has been a point of interest for me for some time to explore why some decision-makers in academic areas are resistant to change (see related articles on my ePortfolio research site or my Class in the Cloud podcast with Stephen Downes). In my discussion with Steven Downes, he cautions that I should not use terms like "technophobia" or "fear of innovation", suggesting that such folks have no reason to fear change - rather that there are valid (and often economic) reasons for resistance in many cases. Agreed that there are great reasons not to simply change for change itself, but it seems to me there is also plenty of inertia when it comes to change that would be very obviously beneficial and that is where the notion of responsible technology conservatism does not help explain the reluctance to embrace change.

King Whitney Junior presents an interesting take on change and the emotions that accompany it: Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

I'm the confident kind, I guess.