If you’ve read any of my blog articles, Web sites or books, you’re probably familiar with my position that one of the reasons we experience the problems that we do is based on how we were taught to think.  I get excited by writers like Daniel Pink that challenge conventional thought, and by texts like The Challenger Sale that encourage “cognitive dissonance” to get people out of their “status quo” rut because they don’t like or they fear change.  The fact of the matter is that if you don’t like the results you’re getting, some kind of change is necessary.  It’s why I published an eBook for tuition-charging schools titled “Shift,” since a shift is indeed a change, yet it doesn’t sound as threatening as “change” does.

One of the main flaws with any type of change, however, is that we want to do things “One step at a time.” With any new tool, product or service, there is an “Implementation Process” that now has to take place.  Educators are well aware of this fact, in that everything requires some type of training, and more and more, training in multiple sessions – just like your classes!  Do most educators like it?  No.  However, where do you think trainers got the idea of scaffolding, spaced repetition and independent reinforcement (aka, Homework), from?

The problem with our training is that it’s linear – step by step.  That’s great for left-brained people, while right-brained folks might want to try it and experiment with it for a couple of weeks before committing to using it, or to participate in a pilot program so they can experience what is supposed to happen when the change is made.  Then they’ll go to the training manual, start in the middle, or use the index to find what they need to get to, rather than following the chapter-at-a-time three-volume manual that has been prepared to master the new product or service.

Want proof? Do you own a car? Have you ever read the Owner’s Manual for that car cover to cover? Why not? It’s written at a 4th grade reading level!

Speaking of cars, they provide a great example of systems in action. All those systems – power, transmission, braking, steering, emissions control and now automatic braking, backup cameras and parking assist – have a number of elements that must work together, or else the vehicle will not optimally perform.  The next time your Service Engine Soon light comes on, ride with it on for a while, and watch how fast you use gasoline.  We need to be able to think systemically as well as linearly to solve the problems we experience today.  And when you realize that there is linear thinking and process-oriented thinking that’s also linear and is in play, things tend to become even more complex.

We tend to get bogged down when we’re considering processes, and have to plan all the things that must take place.  If you’ve been a teacher, you’re used to processes, since that’s what your lesson plan creation is all about.  However, if you need to create brand new lesson plans for every class, year after year, the linear thinking that’s necessary for process development can become tiresome. That said, here’s an “overarching model” for process improvement in 5 easy to remember steps. Remembering is the first step to understanding, as we’ll never understand something if we don’t remember key foundational components (the essence of scaffolding). These are easy to remember, since they all start with each of the 5 vowels:

1. Open – to a new way of thinking
2. Accept – a proposed solution.  Of course, this assumes that the proposed solution has been fully researched, and, ideally, that key stakeholders have been apprised of the research or have participated in the discernment process (yes…another process within a process).
3. Understand – that everyone involved must buy in to the proposed solution, or at least, have input into the decision-making process.
4. Implement – the proposed solution with as little deviation as possible
5. Evaluate – the solution’s effectiveness and propose adjustments (and possibly another new way of thinking).

As is usually the case, the first step is the hardest one. How do you get people “open” to something new? If you’re a teacher, you need to be good at it, because you must do that with every student every day.  Challenging someone’s way of thinking, or causing “cognitive dissonance,” is one way it can happen. But an even more effective way is to also cause “affective dissonance,” or “kinesthetic dissonance.” Dissonance is the realization that one’s currently formed mindset is being challenged by new information. Similarly, “affective dissonance” can be described as “mixed emotions.” “Kinesthetic dissonance” happens when one gets a new supervisor who has a new management style,  the physical demands of the position changes, or when one is employed in an occupation that relies on “shifts,” working daylight for a few days, then having to switch to overnight, or working one day for 12 hours and the next for 8, or worse, combining the two practices because “that way, the schedule is fair to everyone.”  It might be, but it can play havoc with one’s sleep cycle, alertness and overall demeanor in the workplace.

One must be personally affected by a circumstance, happening or event to be open to the potential that something new may very well be better than what’s currently in place. Then and only then can the process continue onward to successful transformation.

But what about that “discernment process?”  Great question!  There are also 5 steps in the discernment process as it would affect decisions, particularly in a faith-based school.  These also apply to decisions made in any type of relationship, especially in marriage:

  1. Pray – Asking God to be present in any type of decision means He’s involved in the process, and the participants are open to His will
  2. Discern – Finding out as much as possible about the topic at hand from trusted resources, the anticipated positives, the potential consequences, and recommendations from others with applicable experiences.
  3. Mutual Decision – Make the decision
  4. Mutual Responsibility – Since all are involved in the discernment, all share in the responsibility.  There is no blaming.
  5. Openness to Change – Circumstances may require re-evaluation of the decision.  If that’s the case, see Step 1.  Even though it’s a process, its iterative nature makes it a system.