Travel Knowingly: The journey towards discovering your organization’s Element

In November a group from the Ottawa Carleton District School Board attended the Creativity World Forum (#cwf2010) in Oklahoma.  The OCDSB’s “Lead the Way” initiative is concerned with rethinking notions leadership in order to recognize, celebrate and encourage creativity and leadership on a grass-roots level, thus creating the conditions for greater creativity and innovation across our District.  While in Oklahoma, we heard from Sir Ken Robinson (a livescribe recording of one session is here). I wanted to share a recent @sirkenrobinson response to a question posed using the hashtag #askSKR on twitter because it made me reflect on the “Lead the Way” project and the most enduring and sustaining connections made during our trip to Oklahoma — those made amongst the OCDSB group members as we got to know each other better during the forum.  Have a view (4 minutes well-spent):

In this short video, Sir Ken offers us plenty to ponder with respect to our own journey to finding our element, and I also found myself thinking about “Lead the Way” as a collective journey to finding our District’s element.

A District Wide Element – Some Navigational Tools

Its really a two-way journey, as I see it.  The first is, its an inward journey.  If you are interested in finding your element, you have to spend time with yourself.  You have to reflect, you have to look inward ….  You have to spend time with your own dreams ….  Whatever process aids your reflection, that’s a key part of this journey to your element — it is to look inward and to be with yourself and to find time to reflect on your own interests, your own passions… the times when perhaps you felt most centred…         – Sir Ken Robinson, askSKR#6

In some earlier posts, I reflected on my experiences at the Creativity World Forum — “the future is unwritten” , Creativity World Forum and Sitting on the edge of a paradigm shift.  All of these are examples of my own inward journey.  In many ways, the “Lead the Way” initiative at the OCDSB began as an inward journey, and continues to have that quality too.  Five years ago a survey was conducted to determine a new leadership narrative for the District.  The survey revealed that there were many employee groups within the District who felt that their experiences were not reflected in our old articulation of leadership.  Clearly it was time to “change the conversation” in order to uncover the conditions within which our District might find its element.  Our new leadership narrative followed the survey:
Leadership is exemplified by people who are able to impact those around them in a positive way.  Our leaders are energetic, empathetic, motivated, trustworthy, knowledgeable and good communicators.  Our leaders share a common vision in their commitment to all students.  Our leaders understand that their role is one of support.  They lead by example, they seek input, and they listen.  As an organization, we encourage and foster these qualities.  In challenging and prosperous times, we are defined by the relationships we build.

Last spring the OCDSB hosted an appreciative inquiry event — “Make a Positive Impact” — another part of our inward journey.  We sent individuals, including parents, community partners, and staff from a variety of employee groups from across the District out on buses to visit sites and schools looking for what it is that we are already doing really well to support learning.  I truly believe that adopting an appreciative inquiry lens enables us to get to know the best of what we are as a District, especially as it pertains to discovering our District’s element.
In his short video, Sir Ken also discusses the other side of the journey towards finding your element:

The second part of the journey is an outward journey.  I don’t mean this is sequential … but the second part of the journey is outward.  It is to try things that you didn’t try before.  If there are things you always wanted to do, then what are they and what would prevent you from doing that?  And its not just to try things at random, but to travel knowingly — to try new experiences, but to evaluate them and to reflect on them at the same time.     — Sir Ken Robinson, askSRK#6

I am really excited by some of the “outward journey” things happening within the OCDSB recently.  Each “Lead the Way” event evolves slightly so that we are constantly experimenting with format, space, content and participants.  The most recent event last night, designed to celebrate Administration and Support Staff (Office Administrators, Educational Assistants, Custodians, Library Technicians, etc…) was a huge success with over 200 participants coming together in a festive atmosphere to share stories, learn about creative initiatives from across the District, and to catch up with old friends.  Above all, the evening was about relationships — the foundational piece of our organization.

The “Lead the Way” events are also an integral part of our outward journey as an organization because the key components of the events are the displays and presentations highlighting creative and innovative practices from all across the District.  They reveal individuals and groups moving us forward by trying new things — new approaches to encourage learning at its very best.  As participants in the events hear about these practices, a field of possibilities is opened up and we are asked to consider, (to echo Sir Ken’s words) “what would prevent you from doing that?”

And that process of looking outward and looking inward, I believe, has the elements that are needed to discover your element.  — Sir Ken Robinson, askSKR#6

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