“Human systems grow in the direction of what they persistently ask questions about.” - David Cooperrider
I have been thinking a lot recently about the power of questions in creating meaningful change in organizations. I posted earlier about taking a 6 week online class about Appreciative Inquiry. One of the principles of AI states that questions and change are not separate things. They happen simultaneously. One of the most important things that we can do in bringing about change is to develop and ask good questions.
So, if human systems grow in the direction of their persistent questions, what sorts of questions should we be asking?
- Our budget has been cut again. How can we do more with less?
- How can we show that we still have value?
- How can libraries avoid obsolescence?
If these are the types of questions that we regularly ask at our institutions and our professional organizations and conferences then we are in trouble. If these are the questions that focus us, then we will constantly be thinking about proving our worth, avoiding budget cuts, and our eventual demise. We’ll be focused on fear as opposed to actually providing value and doing good. We need better questions.
- How can we create amazing experiences everyday for our users?
- How can we develop our students into expert questions-askers?
- How can we make our libraries invaluable and irreplaceable in our communities?
- How can we nurture abundant curiosity?
If questions like these are the ones that guide our thinking we’ll do extraordinary things. These questions aren’t trying to solve problems or even merely discover what we are already doing. These questions paint an optimum vision of the future and propel us towards it. Instead of trying to solve problems, put out fires, or simply stay afloat we are asking how can we create the kind of future we want.
What questions are you asking at your institution? What questions do you want to be asking?
I presented and attended LOEX last week in Columbus with my awesome colleague Michele Melia. It has become one of my favorite conferences. It is energizing, teaching librarians are really fun and interesting people and everyone was engaged. There was so much good stuff at the conference (not to mention our presentation), but there were several lessons that stood out for me:
- Identity work is key to becoming a good teacher - Often librarians look for tips or tricks to improve their teaching and magically help them become good teachers. While a big part of teaching is having different pedagogical tools and methods to draw on, even more important is discovering who you are as a teacher. You need to understand your own strengths an shortcomings and ways that you are most effective in the classroom. No two people teach the same way and the most important work a teacher can do is internal.
- Bring a skill-share mentality - Char Booth in her awesome keynote presentation briefly touched on this but I also saw it echoed and debated in other sessions. As teachers we are all in this together. We are all at different points and have had different experiences and we need to learn from one another. Instead of creating your instructional materials or lesson plans in a vacuum, share them with your colleagues. Instead of worrying about other people judging you, recognize that everyone has something to learn and has to start somewhere. By sharing our skills we can all become more effective.
- Storytelling - To be an effective presenter and teacher you need to tell stories. Stories create resonance among people and allow us to connect to the topic. They help you seem more authentic in the classroom…another human being. Information can be communicated much more effectively in stories. As opposed to simply telling people statistics about something like tides or stellar life being able to put it into a visual narrative can be much easier to understand.
Below is Michele and my slides on technology in the classroom, learning styles, and using the inquiry method.