Radically Pragmatic

Last week at our Town Hall meeting of faculty and staff, I outlined four challenges the Champlain College community had highlighted in our efforts to sustain a culture of innovation. Today, I offer a fifth challenge – that perhaps we are too radically pragmatic.

The goals of the Champlain Futures Initiative are to generate a lot of great ideas to propel the College forward, and to create sustainable processes that ensure a culture of innovation endures. Feedback from over 500 participants in over 20 spyglass sessions held since the beginning of the year provided insights into the barriers people see in sustaining a culture of innovation. As I read the data and reported last week, consistent themes about the barriers centered on:

  • Time – finding time to have the interdisciplinary and idea-generating discussions people seek, as well as the think time necessary to develop ideas.
  • Access to information, information sharing, and the technologies to support this.
  • Trust and permission to fail – a sense that sanctions will follow ideas that fail (although I have yet to find any sanctionees at the College)
  • Professional Development, and the desire to develop new skills and enhance existing as a prompt to new idea generation.

In conversations since Town Hall, another challenge emerged. Some participants observed people in Spyglass Sessions editing their own ideas before fully forming them. Instead of a free-wheeling, no-limits, expansive growth mindset discussion, some discussions devolved into statements of, “This may be a great idea, but it is probably too expensive,” “I am not sure we have the people to do this,” and “I am not sure how practical this would be to implement.”

We do have some great ideas that have been offered in sessions, but I am wondering if, in our archetypal radically pragmatic mindset, we have edited out some bold ideas before giving them time to evolve.

As we head into the five fall Spyglass Sessions (starting tomorrow), please consider giving up radical pragmatism for just an hour as we brainstorm about where we may go. I commit that radical pragmatism will remain an essential element in our identity; let’s just add a dash of radical dreaming to balance the mix.

One thought on “Radically Pragmatic

  1. Marjorie Anderson

    Sounds like a good idea to allow sky’s the limit thinking to encourage staff to freely dream great dreams for the benefit of your students.


Leave a Reply