I’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit (here) and i was struck by a story about Alcoa Aluminum and Paul O’Neil’s installation turnaround of a dysfunctional culture one person at a time. More detail is available in the book, but the short version is that O’Neil insisted on a focus on safety at a time when profitability was challenged. Many thought O’Neil was deranged and expected him to spend time working more directly on cutting expenses and increasing margins, but O’Neil was crazy like a fox, and he knew that a focus on safety would act as a keystone habit to realign the culture with exactly those things that would make the company profitable.
Ever since reading these passages, I’ve been sitting in the question as follows: What keystone habit or habits would effect the same kind of foundational realignment of engineering education culture? After some reflection, I’ve concluded that the answer is listening. The reason the current state of engineering education affairs sustains itself is that teachers aren’t listening to students, students, increasingly, aren’t listening to teachers, and as a result, their is almost no feedback to drive change in the needed directions. The creation of listening universities, listening colleges, and listening polytechnics around the world would create the possibility of real change without the usual pitched resistance or backsliding once change is in place.
Over the last 18 months, ThreeJoy has developed a new kind of short interactive training seminar called NLQ or noticing, listening, and questioning. NLQ can be used in a short standalone mode or in concert with other building blocks to create a very effective change enhancing program for a variety of educational transformation outcomes. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and start creating the listening school of the future, today.