It was Roland Barth who asked us to think back to an incident in our life which had been our most intense learning experience.
That’s a really interesting question to ask anyone – if you don’t believe me try it for yourself.
What emerged for me was the moment when our first child was stillborn. Gill was two weeks overdue and the baby just stopped moving one Saturday morning. We went up to the hospital and it took nearly an hour for someone to confirm our worst fears. We were sent home and told to come back the next day where gill would be induced. Gill was in labour for 14 hours before giving birth to a beautiful baby boy who we named Stewart.
We went on to have two wonderful sons Douglas and Lewis but that experience was one which has had a major influence on our approach to life.
As I thought more about that experience I realised that the sense of “loss” which we experienced was to do with our future rather than our past. We had plans, expectations and dreams which we hoped to fulfil with our son – when he was stillborn that loss of the future made our grief even more intense.
So what’s this got to do with learning? Well it struck me that what Norman Kunc called the “hurt of change” might just be connected to people’s fear of losing their future. Leaders often complain about people’s unwillingness to change, to embrace new practices, to adopt a new culture. But what if that unwillingness was actually to do with the fact that they can see the future because it looks just like the present. When a leader comes in who paints a picture of something out of sight then is it any wonder that they recoil, resist – or worse stiil – ignore.
Perhaps the leader might do well to recognise people’s fear of “losing their future” – and through such recognition develop approaches to change which took account of these feelings – as opposed to simply writing off anyone who offers resistance?