“If everything you’ve ever done has resulted in you getting everything you have ever wanted, why would you change?”
That’s the question he posed as we drank our coffee and looked out of the window facing campus. Our conversation had reached an impasse. We knew that neither of us had an answer to the question. Our ongoing conversations about implementing change in higher education had always fascinated me; in large part because they challenged me to look at the concept of change as something that can be willingly applied by anyone, at any point, in any situation. However, at that moment I realized that I had neglected to think about how one’s own motivations affect the process of creating change in higher education in the first place.
I kept reverting back to my childhood memories of creating sand castles on the shores of Cape Cod and Coney Island. I remember proudly calling my mom over so that she can take a look at the sand castles I created. I wanted her and everyone else to see what I had built. I was proud of what I had built, though I knew the “success” was only temporary. I had come to terms with the fact that my sand castles, however great, would only last for so long. I also understood that, upon leaving the beach, other children had the right to build upon my castle, make changes to it or demolish it altogether and start from scratch.
It takes a great amount of professional maturity and self-confidence to walk away from, modify, or even destroy the “sand castles” we figuratively build at our institutions of higher education. However, I would argue that this is one of the most important skills we lack in our field. It’s in our nature to want to protect our achievements the way that a young child would want to protect their castle against the crashing waves of the ocean. However, in order to push our field forward, we have to adopt a mindset wherein we are inviting others to take part in the innovation process — regardless of that fact that the innovation process challenges the foundation under which our own personal success has been founded on.
Isn’t that what we should expect from each other?