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6 Dec, 2020 - 5 min read

BIG questions we’re tackling in Leading Change

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With two intakes of Leading Change for Good in progress, and three more scheduled to start in 2021, it’s safe to say we’re well underway with our newest, and most unique Postgraduate Certificate.

It has been nothing like what we expected, but even more eye-opening and inspiring than we hoped.

Over this 34-week course we’re going to be exploring some BIG questions, and it’s no surprise to me that quite a few of these have come up already. These BIG questions see our learners start to tug at the very fabric of the society that we live in, and can’t be answered with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. 

Part of leading change is becoming comfortable with exploring questions like these in our own individual contexts, and understanding that this exploration is the important part, rather than the answer itself.

So, on that note, here are some of the BIG questions that have come up in our weekly sessions so far...

1. How do you define authentic value (for good) in times of uncertainty?

Authentic value has always been undefinable, that’s half the difficulty. It can’t be measured out and clarified in a cookie-cutter way, like chocolate chips or dollars in a piggy bank, each context is completely different. There are different audiences, stakeholders, expectations, and realities, and with Covid-19 constantly shaking things up, people are going back to what they know, and aligning “value” to money, or profit.

One of the areas we’ve been focusing on to tackle this question is learning together, exploring a range of concepts, and applying the concepts in our own settings, then sharing back so we can learn from each other and recognise the ways concepts can evolve.

We’ve brought a range of diverse speakers in to offer perspectives, each radiating authenticity, using leadership in many different ways for good and each with their own unique perspective on value. This approach gives our learners the chance to piece together parts from all of these examples for their own context. 

Through these speakers, supported with articles and video content that all offer different perspectives on authentic value, the first block of the programme is dedicated to understanding leadership, and how to determine value in your context through your unique leadership style. We’ve been analysing the leaders we’ve learned about; who they are, the experiences that made them who they are, their path to being accepted as leaders, and how this translates into a leadership style for authentic value. 

In the first cohort this became such an important topic that we adapted one of the sessions to allow for more time to share personal discovery stories and take time to reflect. Each of our learners began to define authentic value, or at least “what does authentic value mean to me”, an incredible process to watch.

As we head into the Christmas period articulating an answer to this question about defining authentic value may still be difficult. However, all learning leads to more authenticity, and more clearly defined concepts of “for good”, for the leaders that are part of the programme. 

2. How do we integrate indigenous values into business models in an authentic way?

We knew this topic would be a fascinating one to unpack, and we knew we’d need a variety of experts to speak on it. The integration of different ways of thinking for our learners requires a significant mindshift. This is relevant for any end of the spectrum; māori, pasifika, pākehā, or as one of our learners pointed out “I belong here in Aotearoa, but cannot put a tick next to any of those groups”. 

In the sessions we discussed “Pākehā Paralysis”, a fear Pākehā have of “not doing it quite right” and therefore not attempting it at all. We learned this is as real as the shame from those who identify as Māori, but grew up without the knowledge of Te Reo and Tikanga Māori. These raw and real discussions and the stories and experiences that came up, although confronting for almost everyone, helped create understanding. 

The great thing about a course like Leading Change for Good is that it creates a safe space to listen and learn from each other. Learners allow themselves to be vulnerable, and this forms a common language of understanding between our speakers, learners, and even us running the programme. 

And what’s more, this process saw the integration of indigenous values in the most authentic way, and true collaboration as a result. 

3. Is design thinking enough? Should we be looking beyond, to community-led design? And what does this mean / how do we do it authentically?

Design thinking is everywhere, and a huge part of what we teach here at The Mind Lab. It’s about empathy, trying to understand the people you are designing something for by talking to them and listening. Putting yourself in their shoes, and testing your progress with them as you design. However, when you start to look at it through an indigenous lens, is it enough? We began to unpack the process of co-design, and how this takes the level of understanding and collaboration a step further. 

Our conversations started to evolve around the idea of community-led design. Those that you are designing for are part of the decision process, even leading it. After all, why shouldn’t it be led by them? The product, process or platform can’t be entirely designed by someone else, an outsider trying to understand, it should be community-led and designed by the people it is for. 

This raised questions of practicality, and the many barriers that would come into play when trying to see this process through. Again, the context each person is in and how this impacts the application of the process, becomes critically important. Each of our learners will adapt a variation of this for their ongoing work in the programme.

Scott Crickett, from the September intake of Leading Change for Good, summed up his experience so far:

“The single biggest ‘ah-ha’ part so far has been the stuff on authenticity and values. Not because it was new, but because I was forced, for the first time, to consider the topics in relation to myself – which was deeply uncomfortable and difficult at the time but so satisfying. I can’t remember being more proud of any output as much as my written definition of my values. It was hard to do, but I feel good when I go back and read them. Like warm, radiating from the inside good.” 

So here we are, three months into our Postgraduate Certificate with two cohorts of students who are, alongside us, asking some BIG questions. Questions that can’t be answered with a generic approach. But, as each of them approach these questions, we all learn more about different contexts, about each other, and about how what we learn can be adapted to another scenario, for good.

I can’t wait to see what else comes up.