Happened to watch this talk by Emily Levine at a 2002 TED conference a funny talk with some interesting insights and perspectives that I find potentially directly connected to my new role. What follows is some reflection on these.

It is interesting to see some of the negative responses to this talk that arise on the Ted talk site and on youtube.

You can’t deny another person’s reality, only build on it

Mention of this theatre sports rule is made near the beginning of the talk. Particularly important because too much of what I see in universities around learning and teaching and innovation ignores and de-values the reality held by other people.

I think is a particular symptom of the “what management does” approach to improving learning and teaching. Management sets themselves up as knowing better than the academics and mandates changes. In most cases not being aware of or respecting the view of reality held by those academics.

And certainly a feature of Model 1 behaviour and defensive routines.

Trickster makes this world

From about 13 minutes into the talk, it shifts to talk about the impact of the book Trickster makes this world by Lewis Hyde. Why? Well, I like the following quote from Hyde’s home page

Trickster Makes This World (1998) uses a group of ancient myths to argue for the kind of disruptive intelligence all cultures need if they are to remain lively, flexible, and open to change

The first chapter of the book is available here.

Back to Levine’s points:

  • Trickster is a change agent.
  • Qualities that make it possible for change to happen:
    • Boundary crossing – the value of talking about something you don’t know anything about, seeing things anew. This connects with the idea of pattern entrainment.
    • Non-oppositional strategies – forget contradiction and embrace paradox.
    • Smart luck – being prepared for the unprepared. The ability to hold ideas lightly to see contradictions and new ideas.
    • Making connections – break up associations.
    • Walking a fine line – finding a balance.
    • Doesn’t have a home.

Don’t have the time now to do more than list them. Must get Hyde’s book and revisit this. However, these qualities of trickster make for useful ideas about how to engage in and encourage innovation.

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