Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter - A Time of Rebirthing

Sometimes you bear thoughts you'd like to share with someone, but don't dare to do so. Then there comes a unique opportunity where sharing something like this is part of the course curriculum as in the past ScalingUpMOOC gracefully led by Stanford professors Huggy Rao and Bob Sutton.

One of the early, individual exercises was the PREMORTEM Exercise which I'd like to share today on Easter Sunday which stands for death and rebirth at the same time. Only taking the courage to move forward when all seems to be stuck, or fail, is when you succeed in life.

Happy Easter to All and thank you to all all who have helped over the course of five decades to become who I am today, and in the future !!!

A Detoured Dream

The amazing global team of CitizenScienceLab during #ScalingUp MOOC

It is a day late in summer of the year 2017, the academic semester is shortly to begin and CitizenScienceLab should have been running as a high-level on-institute of the local university as their multi-disciplinary system dynamics institute.

Not quite so, the project had not taken off to reality, and the properties where it would be housed in the future are still abandoned, and unused (probably awaiting real estate speculation, or other).
What had happened?

Early in 2016 all looked promising, the years of connecting across the globe with top leaders in the field seemed to take fruit finally and scaling towards finalization looked as being just a mile ahead. What we underestimated was the inertia of institutions and their stakeholders to give us backwind to propel what sounded like a must in the turbulent times of the refugee crisis that had a massive (negative) impact due to weekly protest marches and bad mouthing across the world, which did not stop before foreign researchers that the university was attracting just months before due to playing a prominent role in the Germany-wide "excellence initiative" in order to raise global awareness of scientific and research excellence in the region. An urge of action by the various government, city and business constituencies not taking into account of going for another more sustainable approach that what have a positive impact on the "learning society" seemed still the norm, as it often is the case in crisis situations.

The initiator of the project, thus known in the city and government circles over the years, undebatable had a low credibility as everybody knew that two of his ventures (a consulting firm, and a coworking space he brought up in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2009/2010 both failed). His global connectivity sort of scared people away, who were bound to their local communities, and often did not dare to speak in English or other languages than German. To overcome this short coming, he had built a global network of mentors, supporters and useful connections that even led him to C-level executives in VC funds, and tech giants hoping to tie all this together (via digital technology, for this he had initiated another startup in order to build up the trust of the local tech, science, arts and academic community over the years).

Yet all this did not look like a real scaling effort, and really hard work to most people around him, and who would be needed to bring the project to a lasting success.

Being an „outsider" to the local community and a born West German respect and trust was not as high brought back by local stakeholders so it would have fueled positively the process, and being not in the academic circles sort cut off from any support from institutions that are currently supported financially within a running governmental funding scheme. So things just took time to evolve - too long it seemed.

What really „killed the cat" was the fact that various aspects and focus topics of the CitizenScienceLab, such as action learning, lean thinking, Theory U, system dynamics being used to solve complex challenges, whether in the business, educational, governmental or societal context seemed way too broad and disconnected for most, especially scientists who became interested in the concept and offered to support and scale. In the end, everyone is just close to their own issues, life & work challenges. And the viable business model had been vague for too long, especially as there is nothing comparable to the idea (even though the former Dean for Graduate Education at MIT, Christine Ortiz just stepped back from this position in order to found a new kind of university without professors, curriculum or major, mainly based on project based learning). The concept of citizen science is literally unknown in the region, and attracting larger parts of the civic society to get involved did not work, partially due to missing incentives or language constraints.

The mindset of scaling, especially in the face of obstacles, sometimes putting a gear down in speed is an unfamiliar assumption in society here, where it is believed that success comes from hard work and going through "concrete walls" (if it needs), where the founder and his team are mainly focusing on finding the most elegant solution with the given resources, and having the future (long-term) in mind as well.

As progress did not positively scale new people for the team did not show up, perhaps also due to not doing marketing and attracting bright minds to co-create this new institution in the city that is known lately for being reluctant to quick change (even for prototypes).

Even though the project is not running in 2017, being ready for the first students, entrepreneurs and citizens to learn about how to bring a systemic view and understanding to solve their complex challenges, there is no end to and a next future milestone for 2018 will be set (with all the learning along the way to play out in a positive way).

Anybody willing to make it happen in 2017 is whole heartedly welcome to CitizenScienceLab

PS.: Anyone eager to learn more about what has happened over the years, here the whole story.
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