Thursday, December 13, 2012
The lessons learned are many, but I've come to appreciate the value of setting high challenge goals. While there is level of learning that can happen in just assimilating tasks that are handed to you with a complete set of instructions, striving to learn something which is just beyond your current reach really kicks the brain into high gear.
If the challenge is high enough, you many not be able to get there using your current approach, which can help catalyze a change. This was one of the findings of my research: that the complexity and transdisciplinary nature of sustainability was a high challenge that couldn't really be addressed by the current process of construction, which is linear and fragmented. In order to get to this challenge level, we needed to change to a whole systems approach, so we could start "seeing" the complexity of the issues and design in this same multi-faceted mode.
The high challenge level of a PhD also revealed the limitations of my own current system of work. In the past, I'd had a tendency to leap first, and think later. It's a bit how I landed in graduate school. The reasons are many, but not really relevant to the discussion. Let's just say that was my modus operandi. Thanks to a pretty good set of survival skills, this worked for the most part. But research doesn't work that way. After much resistence, I finally recognized the opportunity to blend old with new. The "leaping" skill is really a highly developed neural network that lets me quickly "see" connections, future states, strategic opportunities. It is why I pop out ideas non-stop, or always seem to find the creative approach to normal tasks. So the new plan was to leverage this skill to develop ideal state scenarios, but then dig into rigourous research to establish the foundation for these scenarios. The findings might provide validation, but might also uncover entirely new ideas. And that is o.k., because the point is not in being "right," but in finding the right way. While this may sound like standard research, the difference is that the process of designing to ideal states breaks through the current paradigms, beyond typical hypothesis. So the interpretation of the data can also breaks out of the box, and open the door to greater learning.
Undoubtedly, there will be many challenges ahead and the world may may be ending on the 21st, but I am hopeful that behind these challenges lie opportunities and am ready to dig in and do the work. These are the adventures that shape our lives.