Change is Really, Really Hard

Change is Hard. Lisa Colton of Darim Online said that to me yesterday. Actually, what she said was, remember when  YOU wrote, “Change is Hard.”

Sure, I remember writing that, but I meant it for other people, not for me! Lisa was referring to the project we’ve been working on together, which I’ve written about before here, the Social Media Academy for Jewish Day Schools sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation. Based on our experience with this Academy, I would have written the above sentence as, “Change is Really, Really, Really Hard!”

We’ve asked the schools in the Academy to engage in a huge learning process. They are learning how the individuals tools actually work, which is like learning a foreign language on a tool like Twitter, plus how to work in networked ways. In the long run, the latter is far harder than the former, but in real time, in the moment, both can seem overwhelming. In a great post on her blog, Jew Point 0, Lisa Colton, the founder of Darim Online, compares the learning process for organizations with social media to her son Eli’s experience learning to ride a bike. [The post includes as a bonus a great video of Eli really getting the hang of riding his bike.]

She writes, “In the Avi Chai Academy, the Jewish Day Schools have just completed a 3 week match campaign through Facebook Causes.  Everyone struggled, everyone learned. Some had their breakthrough moment, and others did not.  So they’ll keep practicing and soon they’ll find their balance just like Eli eventually did on his bike.”

The schools learned an awful lot during the match campaign, and I did as well. We struggled mightily regarding the timing of the match. Is it best to do it early in the Academy when schools would be likely struggle a bit but have time with their coaches for the rest of the Academy to debrief and recombobulate about the discomfort they experienced working in networked ways? Or is it better to do it at the end of the Academy when the schools will be, hopefully and presumably, more facile and comfortable using social media? We chose early in the Academy. In retrospect, perhaps the best bet wasn’t either of these extremes but allowing the schools to pick a three week window that worked best for them during the Academy. Some of the schools did quite well during the match contest, others struggled and one didn’t participate at all.

And now the hardest part of the effort comes, how to help the schools understand that the pain, frustration and discomfort they felt at times (when it wasn’t caused by difficulties with the Causes system or the lack of lead time they had to prepare for the match) was because they were working differently – and that is a good thing. If you never fell off a bike then you never learned to ride one. It is part of the process, but too often institutions want immediate, tangible results that short change learning and growth. Or use discomfort as an excuse to stop and pull back.

I admire the courage these schools are showing by their engagement in this process. It really is hard work and hard to change habits and institutional default settings and my greatest hope is that they will persevere and sometime in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, be able to say, “Oh, that’s why it felt so bad.”

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Allison Fine
  • http://www.darimonline.org Lisa Colton

    Working DIFFERENTLY. Great wording. What do they say about creating new habits? You have to do it 30 times in a row or something before it feels normal? Like flossing your teeth, or a new exercise routine, or drinking 8 glasses of water a day… Even the most tech savvy and nimble among us have times when we need to work differently, and I’m sure this bit of wisdom holds true for whole orgs and not just individuals. It might not make it feel less awkward and difficult to work differently, but at least if we know that discomfort is to be expected, it feels more like “getting in shape” rather than just torturing ourselves. At least by doing it together, these schools can recognize that everyone has growing pains of one sort or another.

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