U Lab: the learning journey thus far

For the past few weeks I have been sort of doing U Lab, I say sort of because I’ve barely looked at the course content in a couple of weeks, it’s been quite an intense time otherwise as I transition from being a librarian in a community library to a new regional role as Digital Outreach Librarian for Auckland Libraries, starting at the end of November.

But one thing that I haven’t compromised on is the coaching circle, as Otto Scharmer had suggested, and this has paid dividends. It’s been a bit messy as I’ve been in this online coaching circle, with people from Germany, Zimbabwe, Spain, and other places, and not the most consistent turn out, but have been talking to the same couple of great people for a couple of weeks in a row now.

We’ve been presenting cases in a case clinic each week, and giving my case is what taught me a lot about myself. I framed my case in terms of how we(the library) could innovate to meet customer needs by using the U process, but I’ve given the case twice now to different people, and what emerges each time, even though I don’t consciously put my focus on it in the framing is my relationship to the team that I’m working with. The coaches have helped me to crystallize the issue, which is that I tend to think very aspirationally, about a possible future state of the library which is far different from the present, whereas most library staff tend to be much more embedded in the present, or arguably sometimes even the past of library services. This creates a lot of dissonance, and my default reaction is to clam up, and just kind of do a one man innovation show, but of course this is considerably problematic for obvious reasons.

So my learning edge over the past few weeks has been to learn to open up and to genuinely engage with other staff whose thinking is vastly different from my own, putting my views on the table and encouraging them to do the same; importantly I have been mindful not to just try and “win the debate”, but rather to share what I think and why I think it, and listen to them likewise.

I had a really interesting conversation with one of my workmates who is quite a traditionalist and believes that we should just focus on books and reading, and if interest in reading is going down, we should be out there fighting the good fight and advocating for kids to read. I’ve shared with her Future Work Skills 2020 to indicate how learning needs are changing, to show why I don’t think libraries promoting basic literacy is enough anymore. But she is a quietly fierce advocate of the old line, and I’ve appreciated how talking to her has actually sharpened up my own position, because I have to be able to justify my mental models when I air them with someone who is skeptical.

Thus far this has been a fascinating learning journey in awareness based change; I feel a change from deep within myself, as I engage with the weak spot, the blindspot in myself that had previously been shut away. I feel a bit nervous posting this actually, as it does feel a bit vulnerable, but I think it’s important to share the story of this journey so that others might see a way to start with themselves in the change they want to see.

Originally published at hamishlindop.me on October 22, 2016.

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