Who Are YOU? ReDesigning Identity

Transitioning into a Design Culture looks good on paper. First, we rename roles and responsibilities. Then we create a graphic so that people can see it. Finally, we start designing. Sounds simple, right?

20C leaders are fluent in “change management”. There are plenty of charts and books that describe the process a system must undergo as part of a significant change. But what most change management systems don’t tell you is that change isn’t the challenge for most people and most organizations. It’s the TRANSITION from what was to what it’s going to be. William Bridges, in his seminal work, TRANSITIONS: Making Sense of Life’s Changes, recognizes the impact that ReDesigning has on systems.

“The subject of this book is the difficult process of letting go of an old situation, of suffering the confusing nowhere of in-betweenness, and of launching forth again in a new situation…All transitions are composed of (1) an ending, (2) a neutral zone, and (3) a new beginning.”

“…Transition is the natural process of disorientation and reorientation marking the turning points in the path of growth. Throughout nature, growth involves periodic accelerations and transformations. Things go slowly for a time and nothing seems to happen — until suddenly the eggshell cracks, the branch blossoms…change is the norm now, and somehow or other we will need to develop ways of dealing productively with it.”

ReDesigning on a large scale with a small group of courageous leaders is no small feat. Not only are we facing our own fears and inner demons about what we know, what we need to learn (or unlearn), and how we can simultaneously develop 21C leadership skills (including design thinking) AND support our teams AND educate leaders and stakeholders…but we are ourselves in the middle of a transition..a state of not-quite-there and not-quite-expert like we used to be when work was done in silos, and job descriptions were our checklist of competency.

This new identity as a ReDesign leader is critical work. Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, says the right people have to have the right identity in an interdisciplinary environment. They have to have strengths in two dimensions:

“The T-shaped person…needs to possess a depth of skill that allows him/her to make tangible contributions to the outcome. This competence…is difficult to acquire but easy to spot. But that isn’t enough. Many designers who are skilled technicians, craftsmen, or researchers have struggled to survive in the messy environment required to solve today’s complex problems. They may play a valuable role, but they are destined to live in the down stream world of design execution….A creative organization is constantly on the lookout for people with the capacity and — just as important — the disposition for collaboration across the disciplines…this distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one… In an interdisciplinary team, there is collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.”

So many quotes…so little blog space…What does all that mean?

  1. ReDesign goes way beyond the info graphic and new names for roles and responsibilities. It’s about wading through the TRANSITION from what needs to stop (20th century siloes and leadership…affixing our hopes on programs and promises from past successes…repeating the mistakes of the past because we aren’t quite sure how to nail something creative the first time) to something new (21st C leadership in interdisciplinary teams…creativity and flexible thinking…empathy and growth mindsets…nobly enduring the challenge of transitions).
  2. ReDesign leaders have to be willing to try on a new identity, and walk alongside team members and stakeholders who aren’t quite sure how it looks or how it will impact their work. This new identity insists upon vulnerability (who am in in this space? what if I fail here? who are my users and why haven’t I noticed them before?) and courage (even if it’s not perfect or pretty, let’s try it). Taking on the mantle of expert AND collaborator is heavy lifting, and it isn’t for the faint of heart. ReDesign APS is shaking up our identity as individuals, as a team and as a system. We have to let go of who we were in many ways…and start taking on the persona and dispositions of someone who is going to work differently as an educator, a leader and an influencer within a larger system.

3. ReDesign leaders are learning the places within ourselves and within our team that need to be let go as part of the transition of who we are becoming. We have leaders who were phenomenal educators and leaders in a time where being the “superstar” was the goal…where there were specific and guaranteed ways to make change happen — quickly and efficiently. ReDesign is pushing us to realize we have to rely on the person who is up on the high wire with us. Together is the only way we will think better…think differently…think creatively in service to our students who deserve the successful future we owe them.

Take a look at our Lead Designer graphic again. You’ll see the expertise labels (first step in creating a strong design team…check) and then you’ll see the lines connecting each and every member to the other. THAT’s the interdisciplinary gravitational pull that we are forming together. From moving into a shared workspace, to intentionally colliding and collaborating with each other, to learning the support teams represented in this graphic…it’s all about interdependence. Finally, at the heart of all we do is a commitment to 21st Century skills and equity. Those skills are the heart beat of this future we are ensuring for our students. Equity guarantees that we will move the boxes so that every student has access to robust and engaging learning everyday.


What does this system still need? Are there roles and expertise that are missing? If you were a user, what would you need to know about this system in order to benefit from it? What elements of identity must a team address in order to work within such an integrated space? Send your thinking…your flurry of ideas and questions…we are hungry for idea partners!

ReDesign Aurora

ReDesign Aurora is a place for educators, designers and future thinkers to learn more about our work as a team committed to transforming student learning. We are learning how to work in an authentic 21st Century space that features the guiding principles of design thinking. This will be a weekly collaborative communication for our team members and for educators who are committed to doing something different in service to our students. This space will feature a regular design opportunity for ideas…brainstorms…possibilities. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

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