Bookmarked How Are We Preparing For The Futures We See Coming? (DCulberhouse)

“It was such a lost learning experience, because the pandemic itself has been a great opportunity for students to figure out who they are and to question their assumptions about continuity, t…

David Culberhouse discusses the tendency in education to snap back to the comfort of our old default habits in an effort to move on from the pandemic. The problem is that this approach often undermines our ability to engage with the future to support staff and students alike.

As the world changes, often in accelerated and in unanticipated ways, so do our considerations and assumptions, much of which are grounded in the past. Shifting our mental models and maps from the rear-view mirror to the windshield allows us to release thinking we’ve entrenched in a world that no longer exists, so we can begin to creatively confront the uncertain and unknown futures that now await us. And the more sophisticated we can be in that journey, the more open we will be to the emergence of the diversity of futures that lie down the road.

This touches on the call to ‘build back better’. As much as I agree with the point that “one image of the future, may give you security, but it’s a false sense of security”, I worry that security is the least of our problems when some schools struggle to even get teachers to staff their classrooms and simply build back.

Replied to Considering The “Default” Future (

It is only when we are willing to disrupt and discover beyond the “default” that new futures are able to be considered and imagined.

As always David you leave me thinking more deeply about the current situation. There was so much spoken about ‘building back better‘, yet it feels like so much of schooling has bounced back to pre-COVID defaults. The problem I have experienced is that things have changed and trying to work the same plan as if it is all business as usual seems somewhat flawed.

For me, this has particularly been captured in the way we assess and report. So many have reverted back to biannual reporting how it was three years ago with little recognition of the disruptions that are still occurring and little thought to whether it is actually what is required by all parties involved. Although I have noticed some discussion of other models, such as mastery, as you attest in your piece, unless you recognise your current default it is hard to break free. This is what I have always liked about the Modern Learning Canvas as a means of starting this conversation.

Liked A Parable And Systems Awareness (DCulberhouse)

The parable of Chesterton’s Fence reminds us that deepening our understandings of the past allows us to better engage change for the future, thereby allowing for better decisions to be made in the present.

“Whenever you remove any fence always pause long enough to ask why it was put there in the first place.” -G.K. Chesterton

Replied to Will We Need To Rethink Better? (DCulberhouse)

“Building back better” is comparable to remodeling an old house (reform), whereas, “Building back different” is comparable to deconstructing that house in order to construct a whole new building (transform). Which is a whole different level of thinking, requiring new models and maps.

David Culberhouse pushes back on the call to build back ‘better’ and argues that instead we need to focus on building back differently.

If we are going to be able to move from reforming to transforming, to move from “Building back better” to “Building back different,” we will have to become much more aware. Aware of how much of what we consider for the future, of the ideas that are informing that future, are often projections pushed forward from the models and maps that have been constructed from both the past and the present.

His issue is that a focus on better often limits us to models and maps that have been constructed over time, whereas the focus should be on strategic thinking that is focused on the future.

This has me wondering about the place of history within all of this and the importance of not repeating the same mistakes twice.

Replied to From Complicated To Complex (DCulberhouse)

In many ways we exist at a crossroads, where something must eventually give…

A junction where the complicated and complex have come face to face, a crossroads where they come head to head in a world that is in the midst of its own massive upheaval that is spilling out in broad swaths of uncertainty that are spilling out across our societal, organizational, and institutional ecosystems. Understanding this dynamic will be vital for the future of leadership and building more effective systems across our organizations and institutions. As well as realizing how our organizations and institutions have truly become complex adaptive systems, and what has worked before, what has worked effectively in the past, may very well will not work in the future.

David, this reminds me of Dave Cormier’s discussion of our tendency towards complicated even though we think we are talking about the complex. It was interesting to read this alongside Scott McLeod’s push back on the call to reform:

“… reflection on organizational possibilities and institutional futures is common during the ‘reconstruction’ phase (Boin & Hart, 2003) of a crisis (see also Coombs, 2000; Heath, 2004; Boin, Hart, Stern, & Sundelius, 2005; Jaques, 2009; Smith & Riley, 2012). Time will tell if these ‘silver linings’ actually occur. Although many scholars have noted the revolutionary potential of major crises (see, e.g., Prewitt, Weil, and McClure, 2011; Harris, 2020), Boin and Hart (2003) stated that there are inherent tensions between crisis management and reform-oriented leadership. During a crisis, leaders often try to ‘minimize the damage, alleviate the pain, and restore order” (p. 549), which conflicts with attempts to disrupt the organization and move it in a new direction.” [emphasis added]
from McLeod, S., & Dulsky, S. (2021; under review). Resilience, reorientation, and reinvention: School leadership during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In regards to McLeod’s concerns, I wonder if the call for systemic change overlooks the continual changes that we grapple with all the time?

Bookmarked Sensemaking In The New Normal (DCulberhouse)

Furthermore, in realizing that our organizational ecosystems have become increasingly more complex, it is then understanding that the idea of “Sensemaking” will become a much more needed and necessary ability and skillset for traversing the volatile, chaotic and unknown conditions and contexts that today’s organizations and leaders are currently facing. As Deborah Ancona shares, “Sensemaking, a term introduced by Karl Weick, refers to how we structure the unknown so as to be able to act in it. Sensemaking involves coming up with a plausible understanding – a map – of a shifting world; testing this map with others through data collection, action, and conversation; and then refining, or abandoning the map depending on how credible it is. Enabling leaders to explore the wider system, create a map of that system, and act in the system to learn from it.” In many ways, sensemaking gives us a frame for making greater “sense” of the rising complexity across today’s organizations and organizational ecosystems. Or as Ancona adds in her article Sensemaking: Framing and Acting in the Unknown“Sensemaking is the activity that enables us to turn the ongoing complexity of the world into a situation that is comprehended explicitly in words and that serves as a springboard into action. Thus sensemaking involves – and indeed requires – an articulation of the unknown.” Which takes us back to the opening paragraph and the need for leaders and organizations to not let the current VUCA context to paralyze them into inaction. Rather, it is in this willingness to attempt to articulate and map out the unknown that organizations can begin to become more adaptable and agile moving forward. Especially as sensemaking requires constant awareness of the organizational context and situational scanning to better move the organization towards action.

David Culberhouse talks about the importance of sensemaking when it comes to engaging with complex problems.

Engaging sensemaking, creating maps, enabling a variety of frames, as well as engaging foresight abilities, allow leaders and organizations to begin to become much more aware of the signals on the horizon.

Replied to Learning In And Through Times Of Crisis, Chaos And Disruption (Part 1) by David Culberhouse (

Meesters shares that, “You can divide a crisis into three phases.”

  • Immediate Response Phase – this is the phase that he refers to as happening immediately following the crisis, disaster, etc. It is a time of unity and support. “What you see is that people start helping each other to alleviate the suffering, there is understanding and solidarity.” It is also a phase that Meesters refers to as being relatively short.
  • Relief Phase – this is a somewhat longer and more complex phase, in which, “As time passes, interest starts to flag. It becomes more difficult to sustain all the initiatives that have been developed.” Meesters adds that this is a phase of time when the needs and far-reaching consequences become much more clear for the short-term and the long-term. For which he adds, “At the same time, the long-term impact also takes its toll; people become fatigued and energy runs out.”
  • Recovery Phase – Meesters shares, “In the recovery phase, unity disintegrates.” This is the phase where the crisis has ended and there is a need to get back on track. “In this phase, difficult choices have to be made.” This is the phase where those adaptive challenges, dilemmas and polarities become much more prevalent and visible. Not only is this the longest phase, it is also the phase where, “The unity that was abundant in the first phase disintegrates.”

When leaders acknowledge these phases in the midst of a crisis or disruption, it allows for a more intentional design towards learning in these VUCA-infused environments that we find ourselves thrust into.

David, I liked Kenny Meesters ‘three phrases’. This is useful alongside Simon Breakspeare’s discussion of building back better.
Replied to The Future Will Be Both Learned And Unlearned (DCulberhouse)

To complete this cycle (ongoing and iterative), we must be willing to not only learn, but also create cognitive space for new learning by intentionally unlearning the knowledge, behaviors, understandings, assumptions, and misconceptions that are not only no longer useful or valid, but tend to keep our mental models suspended in the status quo, hurtling towards future irrelevancy.

It will only be through this cognitive intentionality, combined with a greater awareness towards present changes, as well as a forecasting of possible disruptions that loom on the horizon…

That we can begin to determine our learning voids, as well as a unlearning needs.

David, this reminds me of Tom Barrett’s discussion of innovation compression and the importance of taking something off the plate when adding something new.
Liked The 3A’s At The Intersection Of Change (DCulberhouse)

“Good leaders live in the edge land between now and the very next thing and can engage folks in the journey of the whole access across the landscape of a preferred and optimistic future.”  

“The ability to thrive in this potential distinguishes good leaders from the rest.  Good leaders are always on the edge of chaos, looking over the horizon, looking just beyond the precipice.”  

“Their real gift is their ability to backtrack to where those they lead are living and working and translate what they have seen into a language that has force and meaning for those who can hear it.” 

-Porter-O’Grady and Malloch Quantum Leadership

Replied to Experimentation Matters by David Culberhouse (

In their Harvard Business Review article The Discipline of Business Experimentation, Stefan Thomke and Jim Manzi provide a set of question that can serve as a pre-flight checklist for running any type of organizational experimentation:

  • Does The Experiment Have A Clear Purpose?
  • Have Stakeholders Made A Commitment To Abide By The Results?
  • Is The Experiment Doable?
  • How Can We Ensure Reliable Results?
  • Have We Gotten The Most Value Out Of The Experiment?
Your discussion of experimentation reminds me of Alma Harris’ notion of disciplined collaboration. One of the quotes that has always stuck with me is:

It does not matter what you call it, what matters is that the collaboration is disciplined

Feel the same could be said about experimentation.

Liked Facing An Unknown Future (DCulberhouse)

If we are not engaging the future thinking necessary to at least try and imagine what the world will be like for today’s kindergartener by the time they graduate…then it will be incredibly difficult for us to even consider how to begin to prepare them for a non-obvious future and an exponentially changing world.

Liked Hootenanny #CUEBOOM (DCulberhouse)

I was privileged to be able to attend the CUE Hootenanny at the San Diego Maritime Museum with 50 incredibly dedicated and awesome educators.  Jon Corippo, the Executive Director of CUE had mentioned that at the end of the day they would be giving away “golden” clickers to the best #CUEBOOM.  While I did not get a chance to participate in the #CUEBOOM, earlier in the week I had a flash of inspiration and thirty minutes later this spoken word piece rolled out.  So, while I did not participate in the #CUEBOOM, I thought I would share the result of that flash of inspiration (even though it is a bit raw and unfinished)…

Replied to Future of Things (FoT): In An Era of Encroachment (DCulberhouse)

The question is no longer as much about whether automation and artificial intelligence will come after my job, but whether or not I am continuously learning the skills, skillsets, and knowledge that will still make me viable and valuable whether automation or artificial intelligence comes after my job or not.

David, I am really intrigued by the comparison between flight and AI. What I feel is missing in the conversation are the consequences associated with such change. For example, we are now grappling with the challenges associated with fuel and pollution. Listen to RN Future Tense for an interesting take on where things are at.

I am not against the ‘future of things’, AI and changes in work, but I think that we need to do more work to understand and appreciate such changes. For me, this involves:

  • Asking questions as a part of critical reflection
  • Learning from and through others (as you touch on elsewhere)
  • Continually engaging in new challenges to disrupt habits
Liked Networks: An Engine For Scaling Learning And Innovation (Part 3) by David Culberhouse (DCulberhouse)

It will benefit today’s leaders and organizations to spend time investing in and learning how networks can better serve our individuals and organizations for scaling the level of learning and knowledge that is necessary to stay vital and relevant in a world of accelerated and often turbulent change.