Connections – Episode 12

The next memory that Jodie focused on brought back some strong memories for her. As she thought about her college years, most classes were a blur. That she had so many vivid memories of her professor’s lab class said something about how we learn. This memory brought back two of those vivid memories.

I hated syllabus week. What a waste it was. Why don’t faculty just acknowledge we can read and not waste time on reviewing the syllabus. I have to say you didn’t do that. But you did create quite an impression on me when you said your primary objective in the class was to make us cranky. You then went on to explain that you wanted us to challenge anything we thought could be done better.

A few classes later you came to class with two tubes of tennis balls (6 as I remember). You asked my team to come down to the front of the room. Then you told us we need to transfer the tennis balls from one to another in a specific order. You had us count off to determine the order of the transfer.

When we began the transfer, we were slow and methodical so we wouldn’t drop one. It took us 138 seconds to do the transfer; I’ll never forget those numbers. Then you challenged us to cut our time in half. We sped up the transfer but dropped a ball, that took time to recover. Our time was worse as a result. You asked us to do it again and we did get the time down to 71 seconds.

Then you challenged us again. Rather than trying to work faster, we tried to work smarter. That worked, and we got the time down to 36 seconds. Then you challenged us again. Every time we improved you challenged us to do better. We finished by getting our time down to 5 seconds.

That lesson solidified in my mind what it means to be cranky. It’s about looking for a better way. And that requires thinking smart, not fast. It also requires stripping away the residue of the past and its unnecessary rules. It’s about collective intelligence.

As I thought about that lesson, it was really about change. When I and one of my classmates began our own business, we made crankiness a part of our culture. Every employee is empowered to be cranky and be an advocate for a better way.

On the entrance to our business is a poster that came from the last class you taught us. It’s a paraphrasing of a quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“Some people can see things that are and ask why. Others see things that never were and ask why not.”

As Jodie finished reading the memory, she looked to the wall in her bedroom. There was the same quote in a frame. She looked at it every night as she was going to bed.

Kyle – Class of 2021

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