The universe in miniature

A classroom is a miniature universe.

That’s what a friend calls it. I use the phrase, “classroom is synecdoche.”

We’re saying the same thing.

We try to create a simulated environment where all the important elements of the world are build in and all of the unimportant elements are left out.

In this universe, we’re allowed to fail.

Who cares, really, if your team was able to get the marshmallow higher than the other team? If you didn’t get the POs requirements before building the lego Bat Cave, what are the consequences?

We have to fail to learn.

We’re not good at failing.

If we’re on teams, we don’t want to fail, because we’re rewarded for successes and punished for failures. We don’t even want to fail fast, fail often.

Mostly, when we fail, we try to fix the thing before anyone notices we failed. If we can’t we try to minimize the impact of the failure, so that once noticed it won’t seem important. If we can’t fix it or mitigate before its noticed, we typically find someone else to blame.

This pattern is consistent enough to inform a very safe wager at very low odds.

Leaders don’t fail, because by definition they can’t. They’ve taken their place in leadership because of their successes. Having achieved a leadership position, then, failing means being unqualified. So, leaders find a way of positioning failures as successes when addressing failures to subordinates.

In the mini-universe of the classroom, working with exercises, we can fail without consequences. So, we can learn.

To date, I haven’t created a mini-universe for teaching “Agile Attitudes.” There’s a simple reason: I can’t figure out how.

Instead, I’ve lectured about it. I’ve lectured, because I can’t figure out how to get people the baseline skills to give the an exercise they can perform in the mini-universe of the classroom.

In the mini-universe, the point is to pull in the important parts to create the simulation. There are too many “important parts” in “Agile Attitudes.” As prerequisites, too few people possess them to teach the class. As part of the universe, there’s too much to learn and master to fit into a fifteen week seminar (we’ve tried it) save an hour lecture.

One example would be a dojo, but the forms have to be usable and useful as parts. Again, that’s difficult to do (we’ve tried it also). Mostly, what happens in a dojo approach — provided I can get someone to try it — is that people master the forms, but when they try to assemble them, they lose their minds.

We’ve tried this in individual assignments. We’ve tried it in groups.

And, that’s why I’m thinking “Agile Attitudes” is unteachable.

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