Monday, March 30, 2015

U.Lab: Seven Principles for Revolutionizing Higher Ed

The first U.Lab session was January 14. After only five weeks, we are beginning to recognize some powerful principles and actions that have the potential to revolutionize higher education. Here are seven of them: 

(1) Streets: Move learning from the classroom (or computer) to the street.Creativity, entrepreneurship, and transformational leadership cannot be learned while sitting in front of a computer or in an old-fashioned classroom. These deeper capacities can only be built and cultivated by engaging with the real world in profoundly different ways. In the U.Lab, we use the edX infrastructure to teach immersion journeys and action learning -- then invite participants to go out into their own communities and try it themselves. One U.Lab participant reported: 

I spent a few hours this evening with two older...homeless men who are regulars in my neighborhood. Most days, I walk by these guys thinking that I know what's what and have it right, discounting what they might have to offer because they are the ones panhandling. I felt humbled and chagrined to realize that this wisdom has always been there for me - but that I have not been open to it because of the packaging... Looking into their eyes tonight, really SEEING them for the first time, seeing in to their souls, it made me want to cry because, GOD, there was such beauty there - as there is in all of us.

(2) Head, Heart & Hand: Link the power of entrepreneurship with passion and compassion. The U.Lab uses the "iceberg model" to explain how today's environmental, social, and spiritual-cultural challenges cannot be meaningfully addressed by just treating their most visible symptoms. Instead, change makers need to understand and address the deeper root issues, the sources and paradigms of thought that give rise to them. This requires more than entrepreneurship and creative thinking; it also requires tapping into our deeper sources of passion and compassion. As one U.Lab participant put it, 

This course is having a profound impact on my day-to-day life. I'm significantly more aware of when my heart is 'closed'. 

(3) Stillness: The new axis of learning & leadership requires us to connect to our sources of self-knowledge. At the source of activating the deepest level of human creativity are two root questions: (1) Who is my Self--What is my highest future possibility? (2) What is my Work--What work, if focused on, activates my deepest capacity to create? In the U.Lab, we create learning environments, tools, and practices that help individuals and groups explore these two root questions (more details below). As one participant reflected: 

We are creating this world with every thought, every conversation, and every action. Not wanting to be naïve, but this does create a lot of opportunities for starting with self.