Economic Gardening

So I finally broke down and read “Economic Gardening“. There are several things that really appealed to me, on multiple levels:

  • It just clicks (you know what I mean?)
  • The author does not pretend to have a silver bullet, but rather to have some interesting observations about what works and what doesn’t
  • I also like the flow of the website – the References page is well organized and thorough

Lately I have been struggling to put a finger on why so many business practices rub me the wrong way; meetings, bottom-line efficiency, pedagogy, Administration in education, even church for that matter. In some of these areas, it has been very obvious to me that there is something organic missing, something that is living, thriving, changing, adaptive. We have gotten stuck in a rut of super-stability, of doing what always has been done. Sure, we talk about “improving” things, but always within the same contextual box of what we have been doing.

Allow me to paint an anecdotal picture – I’ll keep it short. 🙂 In April a big software company flew me out to HQ to do a workshop on re-designing a particular piece of the online support. I and many users have been very frustrated with it. The first thing I suggested was a giganormous “GO” button – forget filling in gajillion boxes and answering a litany of questions. I just want to talk to a human being, fool! (thanks Laurence Tureaud). In the end, the “team” ended up with something that was almost indistinguishable from the original. *sigh*

I really like how this article paints the necessity of stability (ice) with the fluid chaos of change (fire). “It is an impossible mix!” Yes, but of course, that is the beauty of it. “What does it mean?” Good question. Great question, in fact, I am so glad you asked.

Working with people is messy. But it is rich! You cannot force everyone into the same, one-size-fits-all bodyglove. It just ain’t pretty. People have different learning styles, different backgrounds, different societal constructs, even different temperaments. The article talks about Myer-Briggs ratings and how certain styles of personality seem to do better at adaptability. Wanna take a guess what Steve Jobs was? Google says ENTP: Inventor. Yet again, just because someone is an NTJ does not automatically mean they are going to be an awesome up-and-rising, kickstarter CEO. Back to the one-size thingy.


Here is my “take away”, my “what this means is…”. When you deal with people, you have to know where their strengths are and capitalize on them, while at the same time ferreting out the weakness and making them stronger (in D&D terms, we would say “buffing” them). You have to communicate that people are valuable (because once they get the message they aren’t, they’re outta here). You have to listen and talk with people who do not share your point of view. There is never a point at which your work is done; everyone around us is a work-in-progress.


Truly, there is a place for the business-model. Assembly lines are awesome examples. Architecture is another (thinking not only in the more common sense of houses and buildings, but also in circuit pathways of computer chips). And I am sure you could come up with a dozen more.


So what? So what do we do with this? First off, I want to move away from the business-centric mentality of our current pedagogy. Let us teach kids inefficiently. 🙂 No, I am not saying let us aim to be ineffecient, but let us place our aim on something else. Like, making sure they get it before we pat them on the back and give them a certificate. Like, let’s adapt to how the student is learning, let’s find out what really makes them tick. And let us apply this how we run meetings and engage the community – we have really abused Robert’s Rules and we have got to change that! Let us seek out experts in the fields of technology, education, finances, human relations, planning and listen to what they have to say.


Our community is vibrant. Vivacious, even. Full of life. Why do we want to suck the marrow out of life in a reverse-Ralph-Waldo-Emerson fashion?


When a maple tree is tapped for sap, does it run out of the stuff? I am no arborist, but I am thinking that if you tried hard, you could probably run it dry. But in general, the tree produces more. Same thing if you tap a cow (although we don’t call it tapping, now do we). Let’s tap our community!


One Response to “Economic Gardening”

  1. systemstate dump (aka, flushing out my head) « A citizen’s blog about Champaign Unit 4 Says:

    […] Gardening: I blogged about this on 8 Dec. This helps to set the stage for where I want community engagement to go; […]

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