Implementing change: Knowing what to do and making it happen

I recently attended the JISC Conference entitled ‘Transformation: Managing and Measuring Change.’  The Conference focused on best practice in change management, and discussed strategies for implementing change.

One presentation that inspired me to think about my work within the DUCKLING project was a talk by Clive Anderson. The talk considered the ‘knowing-doing gap’. This idea was inspired by the thoughts of Pfeffer and Sutton (1999), based around the principle that moving from ignorance to knowledge is not a difficult transition: the real challenge is taking the step from knowledge to implementation, i.e. making sure that change actually happens.

Before we take action to implement any kind of change, we need to think carefully about what we are going to do and why we are going to do it.

As academics, we often (quite rightly) want to take this knowledge-gathering process as far as we can. We often strive to be experts in our field. We want to know as much as possible about what we do, drawing on existing knowledge and conducting research to gather new information. When implementing changes to our existing courses, we will naturally want to apply this same approach: we want to know details about what we are changing, why we are changing it, how these changes will take place and what they will involve.

The question is: at what point do we make that transition and move from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’?

DUCKLING is a 2 year project in which we aim to incorporate new technologies into the delivery of our course materials. Our course team have the advantage of working with experts in the BDRA, so our interventions are informed by the extensive knowledge of the team members. This allows us to have confidence in the theoretical and empirical basis of the strategies we will implement.

Despite this, it is still easy to spend a lot of time standing on the edge of the ‘knowing-doing’ divide. However much we know, we could always know a bit more. However much we prepare ourselves for implementing changes, there will always be more preparation we could undertake; other issues we could consider.

It is also worth noting that some changes seem easier to implement than others: the course team were fairly quick to produce podcasts and to make them available to our students. We seem equally keen to distribute ebook readers for students to use within their studies. Yet with Second Life technologies, we seem less certain, perhaps because this is such  new territory, and will involve taking a step slightly further outside our ‘comfort zone’?

We have many ideas about how Second Life can be used (through various SL-tivities). A couple more weeks of planning ought to be enough time for us to begin implementing some of these ideas. Yet there is some apprehensiveness in terms of actually ‘doing’ this: in breaking that knowing-doing barrier. There are some genuine concerns over what will happen when we find our (avatar) selves in this virtual reality, with student avatars expectantly waiting for us to deliver. Perhaps these fears are preventing us from taking the steps necessary to take forward our ideas and put them into action?

I am writing this blog as much to motivate myself as to motivate others. The message I am trying to convey is that, as change agents committed to enhancing the learning experiences of our students, we need to take the leap; give it a try; make it happen. If things go wrong, we can learn from this. But if we’re not prepared to put our knowledge into action, then how can we expect anything to change for the better?

Kelly Barklamb, 19th May 2009

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1 Comment

  1. rambuna

     /  August 31, 2010

    What is essential is to run a pilot – see whether it meets results of gap analysis. Change will not meet much resistance if the pilot is successful or results are as expected


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