the difference between life and PowerPoint

Over the past week I’ve been in touch with the faculty groups and foundation officers who will make the next phase of the Compass Project happen.  It’s been a reminder that we have many more steps to take before seeing anything like a new and improved status quo for everyone.  The next few years are for pilot projects, a chance to gather evidence about GE, transfer, and student success that we’ll need to take the big step later.

That’s worth remembering.  As fun as it is to bring teams to national meetings, where we can see what people are doing (and aspiring to) at other places, there’s an important transition after Dreaming Big.  We have to go from orienting everyone toward the same long-term goal, to scaling down, accommodating, adjusting.  The art of the possible.

That difference between life and PowerPoint has something in common with film production, my previous life.

The screenplay is the last coherent account of your story before filming begins.  Then it shatters, gets told out of order, reinterpreted and revised around local exigency and creativity.  Story points shift their emphasis around competing sensibilities, a flash of inspiration, or rain.

You have little idea of what you’re getting until the story is back in chronological order, in the first picture edit.  Then you see first-hand the alchemy of collaborative creativity, that the inspiration and the competing priorities and the group culture have resulted in something no one person could have imagined.

Somewhere at the end of these pilot projects, before the Big Change, will come a conference to share what we’ve all learned from each other.  I think that’ll feel like our first picture edit.  Someone should do a PowerPoint.

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