Walking through the city this morning, i was looking at the skyline: some familiar shapes, famous building, standing iconic like St Pauls in the morning light. Others, new, being shaped as we speak, thrusting up into the air, taller, brighter, with more glass than ever before. The only constant is the cranes: spindly and always in motion, not just in this city, but all cities around the world. The crane is the agent of change.
Cities are reactive: buildings are functional, as their function changes, so do they. We add bits on, carve bits off and paint them to reflect their purpose. When they have been battered around too much, we knock them down and start again. Cities change in response to need: when they start importing goods, they build warehouses, when the population changes their religion, they build different churches and convert the existing ones to wine bars. Sometimes the change is reactive, at other time, proactive: build and they will come.
In much the same way, we react to needs, we change in response to pressures from outside as well as proactively to desires within. We may be driven to learn a new skill because we are passionate about it, or because we have to do it to keep our job.
The tool we rely on is our ability to learn: whilst cranes are the agents of change within the city, it’s our own learning skills that facilitate our own change. Our ability to take on new information, to develop new skills, and this ability to learn is not static, in itself it also changes over time. We are currently seeing opportunities for learning emerging around social capital: the ability to function effectively in social learning spaces, to build personal learning networks, and to use these networks to expand our capability.
So learning helps us to cope with change but it’s also changing in itself. And when we learn, we change: the act of learning changes us. Our beliefs change over time, our skills develop, some of our capability improve whilst others degrade with age. Sometimes we just lose our bottle, no longer willing to take the risks we once took.
If the city stagnates, if it ceases to adapt, it becomes redundant: standing still in an ever changing world is not an option. It’s the same for us: if we close ourselves off to new ideas, if we cease to collaborate, if we become stale or stagnant, we lose our relevance lost our ability to learn.
And, of course, we have to make mistakes. Some bold new buildings are risky, brave, challenging. Who knows how they will be viewed in twenty or a hundred years time. The same ourselves: we have to be bold, to try ideas out, to practice and refine ways of thinking, learning methodologies, and be unafraid to fail. If we never fail, we never grow. To learn is to change, but it’s not without risks. We just have to be brave and give it a go.