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Creative Leadership - notes from a talk by John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design
Creative Leadership - notes from a talk by John Maeda, President, Rhode Island School of Design
Creative Leadership â€“ NOTES
2009 EDUCAUSE/NERCOMP Regional Conference
Speaker - John Maeda
President, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)
Original Title (Open Source Administration)
Program listing: http://net.educause.edu/nc09/Program/1020230?PRODUCT_CODE=NC09/GS01
This presentation is available by podcast at http://www.educause.edu/blog/gbayne/PodcastJohnMaedaOpenSourceAdmi/168174
Abstract: Colleges, universities, and other types of organizations the world over are experiencing a radical evolution from organizational hierarchies to organizational networks. Digital technologies hasten this shift; they can be used to flatten hierarchy and restore humanity. Maeda will speak about his philosophy of building and deploying technology systems that support attenuating the emotional connections between people to produce a more creative network. He'll tell stories about community technologies employed in his first months as the president of the Rhode Island School of Design to do just that.
Maedaâ€™s goal is to bring the future back to RISD.Â He wants to liven people up.Â Several times he indicated that heâ€™s one of us, an IT person.Â He said what we (IT staff) do is completely invisible - - non physical - - and hard for people to understand. Â Â He told a story of Marvin Minsky â€“ in the 70s when artificial intelligence was â€œnewâ€Â - You could spend millions on infrastructure that people could see and touch and understand.Â DARPA spent millions for a magnetic tape â€“ but the impact of what was on that magnetic tape was huge.
Everyone wants to create the IPod killer - Apple understands hardware from the software side instead of other companies who are looking at the software from the hardware side.
Innovation has been dampened in the current economy.Â All are deputized to make sure others know what we do.
Maeda is the only higher education president who blogs publicly and constantly.Â He noted that Tony Shea of Zappos runs all his customer service via twitter.Â Shea talks to his staff the same way.Â You can feel and see it but itâ€™s still very foreign â€“ the norms are trying to shift - - even Grandmaâ€™s on Facebook â€“ itâ€™s quiet and so large but you canâ€™t â€œseeâ€ it â€“ how do we help our constituents see it.
Maeda moved from the MIT Media Lab (small) to RISD (large) where heâ€™s been super-sized.
Lots of differences between them
MIT / complexity,Â
RISD / simplicity (the MIT for right brain kids)
Lots of famous artists come out of RISD â€“ they make the software of our cultural realm
RISD has a super furnace (for glass) instead of a super computer
He said values can be found with camera, ie, understanding RISD through a camera lens and he showed a number of photos of the campus.
RISD students love to be physically dirty, get their hands dirty, doing their work
Nature Lab â€“ everything is natural â€“ it has to be real â€“ if you canâ€™t touch it , it isnâ€™t real â€“ reality, reality, reality, very critical to the creative process.
Students donâ€™t mind danger - - part of their craft â€“ searching for new art
Everything is very personal â€“ a culture of critique and personal vision.
Spirit of art is everywhere on campus â€“ art belongs in every corner
RISD is the reason â€œIâ€™m sleep deprivedâ€ â€“ students work themselves to crazy levels
When Maeda arrived he thought - if this is one of the most creative schools on earth, then why isnâ€™t this administration creative as well?Â and began to think about how to change to a creative administration.
He asked â€œwhat does it mean to be a creative leader?â€
The hardware & software relationship has changed. It used to be that hardware seemed the more important.Â Now the cloud of software is the more important in the relationship with hardware
Social networking, open-design, self-powered,
By 2008 people were giving up on technology and looking for humanity â€“Â technology is more vibrant and personal now with a quest for authenticity.
Thought:Â Digital tech â€“ low- high/ vs design/art
MIT â€“ high tech â€“ low art
RISD â€“ low tech â€“ high art
Thought:Â Now students have better computers than we do (it didnâ€™t use to be this way)
Art and design schools are adopting technology in a different way â€“ more breadth and depth in that adoption.Â How do we find creativity and growth?
Hierarchical leaders are based on the railroad system.Â The person at the top with different layers below â€“ similar to military
This is changing as we head into the future. Hierarchy means much less today so the meaning of â€œleaderâ€ is changing, as has access to traditional leaders changed.
Maeda suggests - flatten hierarchy; restore humanity.
All communications at RISD now come from Maeda himself rather than through a hierarchy.
Coffee 101 (meetings) didnâ€™t work so he began a blog to talk to people.Â Everyone at RISD has access â€“ faculty, staff, students, everyone, and the penetration rate is growing. Now itâ€™s everyoneâ€™s blog.Â In the beginning his blog had a blue background but he took the blue off his background so that he is no longer â€œspecialâ€.Â He sits with students randomly, at lunch, on the grounds, wherever they are, and askes â€œHow am I doing as president?â€Â When he sees a rumor flaring up he goes online to say itâ€™s a rumor.Â The system is real name authenticated but he has anonymous Tuesdays
Google Meetings â€“ Q&A until all Q are answered â€“ that is a goal of Maedaâ€™s
Maeda says he is running as fast as he can to understand whatâ€™s going on.Â â€œIf you have at least a modicum of knowledge and understanding then you feel in controlâ€
He has a friend (a designer) who loves being in Italy where he can â€œbe himselfâ€
In Japan â€“ the most important people speak and the others nod agreement.Â In America they pound with their fists.Â But in Italy you can just talk and sketch out and develop things.Â You can see the thought being formed which is valuable and better than just seeing the end product.Â An open thinking approach feels comfortable to Maeda and people are watching him to see if it is working.
There are two presidents who were watching who are blogging with him now.
Thought:Â People want to know what you are thinking
1) Community is the dominant voice on the blog â€“ itâ€™s no longer â€œJohnâ€™s blogâ€
2) Anonymous Day is respectfully self-managed
3) There can be confusion with opinions versus decision=making process
4) The model of CEO as moderator of this forum is a new idea and takes time â€“ but he sees it as a good investment of his time.Â
5)Â There were some who said â€œIâ€™ll never visit the blog,â€ but then some of those folks suddenly seem to â€œknowâ€ what is on the blog that theyâ€™ve said they are not reading.Â So those sentiments are strong but weakening.
Thought â€“ when there is an issue, itâ€™s better to have it happen in your own yard than behind your back â€“ so the public blog is good and it allows he to be on campus anytime from anywhere.
He also believes that a CEO â€œneeds a hand.â€Â Leaders donâ€™t know everything so it is good to hear what others think.Â â€œMany eyesâ€ check it out â€“ good source of information.
1)Â Â Â Â Â collective intelligence practices are forming
2)Â Â Â Â Â rewards are important in the form of knowledge sharing
3)Â Â Â Â Â community members finding their own agency (how much do they want to step over the bounds)
4)Â Â Â Â Â criticism and resistance naturally continue
Maeda said that we need to lower the barrier to communication on campus
RISD has a display network â€“ itâ€™s free and unregulated â€“ people are finding their own way of using it in a respectful way.Â Anyone can post an image and it just shows up.
RISD intranet.Â Adoption takes awhile and it helps to have the president â€œthereâ€
1)Â Â Â Â Â disbelief that anyone can use it persists
2)Â Â Â Â Â Staff was first-in to advertise internal services
3)Â Â Â Â Â Now seeing trickle of faculty usage; student use intermittent.
4)Â Â Â Â Â Virtual aspect is intriguing and students tell other students
5)Â Â Â Â Â System can adopt any screen saver
Agency for everyone â€“ empower people â€“ hear their voices
Thought:Â If there is creative writing, what is creative leading?
Thereâ€™s too much of the formulaic in our country.Â We used to be innovative and now we not. Â Â We have to take a turn in the road, not loosey-goosey with crayons, but professional creativity.Â This can only happens if your leader is creative.
Leading authoritatively but creatively
Leading as a creative - Steve Jobs
Leading creatively as an authoritative â€“ Barrack Obama
Traditional leadershipÂ Â Â vsÂ Â Â Â Â Creative leadership
AuthorityÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Inspiration
SticksÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Carrots
HierarchyÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Networked
LinearÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Non linear
Yes or no Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Maybe - comfort with ambiguity
Loves to avoid mistakes Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Learn from mistakes
Check out Creativeleadership.com
Orchestra versus jazz
Wants to be right versus hopes to be right
Opinion matters versus what are you really thinking?
Community in harmony versus community in conversation
Drive to where you are looking versus what can happen?
Administration uses punctuation marks â€œperiodsâ€
Students use question marks - they want a debate or comma â€“ to continue the conversation
How does he have the discipline to do this?Â He says you â€œhave to be thereâ€Â because it makes a differenceÂ and he feels that he is realâ€¦ (although, he also said â€œsometimes you want to hide â€“ but itâ€™s better to be out thereâ€Â Recently he found another â€œclueâ€ talking to students was worth several days of reasoning - Â return value is very high.
Maeda said technology professionals are on the cutting edge.Â Â
First of all, the idea of education is built around the tree (faculty is the tree â€“ students gather round) and became institutionalized with a place to sit, get books, learn,Â Now they donâ€™t need that text book anymoreÂ and are not living in that world anymore. However, Academia hasnâ€™t discovered that yet.Â But it will change because there are a few academics who are edging into the space.Â He asked â€œwhat does that step look likeâ€Â and said the key clue is students entering the school with their own world outside the university.Â So many websites and more that the institution can not control and that shift is important â€“ itâ€™s Â trans-institutional,Â and will automatically extend via social networks and more.Â Â Academia was the filter that held clear knowledge but it doesnâ€™t work that way now.Â Maeda suggested that in the future people will ask why we did it this way higher education the way that we have. Â
Q & A
Q: What do you do in the pyramid when some donâ€™t know they are in a network?
A: You should set an example â€“ set the stage for what needs to be done â€“ this erodes norms and help changeâ€¦Â IT is invisible (the net has done this)Â Connect with the students and â€œuse the forceâ€
Q: Are you still doing your design work?Â
A: Maeda canâ€™t do that now â€“ heâ€™s too busy - - so all of his creativity is going into RISD leadership â€“ RISD is his installation art.
Story of a young woman and father who discovers she has questionable photos on Facebook.Â She said itâ€™s okay to have those photos on Facebook because â€œIâ€™m not going to work for someone like you â€“ Iâ€™m going to work for someone like meâ€
Q:Â What are good opportunities in the current crisis?
A:Â We are trying to understand â€“ moving from the dark, big, vague, complex to a new space and now moving back into reality again.Â Hybrid is where growth will occur.Â We may feel out of control and want to get into control again but are now socially connected in a global way.Â Itâ€™s not about numbers and gigabits â€“ itâ€™s about quality.
Q:Â Old style leadership had a lot of filters - - you still have to have filters.Â
A:Â Maeda filters for his campus to make sure they can understand - -Â Â information control is still important in the sense of making it understandable.Â
Q: Do you allow prospective students to be on the blog?Â Â How do you define the blog?Â A:Â Prospective students are not yet invited to the blogâ€“ but as they become more comfortable with the blog this may happen â€“ but it will be a community decision not his.
Maeda puts his early thoughts on the blog with a caveat lead-in -Â This idea â€œnot fully formedâ€Â is it good?Â We donâ€™t know yet.
This session was recorded for podcast and is available at http://www.educause.edu/blog/gbayne/PodcastJohnMaedaOpenSourceAdmi/168174.