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The Dialogic Learning Weekly #198

The Dialogic Learning Weekly #198
I hope you are safe and well. In this week’s issue we explore the provocation of resilience being overrated, the Dutch concept of niksen, and the corrosive labels of creativity.

Is Resilience Overrated?
How do you seek out opposing views and perspectives? How do you stay open to commentary that runs counter to your own? How do we challenge the assumptions we are making?
This article attracted me for many of those reasons. The title immediately explores an opposing view to an aspiration in education.
Here is an excerpt, and afterwards I share some of the ways we might connect this to our work with teachers and students.
psychologists have spent the past few decades studying and promoting “resilience theory” — which posits that you can build protective factors, particularly in children, as a way of offsetting risk factors that can hinder personal development — are we missing the bigger point? What about a focus on the risk factors themselves, the outcomes of systemic racism, poverty, and inadequate educational and social supports. Are we fixing the right problems when we are teaching the importance of resilience?
The last line is something to ponder on. The difference between simply teaching the importance of resilience and enacting it.
Etymologically speaking, resilience means the “act of rebounding,” from Latin resiliens, and resilire “to rebound, recoil.” So what are we rebounding from? What risk factors are present in the daily lives of our students?
The article’s author, Jami Attenberg, draws our attention to the idea that increasing resilience is a catch-all for the real problems. A clarifying mental model here is the difference between Proximate Causes (symptom) and Root Causes. And specifically where the act of resilience occurs. Again, what are we rebounding from?
A proximate cause is immediately responsible for a problem. The root cause is the underlying reason. It’s the difference between a symptom and the actual issue. ~ Tom Chanter
If we get good at rebounding from the immediate problem, when do we address the root cause. Does resilience mask the actual issue?
Is Resilience Overrated? - The New York Times
Doing Nothing
Niksen is a Dutch verb which means “doing nothing”. It resonates with me because I appreciate the shift away from talking about being present. Although I advocate for active presenteeism in my workshops and coaching, we also need this neutral space.
Whereas mindfulness is about being present in the moment, niksen is more about carving out time to just be, even letting your mind wander rather than focusing on the details of an action.
According to the Eve Ekman, director of training at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, 
the research is strong when it comes to the benefits of slowing down, from emotional perks — like reducing anxiety — to physical advantages — like curtailing the aging process and strengthening the body’s ability to fight off a common cold
Niksen also resonates with my understanding of creativity and how we need to incubate and ponder more, grappling with complex problems at different pace settings.
It is no surprise that we often have powerful creative breakthroughs, when we are not actively working the problem. When do you come up with your best ideas?
The challenge for us all is to protect this type of time. Prioritise these extended neutral spaces, for the benefit of our wellbeing and creativity.
Bill Watterson, author of Calvin and Hobbes, describes the challenge poignantly.
There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.
Niksen Is the Dutch Lifestyle Concept of Doing Nothing—And You're About to See It Everywhere
"You are the creative one!"
I know kung fu
I know kung fu
In a workshop this week we explored the blocks to creativity and what gets in our way. One particular reflection that resonated with me was about the labels we use.
How we label different members of our teams as the source of creativity. Or how we are seen as the person to generate ideas.
You are the creative one.
You might have experienced this yourself when colleagues look to you for creative ideas and innovations.
I wonder how corrosive this labelling is to the definition of creativity.
When people label others as creative, they absolve themselves from that same endeavour. It becomes a get-out clause, “oh I am not very creative, I don’t have ideas like you…”
It is also a safety net. Creating original ideas that add value, is effortful and taxing. Putting painfully incomplete ideas into the world challenges our identity. We stand vulnerable and exposed. Saying it is the job of someone else, is self-preservation.
When people label others as the creative ones, it not only shifts responsibility, but it also perpetuates the mythical definition of creativity as a dark and mysterious art, in the search of a silver bullet. An endeavour for the few. We need to work hard at shifting this so everyone recognises their creative capacity.
In the spirit of balance, I would also say that labelling others as ‘creative’, sets off a self-fulfilling prophetic sequence of habit. I know that one of my strengths is the generation of ideas. This identity has been borne, in part, from the way others perceive me.
I see the positive benefit of this, so long as it does not absolve everyone else of the responsibility to explore new ideas and strive for originality.
Thanks for reading this week. Get in touch with what resonates, stay connected. I would be happy to hear from you all.
In dialogue we trust.
~Tom Barrett
Did you enjoy this issue?
Tom Barrett from Dialogic Learning

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