Taas täällä

Näyttää siltä, että kirjoittelen tänne kerran vuodessa aina jonkun suuren muutoksen jälkeen. Nyt se muutos on muutto tänne Dar es Salaamiin ja TANZICT-projektissa aloittaminen. Ajatus muutosta Afrikkaan ja täällä työskentelystä on pyörinyt mielessä jo kesästä 2009 lähtien, kun olin täällä käynnistämässä ICT-alaan, verkko-opetukseen ja yrittäjyyskasvatukseen liittyvää kansalaisjärjestöprojektia. Reilu vuosi sitten olin täällä jälleen jatkamassa kyseistä projektia ja pitämässä siihen liittyviä koulutuksia. Eräänä iltana Onnelan allasbaarissa päätin, että haluan seuraavan viiden vuoden aikana työskennellä vähintään kokonaisen vuoden Afrikassa. Ja senhän me tiedämme, että kun jonkin tavoitteen asettaa, alkaa tapahtua.

Olen nyt ollut täällä noin kaksi viikkoa. Mikä on tuntuu ihan älyttömän vähältä, koska niin paljon on ehtinyt tapahtua töissä ja ystävien kanssa – oma fiilis vastaa paremmin kuukautta. Oma asunto löytyy varmistunee ensi viikolla ja sitten voi varmaan alkaa jo puhua kodista täällä. Tuntuu, että olisi jo nyt paljon kerrottavaa, mutta ajatukset eivät ole vielä kiteytyneet siihen pisteeseen, että voisin niitä selkeästi tässä jakaa, joten tyydyn toivottamaan kaikki uudelleen tervetulleiksi seuraamaan tätä blogia!

Päivän paras hetki: Luin Kristiinan kattoterassilla Afrikan Ajasta Lotta Aunion artikkelia kielestä ja koulutuksesta kehityksen ja demokratian edellytyksinä.

Päivän paras hetki: Luin Kristiinan kattoterassilla Afrikan Ajasta Lotta Aunion artikkelia kielestä ja koulutuksesta kehityksen ja demokratian edellytyksinä.


What is the most important thing we should tell new students?

Past two weeks have been full of new students starting at different degree programs at TAMK. This Wednesday was the first day for new students in the English-speaking degree programs. In the first couple of days they must hear welcome from dozens of different people. The days are full of parties with the student union tutors and more practically-oriented stuff with the staff.

Yesterday when I was leaving work and walking to my bike I passed Bubiklubi’s Bubirundi event getting started. I young man at the mike said he has never attended these parties sober. I guess that’s the point. One of my friends behind the desk was one of the organizers. Later in the evening I saw her checking into five different bars on foursquare.

Point here is not to criticize alcohol consumption – I couldn’t really care less about that right now.

What I’ve been thinking about is the message we give to new our students on their orientation week. Where are they coming to? What kind of place this is?

What happens during the orientation days? Stick-up-the-ass opening ceremonies, student counceling services, course registrations, curriculum overviews, student parties, student union activities, etc…

Sounds a lot like school. We have a ‘dual model’ in Finnish higher education with academic universities and universities of applied sciences. But have we also created a dual model in running the universities? Good old teachers versus students. Fun versus work/studies (not fun). Oh, I can’t wait to get out of this class to go to a party tonight.

This is the wrong signal right from the start!

This is not school! No one is here against their will. This is real life. That’s why there are real projects, real customers, real conferences, real study trips, real challenges, real competitions, real internships, real exchanges, real international activities, real mistakes, real accomplishments, real learning.

There are amazing stories from things our students have achieved during their studies but too few still challenge themselves. Too few realize realize their potential because the mentality is to survive the courses and go and have fun somewhere else. Unfortunately this approach unleashes about 10% of the individual’s potential during their degree studies. We can’t afford this.

Our most important message should be to help our new students to see the possibilities and potential they have. It calls for fundamentally different collaboration between the students and the staff. And fundamentally different kind of communication. It’s not about taking care of things, it’s about taking care of people. It’s not about counting the work hours, it’s about getting results.

No one is to blame here. This is more a call for action. We can transform the campus into something completely different where people actually want to be.

I am in a flu today, so I couldn’t meet our new IB students today. To take my own words into practise I sent them the following video about my thoughts for their study path.

What do you think? I’m a crazy person or is there something here?

Time to reclaim and redefine

Last May I made a promise to write a blog about what it is like to be part of the structure of the Finnish higher education system as a head of a degree program. I started in the beginning of this August as the Head of the International Business Degree Program at TAMK so (re-)starting the blog has been already due for a couple of weeks as I’ve been wondering what is the best platform for the blog – writing on our university blogs or personally. Enough wondering, time to start writing!

I decided to use my own personal blog so I can express myself freely. So if I piss you off, don’t take it personally. I’m only doing it in the best interests of the Finnish education system.

I’m actually a bit bewildered on where to start. There’s so much to write about from the first three weeks already. Both good and bad. As you know, TAMK is now starting the first full academic year as ‘the new TAMK’ with old TAMK and PIRAMK more or less merged.

Today we had the opening ceremony of the academic year – first one for the new TAMK and there was also an opening ceremony for a new wing on the main campus. There were a lot of invited guests including Minister of Education Henna Virkkunen who gave the main speech in the event.

I went into the ceremony with high expectations of getting some new ideas and direction. What’s the next big thing in education? What is the Ministry of Education thinking about the changes around us, about the skills the next generation of students (including those who started today) are going need? Things we need to react to as all of our degree programs are renewing our curriculum this year.

Well… I didn’t get much on those. Apparently the big thing is the merger and the administrational model. We are now an example to the other Finnish UASs’. Speakers kept repeating how strong we are now. If you say something a thousand times with zero passion you get zero. Reading from the paper doesn’t help either. If you invite staff and students to a ceremony like this – speak to them. They’re smart people and see through meaningless jargon.

There was one great point in our Rector’s speech I don’t think I had heard before. He said that we (universities) don’t compete in Finland anymore – the real competition is abroad. I couldn’t agree more.

So what are we going to do about it?

“I win. You win. We all pengwin.”

Imagine seeing the following at an international conference: over a hundred people cheering the above sentence, moving like penguins and huddled together in a very tight group just like the male penguins in Antarctica who face months of the hardest winter on earth together.

This setting was one of the crystallizations of co-created knowledge of the Team Mastery Arena / SoL Conference this week in Jyväskylä. Theme of the two day conference was ‘New Trails for Leadership’ and a team of Team Academy undergraduates started the conference with spectacular play based on Kotter’s and Rethgeber’s book Our Iceberg is Melting. During the conference we discussed a lot about change, leadership, vision, meaningfulness and authenticity.

I could write a separate blog post about each of these topics based on the insights I got but in this post I will concentrate more one issue that actually made me start this blog.

So I’d like to welcome you all to Magical uplift! This term is often used by the famous Finnish philosopher Esa Saarinen to describe a moment when people’s visions coincide and lead to them to achieve something remarkable. I don’t think I can set a better target for my blog.

What was especially remarkable about the conference was the welcoming, positive and open feeling that seemed to be shared between all participants right from the start. I’ve never been at a conference where absolutely everyone can go and talk with anyone and have a inspiring discussion right away. First-year students though Nokia executives. The presence and authenticity of everyone was quite amazing. No-one seemed to hold back or hide anything. I think it was Anne-Liisa Palmu-Joronen who said “Authentic people can’t be manipulated.

This feeling of openness is related to another important concept in the new leadership that came up many times during the conference: co-creation. I think this time I finally understood the concept. Earlier I’ve heard this concept as ‘yhteistuotanto’ in Finnish, which is ‘co-production’ directly translated. And I haven’t seen how to really apply it, because in co-production the other party has already created something. It’s nice to do or produce something but real meaning for people comes from creating something. I think Johan Löfman and Mia Aittola described co-creation best by saying:

In a compromise everyone gains some and loses some but it’s easy to live with. In co-creation people search for the true essence of an issue and discard the original shape and form. It’s hard to do but great to live with.

I’ve never been at any conference or event with this kind of feeling of connectedness. The openness and connectedness facilitated fantastic networking. I learned more than ever from the dozens of discussions I had with different people and met some people I will certainly collaborate with in the future. Having Team Academy’s international network present at the conference was definitely part of the charm as they provided different perspectives for the discussions and teamwork. I would have needed a third day just for networking and many others said the same thing.

So what made this conference so special? Was it the people, the methods, the topics, the setting or what? The participants shared a common understanding about the theme already before the conference. The methods for audience’s participation were fun, involving, even extravagant at times. The setting was very informal and unconference-like; many felt like coming home. It was really a get-together of the Team Academy tribe – and I think that made it special in the end.

This tribe should also be ours at ProAcademy! I got some pretty harsh feedback on Friday from some members of my team at ProAcademy about the priorities of the our coaches myself included. They felt coaches were too much involved in various projects developing ProAcademy – projects they didn’t know anything about with networks we weren’t sharing. And in a way this is true.

Of course we are not holding our students back from joining the Team Academy networks’ activities like this conference or interacting with their international networks but I think we have failed to communicate what they can learn and benefit from these experiences. Not taking part in this network, our students are losing huge growth potential!

The second part in the critic comes from some outdated leadership practices. I think we’ve been part of the old paradigm in the way that we haven’t really involved the students in preparing the big development projects. We’ve brought them forth when the projects have started and involved the students then. This is co-production, not co-creation (or very coach-like behavior in any case). New interesting possibilities and development projects are also coming at such a rate that we can’t participate in them without jeopardizing our presence with our student teams.

I’ve been telling all of our guests and visitors that the board (jory) is the main decision-making body and it ensures that the students are part of all decisions. Now I realize that it is exactly that, a decision-making body, but it doesn’t have much to do with leadership. Not all the important things come up in the board meetings, only things which are easy to decide on.

We just celebrated our wonderful 10-year journey to where we are now – a strong, inspiring and constantly developing community of people who share a great vision and future-ready beliefs about learning, teams and entrepreneurship.

To take the next big steps, we need to challenge our current thinking and be ready to change. We need some magical uplift and the first step for that is building trust.

Blog rules

At least for the moment, I will not limit the blog into any particular topic or issues but will write about things I find interesting and important. I work as a coach at TAMK ProAcademy (which is quite evident from the blog) but I write this blog as a private individual and I don’t represent my organization officially.

I encourage everyone to comment and discuss the entries if you agree, disagree, can develop ideas further, share something related or just wish to comment for any reason. I really want to hear your thoughts! If these entries don’t stir any discussion, the blog is unnecessary.

I won’t moderate the comments before they are published but comments with coarse language, personal insults to anyone, etc. will be removed.