Caroline Ramsey in her inquisitive papers, “Provocative theory and the scholarship of practice” and “Management learning: A scholarship of practice centred on attention” continues her impressive work in the field of management and organizational learning. Ramsey brings further thought, experimentation, and quantification from her research and learning journey of a scholarship of practice.
As I read these, necessarily rigorous, academic works, I had two specific experiences come to mind that became my prevailing filters or learning lenses with which I was able to personally reflect on Ramsey’s brewed works. The common thread in my experiences were what I would call “intuitive leaders” and is where the title, “Can You Teach Street Smarts?” comes from. With Ramsey’s basic parameters of a scholarship of practice being: an engagement with ideas, a practice of inquiry, and a navigation of relations, ultimately being contrasted to a scholarship of theory or knowledge-based-learning, the thoughts that came to my mind were about the cliches “book smart” and “street smart.” Specifically, “street smart” because in my experience with “street smart” leaders or individuals (often called trouble makers much like Ramsey herself:) their mode of operation tends to be ideas oriented, inquisitive in nature, and relationally savvy. Similar to, if not also defining, a highly intuitive leader.
For now, here is the skinny on my two filtering experiences. First would be my personal planting of a church while being on a wild educational curve of being in seminary. For the first three years of the church plant I was becoming an ordained pastor. This was the first church I ever planted, something which I truly knew very little if anything at all about, when first beginning. All I really had was a big idea and a whole bunch of questions. Yes there were questions about how to plant a church, but the questions were much more profound trying to ask the whys of life, love, purpose, faith, Jesus, the Church, God, our world, and so on. I soon discovered the real key to church planting was people and therefore primarily invited all kinds of people into a big idea full of questions with the only promise being a wild adventure. God did amazing things through my church planting experience and would be what after reading Ramsey’s articles I would call a wild ride of provocative theory and scholarship of practice.
The second experience occurred just his week. Yesterday, I was in Salt Lake City, UT with an organization called Building God’s Way (BGW). BGW is a venture capital design build company that is innovating new practices of stewardship and Kingdom advancement. In one small part of my time on what we can call a tour, a gentleman by the name of Dan Cook shared their company’s practice of engagement they use with the tradesman who actually build the projects they create, design and supply all materials for. Dan, who created this very generative process, and now practice, saw an incredible opportunity to involve the trades workers in the designing process at the time when most company’s usually enslave them to plans that once construction starts will tend to have flaws and mistakes that will need correcting on the fly that if asked they would have been able to tell you from the beginning. So Dan, who saw what is usually a great problem on every design build job site as an opportunity, he invited the full capacity of everyone on the work site into the idea, while asking for their questions, scrutiny, and solutions to how to best achieve the dream of this church while developing the plans and working together for the greatest Kingdom impact. Dan turned what is often thousands of headaches and hundreds of thousands of dollars into a transformational, collaborative effort of ideation, reflexive inquiry, and relational navigation. Dan truly exhibited an attention to the idea, the questions and the relationships necessary for maximum production and experience.
When I compare these experiences with Ramsey’s at CPE, where in my mind she played the role of Dan and the role that I played in my church plant because she is the “street smart” one, the intuitive leader, the one who is captivated by ideas, loves inquiry practices, and is a relational genius whom God often smiles uopn . . . it just makes me wonder if that can be taught or if leaders and managers “wired-up” like this just need to be better identified and put into right positions? Do the schools need to look different for these students are is the world, or should I say streets their classroom????