Be a Wet Baby

New Rule: Be a Wet Baby

I tire of hearing people inside and outside of education say, ‘oh so much change, I can’t take any more.’  As the Eagles song title says, “Get Over It.” I am not saying ‘find your inner child and kick its little a##’ (song lyric).  I am saying change is, deal with it.  Let’s ride the wave of change without drowning.

General Eric Shinseki’s quote, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance a lot less” Wake up educators. For example, I am old, I am not a big fan of technology.  I like to talk to kids and staff in dialogue which increases my learning.  So, I dragged my feet on many new innovations and still do.  I still can’t believe I am twick and tweeting. I blame Jim Knight and Sue Chapman for this. Please don’t tell anyone but I am enjoying writing new rules and a few book summaries.  Or should I call them Sommeries?

Dave Schumaker and I did a presentation years ago at National Staff Development Council’s (now called Learning Forward) annual conference in Chicago.  It was and titled “Rocks, Rivers, and Wet Babies.”  The metaphor went like this.

Rocks don’t change much over time. When they do it is through weathering, erosion, being brittle, people hitting them, etc.  Rocks change but it takes a long time. Rivers are in constant change. Heraclitus said, “you can’t step in the same river twice.”  The point being since the water keeps moving, the sediment is churned up, the banks get wider, etc.  They change based on the environment and the boundaries that are surrounding it.

Wet Babies love change.  Wet and cold and new diaper feels dry and warm.  They get used to liking that better feeling.  As I look into the eyes of young children, they are taking everything in trying to figure out how to deal with the learning coming from constant change.  They are learning machines and develop best in strong learning cultures at home and school.  Jon Saphier wrote an article years ago titled, “Good Seeds Grow in Strong Cultures.”  READ IT. It is still one of my favorite articles and is still timely. I think our job as parents and educators is to provide strong cultures to accelerate learning for ourselves, staff, students, and the community.

So, here are a couple of the strategies Dave and I presented and a new one I have since added.

  1. Richard Beckhard’s model: D x V x F > R = C.  Dissatisfaction with the current state, times Vision for a preferred future, times First Steps, must be greater than the Resistance equals Change.  People can be angry or hurt about what is (dissatisfaction) but they need some idea of what they want (vision).  They also need a sense of what steps will get them there (a pathway or first steps). When those three coalesce and is greater than the people who don’t want to change (even though results are not good) then the system starts to move.

A friend, colleague, and ex-parent of mine, Michael Ayers, adds a beginning step.  People must believe change is possible in order to work on a project.  If there has been “repetitive change syndrome” before, it will be hard to get people excited about anything new.  They have fallen on the sword before.  They will be reluctant to do it again.

  1. Mary Lippitt’s model: Managing Complex Change.  A combination of Vision + Skills + Incentives + Resources + Action Steps = Change.  If any one of these is missing, change is not going to happen.  No vision results in Confusion. No Skills results in Anxiety. No Incentives results in Gradual Change. No Resources results in Frustration. No Action Steps results in False Starts.  I use this as a check to answer the question of whether or not we have all parts in place before starting any new project.  I have found it extremely helpful for individual change as well as organizational change.  Very hard to get all of these elements aligned.  If all of are not present, it will be very difficult to have successful change occur.


  1. VUCA: I first heard of this in a book titled, Get There Early (2007) by Bob Johansen. He says, “In a VUCA world, prediction and control are impossible, but preparation is possible, and immersion experiences are the most efficient and effective means of preparation.” VUCA stands for:
  •        Volatility
  •        Uncertainty
  •        Complexity
  •        Ambiguity

So, how do we deal with this?  Try this acronym as a response.

  • Vision – Develop the end goal.  What is it we want to accomplish?
  • Understanding – Ask questions.. What is driving the situation? Who are the stakeholders?
  • Clarity – Probe for specificity. What assumptions are being made? What do they mean?
  • Agility – What do we control? How can we respond to the problem in front of us?

So, there are three of my favorites.  There are many others that can help.  Keep Learning. BE WET – Change often for the right reason.  I end with a quote that sums it up for me.

Life is Change

Growth is Optional

Choose Wisely                                     William Somerset Maugham



Shift Happens. If you don't adopt New Rules, drop the "f" in Shift!