A Marketplace of Ideas – Mopati Morake (Botswana)

This week has been a real marketplace of ideas at GSP. It has been a fairly intense week of class, community service projects and seminal readings, all of which forced students to grapple with, articulate, challenge, and refine ideas – big and small.  After visiting day care centers in the informal settlement community of Zandspruit and identifying their needs, students had to being designing solutions. They brainstormed, they prototyped, they tried and tested different ideas. Along the way, they used Edward De Bono’s 6 Hat thinking to critically evaluate their ideas. They asked, “but is this sustainable” “can we actually build this in time” “are there any other ideas?”

These are the sorts of probing questions leaders need to constantly ask. Asking the right question, and being curious and hungry for more information, and broader perspectives is what leads towards more informed decision-making. It is how you avoid groupthink – which some historians point to as an ultimately costly characteristic of the Bush war cabinet in the run up to the 2003 Iraqi invasion.  During Seminal Readings, we discussed an excerpt from the provocative Woman at Point Zero, by Nawar El Saadawi. In sometimes fiery conversations, students exchanged ideas about power and oppression, feminist activism, morality and the law, and what it means to be free. While the discussions were stimulating, as an educator, what impressed me most was seeing the conversations continue in campus corridors late into the night. Students continued to wrestle with ideas, some new, and some that they vehemently disagreed with.  What I found particularly interesting was students thinking about how to deal with ideas they disagree with, and those who advocate for them. Students reflected not only on the content of the conversation, but their manner, how things were said.

After all, a nuanced lesson of leadership is not just what is said, but how it is said. Given these experiences in hand, students will learn how to “disagree without being disagreeable.”  What’s clear is that GSPers were stretched this week. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “one’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

Till the next time!
GSP 2012 in the eyes of…

Mopati Morake


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