How unfortunate we see the wheel as our symbol of sticking with the status quo. The wheel has been at the center of innovation gobs of times since first appearing as a potter’s tool in 3500 B.C.E. Its purpose, construction, and cultural relevance has evolved in ways that have fundamentally changed the wheel and the people using it.
I began ruminating on the wheel during a recent curriculum design class. The question was raised: why develop a new board curriculum when “that wheel” has been invented? It is true. Just as a wheel is round, turns on an axis, and serves as a tool in some way, there exists board curriculum that is available, covers board practice, and serves as a tool to improve what people know about the job.
All wheels are not the same, however. I would prefer not to drive through Seattle with four round stones tied to my chassis. All nonprofit curriculum is not the same as well. Too much nonprofit learning is focused on information transfer with little stickiness beyond a workshop or webinar. At its best, nonprofit learning takes what we know about adult learning and psychology to center behavior change, habits, and action so people actually do things differently.
Our sector is full of wheels that need reinventing. Let’s reinvent meetings to make better use of our limited time. Let’s reinvent HR practices with an eye to equity. Let’s reinvent fundraising to address the balance of philanthropic power. Let’s reinvent how we collaborate so we get more done in a reasonable schedule. Without a doubt, let’s reinvent that board curriculum so the people who lead our organizations are ready for 2021 challenges. We can learn from the wheel’s story to see how purpose, construction, and relevance can guide new ways of being. Reinventing the wheel might be exactly what we need to evolve to be the kind of organizations our diverse communities need to thrive.