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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

The Human Face of an Advancement Team

2018 was a year in which design thinking, The Periodic Table of Advancement™ and its related tools became the conceptual framework and modus operandi for most of the work that we do as an Advancement team at the International School of Brussels.

This was certainly a year in which we asked more questions, played more, scribbled down more ideas on the back of envelopes, and filled the walls of our offices with more Post-it notes than ever before.

Sitting down for dinner this week with my Advancement colleagues - a time to celebrate and enjoy each other's company - I was filled with pride at such a talented band of innovators. We are, I thought to myself, exactly the eclectic and somewhat eccentric band of innovators that Tom Kelley describes in his still remarkable work, The Ten Faces of Innovation. Every one of us is different and every one of us is a vital part in the process of re-imagining the work that we do.

It is important to note, however, that the title of Tom Kelley's book refers to faces and not facets. It's a reminder that, innovation has a peculiarly, if not uniquely, human dimension. We are not simply cogs in the machine of a pedagogical factory. We are humans, each with unique stories, that transcend and run counter to the one-dimensional world of role and particular job description.

A black and white photograph of a man with a black t shirt
The human face of Advancement takes us closer to who we are and what, ultimately, is most important.

Looking back on the year together at dinner, it seemed as good a moment as any to remind us all of a few, simple human truths.

Let's remember that we cannot achieve anything on our own. Contrary to the legacy of Cartesian philosophy, our humanity resides in our sense of connection to those around us. The human face of Advancement means that everything we have done is because of everything that everyone else has done.

Let's remember that tomorrow might be the day we have our best idea. Today isn't always a good idea. Things go wrong. We clash. We experience disappointment. But the human face of Advancement relentlessly and optimistically turns us towards tomorrow and the promise of a new and better idea in the morning.

Let's remember that we are always more than who we are at work. I am a Director of Advancement, but then again I am not. The human face of Advancement doesn't reduce any of us to a function or hierarchical position, but instead celebrates and respects the fact that our true identity is found in being a mother, brother, father, daughter, or friend.

Let's remember that, in the end, people will only remember our kindness. Looking around the dinner table, I find myself looking at colleagues that I am lucky enough to spend this period of my life with. Their faces speak to me with laughter, smiles, joy and sometimes sadness, pain, and fear. The reality is that they and I will forgot most of the history we share. Gently, I suggest, that our acts of kindness will remain, long after we have gone.

Photo by Ludvig Wiese on Unsplash


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