Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thriving under pressure

According to George Siemens in this articulāte presentation (and I'm paraphrasing): when the pace of change/development is moderate, an imperfect learning model is acceptable. However, when external pressures force the pace to increase, we are forced to reconsider what works and what doesn't.

Isn't that weird? When we have the leisure to investigate things, to make new discoveries, we accept the status quo. When critical mass is reached and we have more to cope with than we can manage - that's when we start to explore, research, trial.

The same sort of thing happened to plastic surgery, I'm told. It was during the war (I think it was WW2, although it might have been WW1 - or even both!) that horrifically injured and disfigured people began to require medical attention in large numbers. (Note: according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, it was, in fact WW1). In the middle of this dramatic increase in demand, surgeons began to find ways to rebuild destroyed faces and perform skin grafts on burn victims. They almost routinely did what they would have thought impossible a scant few years (months?) previously. You would have thought that they had enough on their plates just keeping up with the workload, but somehow they found the time and the inspiration to be innovative and creative, to challenge boundaries and prior understanding of what could and could not be achieved.

The phrase "their finest hour" does not refer to an idyllic period in history when everyone had a handle on everything and peace and tranquillity reigned. Instead it refers to a time when people were facing the worst circumstances of their lives, and yet managing to endure, displaying an indomitability of spirit that continues to be celebrated today.

Isn't it odd how we need to be pushed beyond the edge of what we think we can handle before we discover that we're capable of so very much more?

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