#flipclass as adjacent possible

Strategic change management often means encouraging gradual evolution – allowing the company to move from one adjacent possible to another. One idea – collaboration, for example – can lead to another, such as removing fixed desks and landlines and encouraging what we call the ‘bump factor’. These changes, in turn, can lead to further improvements in the way that people, places and technology work together.

Dave Coplin


If you think about educational change, you can’t (all other variables kept static) change from a traditional “stand and delivery” teacher and POOF overnight become an inquiry based one. Similarly, moving from a teacher directed classroom to a student centered one, requires a gradual evolution for both teacher and students. Too radical a change might in fact cause the extinction of the very change you are trying to implement. Systems survive by maintain homeostasis of the system, not by being disrupted, regardless of how worthy or valuable the disruption. Moreover, the change might not even be imaginable or seem possible from the starting perspective.

How about on our way towards the desired change we move to the adjacent possible? First.
How about instead of telling teachers the changes they “should” make, how about providing them with a way to change?

Many #flipclass practitioners have spent considerable time and energy defining, explaining and clarifying what exactly #flipclass is and what it is not. Throughout I felt a key component of my explanation was missing but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it; #flipclass was close enough to what I already did but AT THE SAME TIME it opened up new opportunities for changes previously unattainable and unseen. This dynamic was for me the secret sauce of #flipclass as a vehicle for change. It was not whether #flipclass was “bad or good” (we could debate this forever) or the same as traditional practice…

Instead. What mattered? #Flipclass was possible AND created new possibilities for further change. Critics have been quick to pounce and this observation against #flipclass; “Look teachers who use #flipclass move beyond it”. Exactly!

How about instead we consider #flipclass as adjacent possible? As Steven Johnson describes, adjacent possible:

captures both the limits and the creative potential of change and innovation. In the case of prebiotic chemistry, the adjacent possible defines all those molecular reactions that were directly achievable in the primordial soup. Sunflowers and mosquitoes and brains exist outside that circle of possibility. The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.

The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore them. Each new combination opens up the possibility of other new combinations. Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open. You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room that you haven’t visited yet. Once you open one of those doors and stroll into that room, three new doors appear, each leading to a brand-new room that you couldn’t have reached from your original starting point. Keep opening new doors and eventually you’ll have built a palace.

Change occurs within a complex interconnected system. You might in fact, have the best new idea, but that does not mean it will survive within the system. If you see #flipclass simply as “old wine in new bottles” consider #flipclass as the process of change rather than as the change.

Johnson compares ideas to a number of interconnected rooms down a hallway: you can’t reach the final room without travelling through the others. When I was in my “traditional teaching room” I could not see all the way down the hall to inquiry. As I moved into the adjacent possible of #flipclass, I gained new perspectives that I could not have in the original space. Being in this new space, a new adjacent possible became possible.

What is your adjacent possible?


One thought on “#flipclass as adjacent possible

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s