Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pioneers, Settlers & CAVE people

A few years ago I had the pleasure of talking with Ruth Sutton - a saucy English woman who was contracted by my school district to develop sustainable change.

During my visit with her, I expressed my frustration with how long change was taking at my school, and so she sat me down and shared a story with me.

She explained that there are three kinds of people in this world:

First, there are the pioneers. They are the people who are willing to give anything a go. They're willing to go out into the wilderness and explore the new world. They're comfortable with the risks that come with such adventures.

Second, there are settlers. They are willing to go out and about but not before they know what is waiting for them. They need to see a map that outlines the path that will be taken and the blue prints that shows there is infrastructure awaiting them.

And then there are CAVE people.

This is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything. For these people, 'no' is the default for anything and everything.

In the end, we need pioneers so that we are always improving. Change is always and pioneers help us to ensure the settlers don't become overly complacent.

We also need settlers who are appropriately hesitant when working with pioneers - sometimes pioneers want to go places that we shouldn't go, and the settlers provide that sober second thought.

Unfortunately for CAVE people, we just don't need you. So you'll either be shamed into coming along or risk being left behind.

After Ruth was done sharing her anecdote with me, I realized that she was right. Even though I am an impatient pioneer, I know that without the diligent work of the settlers, the CAVE people might sabotage the hasty work of us pioneers and then claim that change was attempted and
proven to be a failure - thus making change that happens too fast quite counter-productive.

And so I have become far more patient when it comes to change, because I'm not willing to trade sustainability for expediency.

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