Surprise! Leaders are Disrupting with Seemingly Obsolete Practices

“It is stupid to teach cursive in grade school.  No one uses it.” This topic generated a lot of strong opinions with one side determined that the old practice should die a quick death.

But could they have been missing a critical component of their disruptive leadership?

I understand the proponents for eliminating cursive training because our computers, phones and tablets require nothing more than typing or maybe some typing.  That made sense. I have to admit that even as a writer, I don’t use pen and paper much anymore.  So maybe teaching cursive is a waste of time. Maybe the cursive critics are onto something. Maybe it is time to let this ancient practice die.  

What are we Missing?puzzle-654963_1920

Then I remembered an old conversation where I proposed something similar.  As a freshman in high school, I did not enjoy nor did I see any value in algebra, except to prepare college bound students for a required class.  Many of my classmates were going on to be farmers or laborers so they reasoned that it was a waste of time.  I had no vision of working with numbers for a living so I agreed.  I would have gladly avoided that course if I would have had a choice.

I’m glad I didn’t. Maybe that is why I listened to the cursive supporters.

They argued that there is something far more than technical or transactional that is happening when a child learns to write cursive. It moves beyond instrumental into the artistic and, if I may use the term, the spiritual. The child explores a creativity and an identity as they develop something unique in and to them. They learn to form words and sentences but also find a unique way of expression that cannot be learned or made any other way. It is critical in establishing one’s style, approach and even their authenticity.

Important but Ignored Principles

That is when I remembered the hidden but important principles in learning algebra. I don’t use algebra on a daily basis but I do use the basic principles of factoring and problem solving that I learned but that were not explicitly taught. Math is not just adding and subtracting but learning how to think in a certain way.  That has served me well over my life.

In the same way, there are important principles in learning cursive. Most everyone uses cursive to sign their name, giving their approval for a variety of transactions. We also sign our autograph for heartfelt messages or souvenirs for raving fans. We could simply have a stamp or sticker made with our cursive autograph but something would be missing, wouldn’t it? Is there anything more personal than our autograph? Isn’t it the essence of our identity? Isn’t that why, if we are deemed important enough, someone will try to forge our autograph for their gain?

But it is more than an autograph.  We learn to create when we learn to write in cursive.  We are learn to explore as well as model.  We learn to appreciate the authenticity, uniqueness and creativity of others.  After all, no two people’s handwriting are the same.

But then there is something that is more profound.  Have you ever had your handwriting analyzed?  If you have, then you know how much it tells about us.  Analysis can see our deepest secrets in simply looking at our autograph.  That cannot be said for typing on our computers.  Might there be something significant in learning to write cursive if it holds that much information? 

Disruptive Leadership

As leaders looking to disrupt ourselves, our teams and the market, too often we see leadership as a transaction, one person getting others to do what needs to be done.  It is easy and more efficient, like typing.  So we settle for the transactional and dismiss the transformational.   We willingly sacrifice authenticity for automation, fostering reliable replication. to “crank it out.”

quill-175980Might that be the reason our teams lack innovation? Might we be extinguishing something that we will live to regret?

I know there is something valuable about putting pen to paper, connecting letters and creating words and sentences with the hand. It is far different than typing and uses much different skills. I know there is a value that even I don’t use much.

Maybe it is time to revisit those practices.

When I look around to see who is using cursive, I hear of college sports coaches committing to recruiting with handwritten notes and telephone calls. I hear of innovative business owners sending handwritten thank you notes to stay in connection with their clients.  I hear of innovation classes that utilize drawing and writing with only pen and paper.  I hear of writers that still take time to rekindle their passion by breaking from the computer and putting the pen to paper.  In the end, they all find a cutting edge that they couldn’t using the new technology.

New technology is great.  But what cutting edge value can you find in what many dismiss as antiquated or obsolete?

  • Maybe it is time to reconsider what I have been willing to ignore.
  • Maybe the disruptive leadership of the future is actually integrating valuable practices of the past.
  • Maybe, just maybe, the future is not only found in new and valuable technology but also in time honored processes that are built on authenticity.

3D PWR Tip: Leverage You Power by Reexamining Practices You Consider Obsolete

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