In this 6th article in the EDUCHAOS series Marie Jasinski explores the conative domain - having the will, striving, intentionality and determination to achieve a goal. Through an innovatorís soliloquy, discover why ďgoing conativeĒ is a critical ingredient in the successful diffusion of innovative practice.
Just a new-fangled hype word?
Rats! Caught in the of trap of behaviourists!
Where thereís will, youíre away
Go conative Ė kick in your gutsy
Stickability: Staying power, perseverance
Staying power: enduring strength and energy
Strength: endurance, stamina
Stamina: toughness, energy, survival
Survival: A natural process resulting in the evolution of organisms best adapted to the environment.
So where is this heading? Stick it out and discover!
Bob the Builderís got it:
Question to Bob: Can you fix it?
Bobís response: YES I CAN!
Winston Churchill encouraged it:
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never, in nothing, great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
The Little Engine that Could was determined to get it:
I think I can, I think I canÖ
I know I can, I know I canÖ.
Tom Reeves predicted it as the next big elearning focus:
Itís time to revive it and add it to our elearning and R&D agenda
Have YOU got it?
n. 1. (Philos.) The power or act which directs or impels to effort of any kind, whether muscular or psychical.
Conation is derived from the Latin verb conari, meaning to strive! It refers to the act of striving, intentionality, of focusing attention and energy and acting with a purpose to achieve a goal. In other words, conation is about stickability, staying power, strength, stamina and survival.
Just a new-fangled hype word?
No! Itís actually an old-fangled hype word! Itís got a history that goes back to the ancient Greeks who recognised cognitive, affective and conative domains as part of the human psyche.
Hereís how each is defined:
The cognitive domain is about learning, thinking, remembering and coming to know and understand.
The affective domain is about feelings, sensations, emotions and impressions, values and ideas. It is the emotional interpretation of perceptions, information and knowledge.
The conative domain is about planning, will-power, striving, persistence, motivation and intentionality. Conation is the personal will, intention and striving to make choices with the purpose of achieving a goal. Itís about self-direction and self-regulation, intentional and personal motivation. It is often associated with the transformation of the cognitive and affective into pro-active behaviour.
Hereís a comparative summary of the three domains:
Read more about conation
Figure 1: Going conative: Steve Matheson and the team from the
NSW Ambulance Education Unit have got it!
Rats! Caught in the trap of the behaviourists
The conative domain was right up there with the cognitive and affective domains until the beginning of the 20th century. Thatís when the behaviourist movement and modernist thinking came into vogue and started to dominate the psychological and philosophical literature. With behaviourism, came measurement. This created a problem for the conative domain. How do you measure will, striving, perseverance and intentionality? Too abstract! Too hard! So the conative domain got side-lined in favour of the easier-to-measure behavioural domain. I mean, keep it simple! Action, activities and habits could be observed, measured and reported on.
Where thereís will, youíre away!
However, contemporary life and work is complex, non-linear and unpredictable and the importance of willing, striving and intentionality to achieve a goal has renewed interest in the conative domain. Could going conative be the secret ingredient for success!
It is the will, distinct from the powers of thinking and feeling, which can make the difference in succeeding. Intelligence guides one to making a wise choice, the emotions guide what you would like to choose. It is conation, however, that enables one to move on the option and actually make the selection.
(Kolbe, 1990, p. 15.).
So whatís conation got to do with innovative practice? Plenty!
- In a recent keynote address, Professor Tom Reeves from the University of Georgia highlighted the potential of elearning to address the conative domain in designing elearning to enhance the will, desire, motivation, and intention of people to achieve.
- Embedding innovation as a core service is tough work. To advance innovative elearning requires will and determination as well as passion for the innovation itself.
To highlight the key issues, hereís a metaphorical case study. Itís a soliloquy of an innovator contemplating the need to ďgo conativeĒ.
A soliloquy of an innovative practitioner in three acts
THRIVING: Initiating an innovative idea
Iíve just had another brilliant idea for innovation in elearning and my dendrites are firing! Iím going cognitive! My mind is clear and focused, I contemplate the possible and the idea takes shape. I quickly understand itís an idea worth exploring.
Iím one smart cookie and I know it. The Australian Flexible Learning Framework knows it too as Iíve been funded through [Choose from - Flexible Learning Leaders, LearnScope, New Practices] to develop the idea. I love these opportunities as they enhance and accelerate my focus, and buy me time and space to play.
As I continue to experiment and beta test with a small user group, I realise I am onto something and become more passionate about it. My affective domain has kicked in! I thrive on this wicked combination of ideas and passion. Iím riding the edge: Iím in charge, Iíve got time out and I own my idea.
Up to this point, I must admit my innovation hasnít had a real impact outside my own circle of fellow innovators. But someoneís got to come up with new ideas! Iíve circulated in my own community of like and eager minds with similar passions to me. As an innovator, I know Iím only 2.5 % of the population and Iím a precious asset. And Iím into asset management. Iíve figured out how to look after myself. Over the years, Iíve learned how to hide so no-one will find me! Life and work is sweet.
Before I know it, my innovative practice is ready to roll out to more full bodied implementation.
Then the crunch comes. I hit the implementation wall.
DIVING: Hitting the implementation wall
A huge investment in time and energy has been expended in getting my innovative practice to the point where it can be implemented on a wider scale. Up till now, Iíve been the driver and itís mostly been my time and my energy! The crunch comes when other stakeholder groups need to kick in and take over to implement it on a wider scale. After all, isnít the purpose of any innovation to roll it out so it becomes a core service?
Figure 2: Graves' Innovation Cycle
I must admit, hitting the wall is a strange and painful time as many things seem to happen at once. My project funding has ended and so Iíve lost a fair bit of my autonomy including my time and space to play. As I didnít think too much about planning for ďthe project after the projectĒ and relied on ďsoft moneyĒ, Iím now at the mercy of other stakeholders to keep funding my innovation. Itís a bit tenuous as the whole system is set up to support established rather than innovative processes, so itís ad hoc and relies on champions and advocates taking up the cause. To do this, they want feasibility studies and business plans and capability statements Ė all the stuff that Iím not good at and weighs me down. They are not all educators and not as enthusiastic as me and ask hard questions I canít always answer. Instead of ďYes, Yes, YesĒ now I often get ďNo, No, NoĒ. The sweetness is fading and Iím detecting a bitter taste.
Whatís worse is that many of my fellow educators are not embracing my new practice as much as I had imagined. They seem to prefer the ďsame old same oldĒ of the status quo rather than embrace a status grow philosophy. I guess they have to understand why itís a good thing and change the way they do things. Maybe I should have involved them much earlier in the thriving stage so they were equally energised and owned it more. As someone said, if youíre not involved from the start, itís like stepping into someone elseís bathwater!
And those who do take it up have contaminated it. The original idea has been warped and morphed into something different as it is contextualised to meet local needs. The process of movement to larger scale implementation means the idea has not taken shape exactly how I had envisioned.
The purity is lost.
Consequently, Iíve detected a familiar response pattern welling up in me: my ownership is not as strong; my passion is flat-lining and my energy level has dropped; I am losing interest as other ideas and new possibilities form in my inspired mind. Itís all getting too hard, too frustrating and itís no fun any more! My innovation is hitting a brick wall and rapidly coming to a stand-still. There seems to be no way under, through or over. Will I move on and let another one bite the dust?
Just as Iím deciding to pack it all in, I hear a voice from the wilderness:
ďNever give in! GO CONATIVE and kick in your gutsy!
Stick it out, muster your strength, stamina and staying power!
If you take it on, youíve got to see it throughĒ
Who said that? I thought it was ME doing this soliloquy!
Then out of the ether comes Bob the Builder, the Little Engine, Winston, Tom and all sorts of philosophers. They are like my personal coaches chanting their mantras:
Bob is practical: You can do it! Yes you can!
The Little Engine puffs away: I know you can, I know you can!
Winston is stern: Never give in, Never give in, Never, never, never, never!
Tom refocuses: Itís the next big thing in elearning design, so keep striving!
Can I do it? Do I give in? Am I determined? Is it my role? Can I ďGo ConativeĒ and let my gutsiness kick in?
TO STAY OR NOT TO STAY Ė THAT IS MY QUESTION!
STRIVING: Seeing it through
What are my responsibilities as the initiator of an innovative practice to see it through? What is my role? How does my role change? What are the roles and responsibilities of other stakeholders in this purposeful endeavour to make my innovation ďstickableĒ and return a good investment? Do I stay on board or jump ship because newer and better opportunities come onto the horizon? Where is the line between innovation as an indulgence and innovation as an investment?
Do I have the will, desire, motivation, and intention to achieve my goal of seeing this innovation develop as a core service? I think I have. I discover Iíll need a parallel skill set and a different repertoire of strategies to break through to the other side of the wall.
OK, Iím going conative. Iím determined to:
- Align my innovations more strongly with the strategic intent of my organisation. Thatíll help it get support by those with clout.
- Develop influencing, marketing and change manoeuvering skills. Iíll need them to infect, inspire, influence and infiltrate.
- Know when to let go and hand over to others and understand that contamination is part of the diffusion process. I may not be the appropriate person to implement. In fact, Iím not. But I can support and advise.
- Involve more stakeholders earlier on in the process so they have understanding and ownership. This means they can take over more readily when itís time for implementation roll out
- Have more of a grasp on the process of the diffusion of innovation. Moving innovation through a system is more systematic than I thought.
- Identify and target champions and advocates early on. This will help to pull down that wall and move the innovation through to the critical mass.
Well, that wasnít so bad. Iím determined! Iím striving to achieve a goal! I have the will to succeed! Iím going conative - no gutsy, no glory!
Iíve got will Ė Iím away!
ďPossunt quia posse videntur. Audentis fortuna iuvat.Ē
ďThey can because they think they can. Fortune favors the bold.Ē
Graves, W. All Packets Should Not Be Created Equal
Hayes, N. Designing Interactive exhibits http://www.big.uk.com/knowledgebase/research/psych_interactives.htm
Huitt, B. Conation as an important factor of mind
Kolbe, K. The Kolbe Conative Concept
Articles in the EDUCHAOS series
EDUCHAOS: out of control and thriving!
EDUCHAOS- Disruptive Technologies
EDUCHAOS: Using improv and storytelling in business
EDUCHAOS: Job Sculpting - in tune with making work WORK!
EDUCHAOS: Patchworking Ė showing off your assets
EDUCHAOS: Go Conative - where thereís will, youíre away!
EDUCHAOS: Tuning in to your own voice!
EDUCHAOS: Loose change Ė a new currency