A great problem in any job is orthodoxy. I see it everyday in myriad ways at the University where, despite nominally being all about the future (students, research, etc.), we really do the same things, uniformly, over and over.
A few moments ago, I head a colleague talking about a class she is a teaching assistant for. All I head was someone asking if it “would work with three people,” and her saying, “Well… probably not.” This particular conversation is not important, but it’s an example of something that happens a thousand times a day in this building alone. I’m certain of it!
We make many snap-judgments in our hectic, university lives. How to grade, how to teach, how to assemble experiments in vacuum environments. A good deal of these things are simply based on prior experience; things which haven’t necessarily been taught, just picked up. A lot of these things have never been thought through. Some of them don’t even make any sort of sense when thought through. Some of them make sense but don’t hold up to scrutiny.
I would like to work in a place where people say, “I don’t think that will work, but let’s try it anyway.”
I think it implies that people have enough time to explore, that they are supportive enough to want to explore your ideas, and that they are open to the possibility that they are wrong.
I dislike the capitulations that seem to be required of any statement today, but I do concede that these moments of support and understanding happen – but only occasionally. They should happen in far greater numbers, though.