Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it.
—Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick and Switch
Anyone who has ever rowed crew in an eight-man racing shell knows that glorious feeling when the boat is “set up.” It means that the boat, or shell, is exactly on keel—every one of the eight oarsmen in the boat is in perfect harmony, perfect balance: eight seats sliding forward together, eight oars squaring up together, eight blades hitting the catch together, 16 legs exploding with power, 16 arms drawing in the stroke, and that final, critical moment—no, instant—when eight oar blades leave the water precisely together and make their way evenly back through the air to the top of the stroke. This is the magical part of the stroke, when only the hull of the boat touches the water. This hull, over 60 feet in length and just over 20 inches wide, is the least stable vessel on the seas at this moment. But when the boat is set up, it’s in perfect balance. For the oarsmen, the moment is strangely calm. It’s fluid—almost mystical. Everyone and every movement is in perfect alignment to support the goal: to propel the craft through the water with the greatest power and least resistance possible. Unless the boat is set up, you haven’t a chance of winning.
What if a learning organization’s curriculum was designed in such a way that everything it did was purposefully, knowingly, driving organizational goals? What if the ...