The song “The Unpossible” by Kaleidoscope Jukebox begins with a discussion of the limitations of the word “impossible”:
Our language…you might say our language lacks a word.
We have the word impossible, but we need to differentiate between two sorts of things.
The impossible is that which by definition can never be done.
We need another word: unpossible.
That which can’t be done just yet.
This song popped into my head today while thinking of times over my first two months as a dean when I’ve been told “we can’t do that here.” Luckily, there have only been two occurrences where that could not be overcome. The first time was when I requested email@example.com as my email address to match the wrjacobs@x construction I’ve had for the past 20 years. After six years with firstname.lastname@example.org I requested email@example.com at the U of Minnesota and was initially denied, but an administrative assistant eventually tracked down someone who could do it, so I thought that the same thing could happen at UW-Parkside given an initial “our system can’t generate that” response, but no dice. The second instance was a request to let my administrative assistant use my designated dean’s parking space since I’d be parking at an on-campus apartment building. The “we can’t do that here” response was driven by fear of a precedent being set. Umm, I don’t really see future deans lining up to live in the student apartment complex and asking for others to use their reserved parking spaces, but whatevs.
In my meetings with department heads post I outlined consultative structures that I hope will facilitate the generation of ideas about alternative ways of business. Proposals will probably focus on practical problems, and rightfully so! I think that I’ll form another advisory group, one composed of faculty, staff, and students who are specifically interested in brainstorming unpossible ideas. I’ll call this the UnBox committee. Stay tuned for more details!
Kristin Sobolik — September 2, 2013
Hi Walt, Love the UnBox Committee idea. I have overcome some of the "we don't do this here" but, as with you, some have stuck. Constant trying. Good Luck!
Walt Jacobs — September 2, 2013
Thanks Kristin! I'll give you an update at the CCAS conference...