“We have another exchange happening right now,” Randy Zimmerly, Superintendent of Westview School Corporation in Indiana, said to a group recently at a conference in Florida. “My community is exchanging their thoughts with one another in a way that has never been possible before. I have an Amish community with children attending public school alongside students from non-Amish families. These communities historically don’t interact often, but when we lead an exchange using Thoughtexchange, they all get to consider the thoughts of one another and learn different points of view, which brings my whole community together.”
Randy has been working with Thoughtexchange for a few years now to lead challenging conversations about school improvement, changes to the schedules and needs for the future. I love hearing about his successes (and hearing about his family and new grand-baby on the way) when we get a chance to connect. But this conversation with Randy was a bit different. I’ll explain why.
All of our customers and even our staff struggle with one thing: Thoughtexchange is a fifteen-character, three-syllable word that describes what we do, but doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.
So some call it a “Process” but that’s pretty heavy and formal and sounds complicated. Not a great fit. Some people call it a “Survey,” but surveys are something entirely different that are not about people learning from one another. And that word actually means an examination, inspection or quite literally to oversee people. Yuck.
Some call it a “Tep” (Thoughtexchange process). It’s short and informal and works well for some people some of the time – but not so well for others who are trying to invite people into a deeper conversation.
And here is Randy calling it an “exchange” in every sentence. And he is crystal clear why he uses that word. It’s about the exchange, not about the information that is gathered. It’s the intention, the method, the way you work with results. All of it is an exchange. And what is an exchange? The act of giving something and receiving another. Pretty good.
So here is my proposal:
Let’s try it. Let’s see if we can make it catch on. I’ve been practicing a bit and I have to say I like it a lot: lead an exchange, participate in an exchange, understand the value of the exchange, design questions that are ideal for a genuine exchange.
Exchange is eight characters and gets to the heart of the issue. And I’d be proud of the fact that Randy gave birth to this name in the same month he became a grandfather.