Some of the greatest things in life are ineffable and impervious to formal definitions. For example, love, beauty, and play cannot be easily defined but are important and powerful forces which we seek. The harder you try to define play, for example, the more elusive it becomes. The more you try to explain one aspect, you lose grip of its other essential features. In many ways, words cannot capture the essence of these concepts — you simply have to experience them in order to truly understand them. In many ways, each person has to derive their own meaning of these concepts in order to understand how to acquire them.
ThinqStudio is kind of like that too — difficult to define with a singular definition because, like love or play, ThinqStudio is indescribable, highly subjective, and something you just have to experience. Even then, the experience of ThinqStudio can leave each person with a slightly different interpretation because Thinq can mean different things to different people. That is, ThinqStudio is what you make of it and what you say it is. In some sense, ThingStudio is a tabula rasa, an organization without preconceived ideas or predetermined goals. Because ThinqStudio is not something to be done to you or for you, it is something to be created by you. In that way, ThinqStudio becomes exactly what you need it to be.
However, in the world of academia, ThinqStudio is a bit of an outlier, an oddball, and is, therefore, often scrutinized and misunderstood. Against the backdrop of budget crises and demonstrating accountability and concrete outcomes, something as (seemingly) elusive and open-ended as ThinqStudio is the first thing on the chopping block. But, just because something can’t be easily defined and measured, doesn't mean it lacks substance and usefulness. In many ways, leaving ThinqStudio open to interpretation and as a space where faculty can explore, tinker, and wade in uncertainty, is exactly what higher education needs.
That is because true innovation requires nonconformity. More often than not, innovation, change, and creativity come from “wasting” time dreaming up outlandish ideas that threaten the status quo. We all know that academia is in dire need of true innovation, but we can’t handle nonconformity so we fail to truly innovate at a sustainable rate. People change, society changes, what is asked of our graduates has changed, but we struggle to change…to really change. Maybe partly because we are afraid to explore beyond the box. We are afraid because that takes faith and a certain level of risk.
Those of us at ThinqStudio are constantly asked for a clearer definition of who we are and what we do. But, what if that’s the problem? What if the desire to fit ThinqStudio in a box is the exact reason why academia, at large, struggles to truly innovate as quickly as society needs us to? When we can fit each and every campus organization and office into a box, then, and only then, can we control, measure, and justify everyone’s existence. But when everyone is wrangled so closely together, novel ideas and new directions are impossible to find or unrealistic to pursue.
The alternative is not controlling and not asking for concrete outcomes in order to ensure accountability. But, letting a group exist ambiguously without concrete and predetermined goals and definitions is, to many, irresponsible and wasteful. But what if it’s not? What if there were more tolerance for something like ThinqStudio, something that is difficult to pin down and that initially lacks preconceived ideas or predetermined goals, in order for those involved to freely explore the unknown? Some might get lost or arrive at dead ends, but many will uncover amazing new intellectual territory leading to true innovation and the advancement of higher education. Of course, this can only happen if we are brave enough to trust the process.
Caption: Roman Tabula—Wax Tablet— with Stylus; By Sippel2707, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org