RK&A at 30: Leaning Into the “Space In-Between”

As we come to the end of 2019 and RK&A’s 30th anniversary blog series, I’d like to share one final post.  To prepare, I re-read each RK&A at 30 blog post.  What staff wrote reveals a lot about who they are as people and how working as an evaluator has affected their growth. What strikes me is that each and every one of them, in one way or another, wrote about the discomfort associated with learning, which when being truthful, almost always has an element of anxiety.  This resonated with me.

In fact, what interests me most about learning is the “space in-between”—that murky, sometimes scary space in-between not understanding something and understanding it.  Randi often refers to this as the learning zone, which is between the comfort and panic zones.  The comfort zone is that place of mastery, confidence, and expertise, and yes, it is very comfortable.  But it can also lead to a static state if it is not shaken up every once in a while.  And that static state, while comfortable, can be dull and uninspiring.  I crave letting go of that stability and leaning into the unknown where I can be knocked off balance and then work my way through to the other side.  I find the space between not knowing and knowing to be incredibly creative as long as I’m able to tolerate the uncertainty and discomfort that comes with it.

Looking back at the blog posts from our RK&A at 30 series, I’m pleased to see that each of us at RK&A chose to write about not only what we have learned, but what it felt like to learn.  And in each case, there is some degree of discomfort.  I wrote about the circular, unpredictable nature of learning and how that has manifested in my time at RK&A.  Emily, Amanda, and Erin wrote about entering into and embracing the messiness associated with their learning as evaluators.   Katie and Cathy wrote about the unease (turned to satisfaction) they felt in discovering something about themselves as evaluators.  Randi wrote about trust in the face of being challenged to let go of previously held beliefs.

Being in the learning space requires a few key characteristics, each of which is essential to our being good evaluators:

  • Vulnerability, putting one’s authentic self out for the world to see, despite the risks that come with doing so
  • Humility, being open to the realization that you might be wrong or not know something
  • Curiosity, where uncertainty can lead to questioning and wondering
  • Persistence, continually pushing oneself despite the discomfort

In our work, we often enter this learning space with our clients as we think about ways to push their programs, exhibitions, and organizations forward.   It is easier to navigate that uncomfortable, vulnerable space together as we work toward solving a problem or exploring a new idea.

On this last day of 2019, I am so grateful I still have a lot to learn.

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