“Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward. They may be beaten, but they may start a winning game.”
― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert, Todd Whitaker is a read that has stuck with me for a few months. One of my favorite lines from the book is a provocative question for any stakeholder in any school:
“Why is it that some schools embrace new ideas, while others consider them distractions? Why do some teachers roll up their sleeves, while others simply roll their eyes?”
Great question. Schools that make time for ideas, value vision, and foster disruption are healthier places to learn. The problem is, if that mindset is missing, you won’t always recognize the void. If you rush through your lunch, chances are, you aren’t pausing to try and identify the spices and herbs used in preparing your meal. While that level of gustatory reflection isn’t necessary every single day, it’s probably a reasonable idea to stop and taste the turmeric now and then.
So how do we know how idea-rich we are?
Here are five questions to help you ‘cleanse your palate’ and review your school’s ability to cook with ideas:
1. When dealing with a problem, what is the tone of your team? Do people trust in one another to strategize? Or, is there cynicism, chaos, and fear?
2. How long does it take an idea to travel? Are new ideas brought to key leaders quickly? Or, are there only specific times people feel they can make suggestions?
3. Think back to the last time you had a collegial conversation about doing something differently. Would you categorize that conversation as more of a ‘yes, and’ conversation, or more of a ‘no, but’ conversation?
4. How often do middle or senior leaders ‘pick the brains’ of members of the faculty? Does this happen both formally and informally?
5. Consider the members of your immediate team, faculty, or department. Can you list at least one book/article/person/podcast/resource/conference that has inspired them within the past month? If you can’t, do you feel like you can start that conversation?
What else should we ask ourselves about our ideation principles?
Please feel free to suggest better questions in the comment section below.