Idea Hospitality

“Ideas are easy. It’s the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats.”
Sue Grafton

That talk was part of the 2016 Learning2 Conference, hosted in Saigon. Because the #learning2 community is so remarkably warm, I’ve received a lot of follow-up communication.  A few people have asked whether or not I have an actual audit form, and my answer was..not yet.  So for those of you interested in auditing your school’s ability to host ideas–to be welcoming to the nuance of innovation and change, this post is for you. The survey is designed to be used with your faculty.  My recommendation would be to poll educators confidentially, then host small group conversations to investigate trends, surprises, and formulate new questions which you think will continue this line of inquiry. If you conduct an audit, please let us know how it went as a comment below.  

If you would prefer a Google Form version of the audit, here you go.

1.  How will ideas feel upon their approach?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Martha Stewart level hospitality, and 1 being barking scary dog hospitality) how comfortable does a new idea feel during the first stage of meeting administration, staff, parents, and students?

B) What would it take for your score to move up one point?

C) How do we know when a new idea is being considered? Who is likely to be discussing this?

2. Who helps ideas hatch?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Lebron James VIP access, 1 being total pleb) how much access are you given to rough, seedlings of ideas which are likely to be significant within your community in the next 1-2 years?

B) When is the last time someone asked you for feedback on a rough draft idea?

C) Would you say the majority of your colleagues feel valued when providing feedback?


3. Who helps ideas shift?


A) When is the last time you asked someone for advice in regards to your role at school?

B) How many times in a month do you feel you have time and energy to discuss a relevant idea with someone outside of your department/office?

C) What would encourage you to share ideas with your colleagues?

4. Can an idea sense the tone around the table?


A) True or False: The majority have a say in terms of which new ideas remain ‘at the table.’

B) Can you provide an anecdote to support your response to A?

C) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being a fleece blanket, and 1 being sand paper), how comfortable would you feel disagreeing with the majority opinion?

5. Do ideas at your school have healthy diets?


A) How much feedback did your last, best idea receive?

1-heaps 2-some feedback 3-none

B) When you need critical feedback on an idea, how quickly do you think you’d be able to get it?

1-within the day 2-within the week 3-within the month

C) How do you think the average teacher at your school goes about finding feedback for their ideas?

6. Does your idea have a good toolkit?


A) When was the last time someone suggested a new tool RELEVANT to an idea specific to you?

B) When was the last time someone asked you for advice about a tool?

C) When is the last time you and a colleague decided to sandbox different tools in regards to the same idea/project?

7. Do ideas know when they can retire?


A) On a scale of 1-10 (10 being Beyonce dance move fast, 1 being dead turtle speed) how quickly is your school able to get rid of ideas/practice that are no longer effective?

B) When is the last time your school retired an old idea?

C) What is a current idea you think needs retiring?

I hope these questions spark better questions and inspiring conversations.  

Thanks to Flickr for providing the featured image in this post:

Harald Groven


Peek at how much interest is piqued.


kata rokkar Twin Peaks
kata rokkar
Twin Peaks


“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?

The Shopping Sherpa Counting 1
The Shopping Sherpa
Counting 1


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.


Thank you,  Flickr for the Creative Commons Images featured here:

kata rokkar

The Shopping Sherpa

Cover image:

Germinating Ideas