A piece of “how”: flatten schools?

Thomas Friedman pointed out to us that The World Is Flat. Do you think that the acceleration of change in the world is related to the progressive flattening of the world?

Many think that schools are one of the slowest changing institutions. Some know the story of Rip Van Winkle waking from his hundred-years nap and only recognizing schools…except that the boards are white instead of green or black. Do you think that the slow rate-of-change in schools is related to their traditionally intense hierarchy?

Would schools be more adaptable and accelerated in their change if they were flatter organizations?

Recently, during one of my morning walks, I listened to Daniel Pink’s “Office Hours” podcast – particularly the interview with Gary Hamel. While listening, my mind made a Venn of a number of resources from which I have recently learned:

  1. First, Let’s Fire All the Managers,” Gary Hamel, Harvard Business Review, December 2011.
  2. The Power of Networks: Shifting our Metaphors for Learning and Knowledge,” a blog post from Jonathan Martin on 21k12 – particularly the RSA video of Manuel Lima.
  3. Nobody’s as Smart as Everybody—Unleashing Individual Brilliance and Aligning Collective Genius” by Jim Lavoie at Rite-Solutions, discovered as I explained on this recent blog post.
  4. What If Bill Gore Founded a School?” a great blog post from Craig Lambert.

What if schools were flatter in nature…like our flat world? Would school adaptability be amplified and accelerated?

[“A piece of ‘why,'” A piece of ‘what,'” and A piece of ‘how'” are strands of a series on why school needs to change, what about school needs to change, and how schools might navigate the change.]

6 thoughts on “A piece of “how”: flatten schools?

  1. Pingback: Networks, Peer Progressives, School 3.0, and Future Perfect #IDreamASchool #School3pt0 | it's about learning

  2. Pingback: Marrying power and context in the organizational pyramid. Lessons inspired by Gary Hamel. #PedagMasterPlan « It's About Learning

  3. Pingback: Why-What-How: Being Research-Practice Designers…I Dream a School « It's About Learning

  4. Hey Bo,

    I heard Tony Wagner speak last spring to a group of educators regarding his new book on creating innovators. He mentioned that the inspiration for The Global Achievement Gap was Friedman’s The World is Flat. In his q&a, I asked him if he primarily addresses educators or administrators, suggesting that in some ways his excellent talk was like encouraging a room full of nurses and interns to fix the national problem with healthcare. Schools are one of the most hierarchical institutions there are, so is it fair or effective to attempt a bottom up reform process? He agreed that this will be the slow boat to China without administrators recognizing their part in reform. As it is, he said, “You as an educator are just a random act of excellence.”


    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Holly. Yes, I agree – Wagner’s work is closely, closely related to all that I am processing through, research, and synthesizing right now. Also, I agree that teachers and admin must work as US, not “us-n-them” – in fact, that is the flattening that has to occur for the network to shift from control/gate-keeping to idea/implementation adaptive. Don’t you think…do you agree?

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