What might the world and functions of innovation demand of our workplaces? How might our work environment complement – even promote and spur – the activities and necessities of an organization striving to innovate? Such questions are a major line of investigation for me and for the school where I am blessed to work – Mount Vernon Presbyterian School. And so, we explore and research in order to learn.
On Friday, April 15, 2016, I was fortunate to visit and tour the Coca-Cola Atlanta Office Complex (AOC). Thanks to friend Rodney Drinkard, who works in security and risk-management at Coke, I ventured into the Workplace 2020 transformation happening at Coca-Cola corporate headquarters, and I was accompanied by colleagues Blair Peterson, Head of Upper School, and Rosalyn Merrick, Chief Philanthropy Officer, at Mount Vernon. The time at Coke’s AOC was invaluable and incredibly thought provoking. They are doing tremendous work there to leverage brand and culture to transform space…and to create a virtuous cycle for space to build brand and culture even more purposefully.
Enter Workplace 2020, a massive project to instill Coke’s facility with a sense of optimism matching what consumers feel when they see the brand’s polar bears or hilltop singers. That may all sound touchy-feely, but this project is far from a feel-good exercise; the goal is to increase brand value, grow product lines faster and boost the bottom line.
From the very beginnings of our Coke tour, I was reminded of my recent visit to IDEO in San Francisco. At IDEO, the office is intentionally designed to facilitate creative collisions for collaborators. Similarly, at Coke AOC, the Workplace 2020 transformation, partly informed by input from IDEO, seeks to purposefully facilitate such creative collisions and collaborations, too. With innovation stemming from networking and associative thinking, an environment that supports bond-making rather than isolated task-doing promotes the conditions needed for enhanced innovation. Overall, the surroundings at Coke are constructed so that people will benefit from the principle of “we are smarter than me.” While individual space still exists in great quantity, the quality and number of spaces to meet, work together, share and collaborate are superb.
Two of the many things that impressed and intrigued me:
The brand qualities of optimism, happiness, and sharing a Coke with a friend were expressed as part of the physical architecture and decor. The space felt alive with the culture that Coke works to exude.
The degree of prototyping going on was tremendous! There were future product prototypes in numerous places, and the Workplace 2020 team was utilizing experimental space to conduct user tests for various configurations and work-pattern sites.
The photo gallery below contains my image captures from the fabulous visit to Coke AOC. I know that there will be countless views that I make to this gallery as the team at MVPS continues to research and design according to our principle and practice, “Learning demands interactive and flexible spaces.”
In a recent article on EML, Will Richardson shared that he asks the districts he works with, “Is this a school that learns?” He went on to write these provocative questions:
What does a learning school look like? What’s the culture of a school that learns? How does it happen?
Will sparked in me some significant reflection. He also spurred me to write this blog post and share how Mount Vernon is, indeed, a school that learns. Here’s one example how…
The made world is designed. Everything in it is designed. Therefore, this made world is malleable, changeable, and transformable. For if it was designed, then it can be redesigned. And we all have the ability to make these changes in our world.
This simple argument is at the heart of agency. And we in education should be about the business of inspiring and nurturing agency in our learners. The very essence of being an engaged citizen leader is realizing and understanding one’s capability – one’s agency – to be a positive change agent in the world.
For years, Mount Vernon has focused its work around inspiring and nurturing the agency of learners. We are about designing and making, in numerous and myriad forms, and we are committed to developing engaged citizen leaders who see themselves as agents of change. And we are taking our work in design and making to a next level. We are building our maker, design, and engineering programs, and this work is invigorating and exciting.
Jim Tiffin and T.J. Edwards are leading these efforts to build our maker, design, and engineering programs. Jim Tiffin is the Director of Maker and Media, and T.J. Edwards is the newly appointed Director of Design and Engineering. Together, they are a phenomenal, dynamic duo, and they are integral members of the MVIFI nucleus team. I consider myself most blessed to work alongside them.
Throughout the year, Jim, T.J., and the MVIFI team will be leading a charge to create and construct the next levels of design-and-maker-based learning at Mount Vernon. We’re fortunate to be learning from many others along the way. And we’re looking forward to sharing with many the various stories of this purposeful build that we are experiencing.
But how do you go about such change work?
CHANGE IN SCHOOLS IS BEST ACCOMPLISHED BY LEADERS LIVING THE CHANGE
Among the many lessons of change and program building is this critical mantra: The leaders must live the change.
So, if we intend to take making, design, and engineering to new levels at Mount Vernon, then we must live the change we are expecting. How exactly are we doing this?
Well, here are four ways that we are setting the conditions so that leaders at Mount Vernon can live the change that we are envisioning in maker, design, and engineering.
ONE. If we want more making in school, then we need to build our own skills and understandings as makers.
This summer, The Tinkering Studio at San Francisco’s Exploratorium and Coursera offered a MOOC (massive, open, online course) called “Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning.” T.J. made us aware of this course, and we enrolled together as a small group. The learning was powerful and intense, and it coupled leading research in learning, brain science, and pedagogy with practical experience as participant and facilitator in maker education. For me personally, the experience was invaluable, as I was able to read and watch curated articles and videos (see two examples below) while also trying my hand at tinkering activities that I had never done while wearing these particular lenses of emerging maker facilitator. Additionally, the course materials and practices provided T.J. and me with a number of things to think through and plan together in our own programatic build with Jim.
Quick sample of a video and article from the Art of Tinkering MOOC:
TWO. If we want more making in school, then we need to make in leadership team meetings.
A mentor of mine once told me (actually, he said it multiple times), “Bo, as much as possible, you should DO the projects that you are expecting your learners to do.” He implored me to lead from a position of experiential understanding. So, if we believe that we are creating conditions for more sophisticated and advanced design and making to exist in our MV classrooms, then we decided to immerse our school leaders in such project work from the very beginning. Therefore, in August, at a meeting for division heads and heads of learning and innovation, we utilized the scribble bot learning that we had undertaken during coursework in the Tinkering MOOC. Here’s a quick movie trailer of that session we enjoyed together – these are the “principals” and “academic deans” of our four divisions at Mount Vernon.
THREE. If we want more making in school, then we need to make time for making in our professional learning days.
For months, we knew that we were scheduled for a professional learning day on October 9, 2015. However, in early September, we decided to reimagine that day as an internal conference, hosted by MVIFI. We named the inaugural event Collider, and we established a small list of sessions that prioritized our strategic objectives as a school. Jim and T.J. co-designed and co-facilitated “anchor sessions” (like anchor stores at a mall) for maker, design, and engineering. On purpose, we set the conditions for faculty to elect into learning experiences that would advance their knowledge, experience, and excitement around design and making. We were intentional about ensuring that building interest in and capacity for maker, design, and engineering was a part of our professional learning day, even before we had all of the details established for the overall programmatic architecture. By doing so, we were prioritizing a strategy of getting our faculty involved.
FOUR. If we want more making in school, then we need to experiment with entirely new ways of developing capacity.
At Mount Vernon, we are fortunate to live in a culture of prototyping and educational entrepreneurship. We ideate frequently about new possibilities, and we rapidly prototype these ideas into physical manifestations. On this maker, design, and engineering front, we are offering “evening maker clubs” for our faculty and staff. This is just a simple idea that we came up with – kind of like book clubs, but for tinkering. So, at the end of September, the MVIFI team prototyped a “dine and design evening,” learned from the experiment, and created a new program for getting faculty together for some food, fellowship, and fun – all centered around building creative confidence in maker, design, and engineering.
Gallery of Photos from Prototype Night for “XLR8 Makers”
recent invitation sent to Mount vernon faculty for xlr8: makers
To purposefully advance the strategic vision and practices of a school requires agency. By definition, such work is about change, and educational leaders must see themselves as change agents – designers, makers, and engineers of better and better learning architectures.
Most importantly, we educators must take seriously our opportunities and responsibilities to inspire and nurture agency in our learners – in ourselves, in our faculties and staffs, in our students, in our parents, and in our surrounding communities. And this incredible work necessarily involves integrating more making, designing, and engineering programs for the benefit and capacity building of our learners.
To do so most successfully demands that we lead by living the change ourselves.
4 RESEARCH-BACKED TIPS FOR STICKING TO YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION
Every New Year brings two proud traditions: Making resolutions and then, shortly thereafter, breaking them. Often the full cycle doesn’t take more than a few weeks, which allows well over 11 months to plot the next year’s resolutions.
The research on resolutions is damning: A study of 3,000 people led by Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, found that 88% broke their resolutions. (Even people who resolved merely to “enjoy life more” failed 68% of the time.)
If you want to buck humanity’s sorry performance record, here are four research-based tips to improve your chances of keeping your resolutions:
1.Look for your bright spots.
Psychologists tell us that we are wired to look at the negative. One famous study concluded that, when it comes to the way we think, “bad is stronger than good.” So when it comes to changing our lives, we’ll tend to ask ourselves, “What’s the problem and how do I fix it?” But often we can benefit more by asking a different question: “What’s working and how can I do more of it?” In other words, we can learn from our own “bright spots.”
Nwokedi Idika, an American graduate student in computer science, was a chronic procrastinator. He’d set a goal to work six hours per day on his thesis but found that he only hit the target sporadically. Rather than bemoan his failures, though, he examined his bright spots: What is different about the days when I do manage to complete my six hours? And what he discovered was that, in almost every case, he’d been working early in the morning. So he turned that realization into a strategy: He started setting his alarm for 5:30am every morning.
The early-morning approach worked like a charm. “When I’m up that early, I have no motivation to check email, Facebook, or Twitter because nobody is up to send email or update his/her status,” he said. He defeated procrastination by cloning his bright spots. (Idika became the first African-American student to earn a PhD in computer science at his university.)
2. Make one change at a time.
Over the last 15 years, a series of studies in psychology has confirmed a sobering result: Our self-control is exhaustible. The research shows that we burn self-control in many different situations: when controlling our spending; holding in our emotions; managing the impression we’re making on others; resisting temptations; coping with fears; and many, many others.
Why is this important? Because any life change will require careful self-monitoring and self-regulation—in other words, self-control. Self-control is the fuel that allows change to succeed, but it is limited. For that reason, you will have a better chance of success if you can focus on one change at a time. If you try to change jobs and exercise routines and relationship habits all at once, you are more likely to stall, because you’ve run out of “fuel.”
3. Turn that one change into a habit.
Steve Gladdis of London found that he was constantly falling behind on his personal “to do” list. “Looking at the list on my phone now,” he said, “I need to hang those pictures, phone a friend I haven’t spoken to in a while, extract that box from the back of the shed, investigate child-friendly mousetraps, the list really does go on and on.”
He resolved to create a daily routine: Every morning, like clockwork, he’d finish one task. “Once I’m on a roll, it seems easy to carry on. I remember to look at my list for today’s task because I’m used to doing it, and I almost look forward to ticking off that day’s chore,” he said.
Habits are effective because, once established, they no longer burn self-control. (Think about how little mental energy it requires to take a shower, or make your morning coffee, or to carry out any of the other habits you’ve acquired.) You’ll be more likely to keep your resolution if you can turn it into a habitual behavior—something that happens in the same time and place on a regular cycle.
4. Set an “action trigger” to start your habit ASAP.
What’s the best way to start a habit?
Let’s say you’re trying to exercise more. You might declare to yourself: Tomorrow morning, right after I drop off Elizabeth at dance class, I’ll head straight to the gym for my workout. Let’s call this mental plan an “action trigger.” You’ve made the decision to follow a certain plan (exercising) when you encounter a certain trigger (the school’s front entrance, tomorrow morning).
Action triggers like these can be surprisingly effective in motivating action. The psychologists Sheina Orbell and Paschal Sheeran studied a group of patients in England with an average age of 68, who were recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery. Some of them were asked to set action triggers for their recovery exercises—something like, “I’ll do my range-of-motion extensions every morning after I finish my first cup of coffee.” The other group did not receive any coaching on action triggers. The results were dramatic: Those patients who used action triggers recovered more than twice as fast, standing up on their own in 3.5 weeks, versus 7.7 weeks for the others.
Psychologists have compared action triggers to “instant habits” because what they do, in essence, is make our behavior automatic when the trigger moment comes. Seize that power for yourself: Jump-start a new habit by setting an action trigger.
Good luck with your Resolutions, everyone, and here’s hoping for a fantastic 2014!
Happy New Year,
Chip & Dan
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Peter Drucker on the Profession of Management, 1998 [Hat tip to Mike Wagner (@BigWags)]
… [A business] must be organized for the systematic abandonment of whatever is established, customary, familiar, and comfortable, whether that is a product, service, process; a set of skills, human and social relationships; or the organization itself.
In short, it must be organized for constant change. The organization’s function is to put knowledge to work — on tools, products, and processes; on the design of work; on knowledge itself. It is in the nature of knowledge that it changes fast and that today’s certainties always become tomorrow’s absurdities.”
Could, should, would we substitute “school” for “business?”
It’s intriguing to me that we play guitar, we play soccer, and we play a role on stage. Yet, we take algebra, we take English, and we take history. I may be remembering my French incorrectly, but I think many of the expressions for play are composed of the verb “faire” – to do or to make. I love that. Isn’t that what we are realizing about our 2.0 world – that the masses are now empowered to be producers of content and creativity, not just consumers of such? That we are more empowered now to do and to make and to play even.
Are we, in fact, keeping up with this evolution in schools?
Perhaps we should do and make and play more – instead of take – in school.
Or consider the word we often use when one teacher decides to use an idea from another teacher. What do we regularly say? “Oh, I’m going to steal that idea.”
If you read this blog much, you know that I believe school children can do and make this kind of work, too. They are capable. They care. They seek relevance and engagement. They appreciate guidance and support. They can do and make…good and well. They can give…even better than they can get.
To me, a thread that could hold all of the above together is the thread of SHARE. Enough taking and stealing. Let’s do, make, play, and share. Where do we first learn to share? Through play.
Perhaps we should play more. There’s certainly great evidence and thoughtfulness around this idea. The educationese is “play-based learning.”
When we play, we often find flow. We lose track of time, and an hour can seem like a minute. We perform more optimally as we become absorbed and fully engaged in what we are doing. Often, we are “giving our all” in these situations. Not taking. Something deep within us is being drawn and pulled out of us – something is being forged and revealed.
We need to share more. Play more. We should be guiding students to give an education. We should make certain that we are working to draw out from within, instead of trying to fill up from without. We should rebalance and guide out from the regular. We should do. Make. Play. Share.