Buy-In

“Buy-in.” I have heard this term a lot of over these last two weeks.

Leaders at a conference were brainstorming leadership characteristics and many felt one’s ability to get buy-in was important to leading change. In interviews I have heard candidates mention the importance of getting buy-in from stakeholders before introducing change whether it be first or second order change. Ask me about the importance of getting buy-in 10 years ago and I would have probably agreed with those who feel buy-in is necessary before moving forward with change. Today, I think differently.

Author Douglas Reeves states, “Don’t ask us to buy into your ideas for change; challenge us to envision a future that is better than today. Challenge us to consider improvements in our educational systems that will happen only if we replace the skepticism associated with the buy-in imperative with the hope and optimism associated with new ideas, practices, and policies.”

It’s June and build leaders around the country are attending conferences, reflecting, brainstorming and are in the initial stages of preparing for their back to school professional learning. Hopefully, many of us are designing opportunities that will challenge our teachers to move forward. Challenge our teachers to move past “that’s what we have always done”. Challenge our teachers to innovate in ways they have not thought of before. Building leaders need to be challenging teachers to transform learning.

As a building leader, could you imagine having to wait to implement these challenges until you had buy-in? From everyone?

Reeves goes on to state, “It is not rhetoric that persuades us, but evidence at a personal level.”

Educators need to see evidence that the time they invest in changing will warrant success. Educators need to see other’s having success amidst the change before changing themselves.

As I myself begin to brainstorm ideas for the upcoming school year, I seek input from my stakeholders, but I am not seeking permission nor buy-in. I want to listen and then I want to make decisions. Through seeking input and listening, I can begin to discover who my people are. I know who will get in at the ground level and I know who will need to see evidence of others having success. I am reminded of the graphic below:

Your innovators help you in leading the change. They do not require buy-in. To paraphrase a quote from the movie Moneyball, the first guy through the wall get bloody. These are our innovators. Trust me…everyone else is watching. What happens when others see our innovators having success? Their disbelief becomes belief. Their buy-in increases.

I do not believe it is healthy to have a building full of innovators. Balance is key. You need people who may say no the first time. When I hear no, it makes me rethink my “why”. It challenges my thinking. If I can rethink my why and am still compelled to move forward, those who are slower to change; the late majority or the laggards, they will come.

As Amber Teamann says:

As you prepare your professional learning, brainstorm ideas for change and continue to think how you will move your building forward, I encourage you to be the change you wish to see. Do not wait for those who surround you to buy-in. Give them a reason to buy-in. Inspire them! Challenge them! Support them!

Buy-in is not where you begin. Buy-in is the ultimate destination. @matthew_arend

 

 

Unbridled Foolishness #IMMOOC

“Unbridled innovation is dangerous, foolish.” Those words were sent to me in a tweet this past weekend. Literally slapped me in the face.

I had been participating in a Twitter chat and @PrincipalPaul a member of my PLN had tweeted out the following, “We wouldn’t let surgeons/pilots consciously leave the best technology on shelves collecting dust. Why do we let educators?” In response to his comment (which I agree with) I replied, “The same can be said about professional learning. We don’t want our doctors using same practices year after year.” Understanding the 140 characters within a tweet can be limiting, let me explain. Research and advancements in medicine happen at a rapid clip. Doctors can continue to practice traditional methods or change their practices based on the latest technologies, advancements & practices. As an educator, I want the same for our profession. Teachers and leaders need to be learning. Regularly!

Here’s an example…My dad had a hip replacement surgery a year ago last November. When he went to meet his surgeon, the original plan was to undergo a traditional hip replacement surgery. Being an active guy as my dad is, he asked questions. My dad wanted to recovery quickly and get back on his bicycle ASAP. His questions helped him discover an alternative to the traditional approach. He discovered minimally invasive hip replacement. Ultimately, the implants used are the same, however the approach is totally different. Enter innovation via interation. (a change of something that already exists)

This minimally invasive approach has not been around forever. I will not pretend to be in medical school. I will save the who discovered it and when it was discovered for someone who is. What I do know is that it started somewhere. This new and better approach started with someone asking a question leading to a new and better way to perform surgery. Just so you know, less than one month later, I was able to attend a spin class with my dad. He was not yet at 100%, but goodness…he was spinning one month after a hip replacement.

You can see how my 140 character response may not get to the point. The response I received and subsequent dialogue that ensued challenged my thinking.  The gentleman I was engaged with asked, “How can profession regulate tide of untested approaches, willy nilly adoption of ideas?” My response, “term regulate confines us to “a way” of doing things. Does ed need to be regulated or innovative?”

We continued back and forth and agreed that education cannot be confined or put in a box. When education is put in a box, creativity dies. This is where I appreciate the push from George Couros, encouraging educators to find ways to innovate inside the box. Just as we agreed education not be confined to a box, he responded with the words, “…I would still assert that unbridled innovation is dangerous, foolish.” It was then I realized, I am not convincing or changing this man’s mind 140 characters at a time. I responded with one last thought and then bid him farewell. “We may disagree, but understand it’s unbridled foolishness that will uncover the next big thing.” @matthew_arend

As the Twitter chat ended, I began to doubt myself. Is innovation dangerous? Is it unbridled foolishness? Do others feel this way?

I go back to George’s definition of innovation, a way of thinking that creates something new and betterDoes doing something new or doing something better take some unbridled foolishness? I bet Blockbuster wishes they had spent some time with unbridled foolishness. Does education need regulation? Sure. Innovation and the creation of new and better ideas? You tell me.

24 hours removed from the Twitter chat, still wondering if I really believed the words I had tweeted, “unbridled foolishness will uncover the next big thing” I tuned into the #IMMOOC YouTube Live Session 2 w/ Katie Martin, George Couros & special guest Sarah Thomas. I sat up a little bit taller as these three unpacked the first chapters of the Innovator’s Mindset. Their words affirmed my belief. The belief that I want teachers innovating with an unbridled foolishness, waiting to discover the next big thing. It may be appropriate to note, in my opinion, the difference between unbridled foolishness and willy-nilly ideas is simply the reflection that follows said ideas and whether the ideas create a new path for students to learn.

Specific statements made throughout the night simply spoke to me. The statements captured in the images you see reinforced my beliefs, served as a source of inspiration and encouraged me to return to my staff and students to innovate with an unbridled foolishness. The smallest idea may be the next big thing. @matthew_arend

What did this experience teach me?

  1. Believe in yourself. Do not back down when someone challenges your thinking. Listen and be open to their point of view and then be willing to defend yours if you believe it to be best for students.
  2. There is work to do. For every educator out there who “gets it” there are still many who do not. It becomes the job of those who do to educate those who do not. The innovative ideas yet to be discovered count on it.
  3. Surround yourself with people who do and do not think like you. You will receive the affirmation you need, but will also have your thinking challenged. The challenge makes you just uncomfortable enough to grow. Thank you #IMMOOC.

Hope you join us on this #IMMOOC journey!