Friday, May 15, 2009

My half time Pep Talk for 2009

created for 24 hours of Innovation event

I work with independent schools. In the first half of 2009, their worldview has been disrupted dramatically due to the shift in the economic climate. While this new environment is stressful and exhausting because each leader is having to work hard to understand the New Normal, I think this environment presents many unique opportunities if you can see them, if you can sell them to your organization, and if you have the courage to implement them. Big if's because they all involve fast and furious adaptive thinking.

1) The most important conversation to have and act upon internally and externally right now: how do we create value for our users? Sounds easy enough? Who are all of your users? What are their wants and needs? What are their unarticulated wants and needs? What are their current value expectations? Are they purely transactional? How can you exceed them? Can you make your value arguments authentically - will the user experience what you say he or she will? Can you seed value thinking throughout the organization, top to bottom?

2) The second most important conversation to have right now is how can we do more with less - across the board in every department, every employee, every job function etc etc.? This calls from expansive creative thinking and most organizations are not well-practiced in thinking or creativity. Not practiced in thinking because schools are habitually bad about running on automatic pilot and their industry model has been unchanged for decades. Not practiced in creativity because besides being status quo guarders, school leaders/people are dangerously risk and change averse. Ask why not? a minimum of 50 times a day! You will benefit from it. New efficiencies are necessary and good.

3) The world has changed and no industry is immune. This is not a disputable idea anymore! Look at GM, Chrysler, the newspaper industry, book publishing, etc. What are the destructive forces nipping at your heels that you just don't want to see? Time to face the nightmare! I would be asking this every week and trying hard to adapt to the many New Normals that are emerging proactively and strategically. I would look to young and pliable companies like Google and Linux and Wikipedia and new pricing models/partnerships like Priceline to see how they think and build new organizational intellectual capacities that are more aligned to the needs of the new economic marketplace.

The first half of 2009 is a great wake-up call for the education industry. Those that work to solve the puzzle, will benefit greatly for many years to come. Those that play the victim role are creating their own future.

Act wisely.

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