Effective leaders need to be constantly challenging and reviewing their own approaches and beliefs to ensure that they are tackling issues in their organisation/school in the most efficient way.
In this clip, we can see two youngsters struggling with how to operate a old fashioned rotary phone. Hilarity ensues as they try to relate it to their smartphones… to no avail. Anyone over 45 would take this skill for granted because we have previous experience. But the point is that it can be challenging for people to learn/adapt to change and different ideas when they are ‘trapped’ or limited by their own experiences.
How often are we prevented from seeing another way of doing something because we’re boxed into our current beliefs about what we know, what we think works, the way it has always been before. Did their knowledge get in the way of learning? I think it did.
2019 could be a time of real shift in schools for a number of reasons:
- a new Ofsted framework on the way and a change to how schools are assessed and graded
- the renewed focus on curriculum which is rightly challenging school leaders to take greater responsibility for what they teach and why they teach it
- scrutiny of how leaders are reviewing workload in their schools and trying to find more efficient ways to mark, plan and resource
- financial challenges that mean many things about everyday provision will have to change: charging for clubs; monetising school facilities; investigating bids and grants; reviewing staff structures… it will be adapt or go into deficit (if you aren’t there already)!
- growing weight behind learning theories that should be informing how teachers are trained, how they plan and how leaders deliver curriculum frameworks
As you and your leadership team review your strategic plans and what you need to accomplish this year how will we execute change without being limited by the old paradigms that you have used before?
- What are we trying to do that’s new or different from the old thinking or “context” from what we did in the past?
- What might be blocking us from seeing a way forward or learning something new?
Shoshin: The Beginner’s Mind
In Zen Buddhism they refer to a concept called shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when approaching a problem, or learning a new skill.
A true beginner, has a mind that is empty and open: willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. Once you have started to develop knowledge and expertise, your mind naturally becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.
The danger of expertise
We can tend to block information that disagrees with what we learned previously and yield to the information that confirms our current approach. We think we are learning, but in reality we are steamrolling through information and conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current philosophy or previous experience, and cherry-picking information to justify our current behaviors and beliefs.
So in 2019… start with an empty mind, challenge your expertise, be relentlessly honest about whether what you do is as effective as it could be and meet the challenges ahead in the best way possible.