How might we best capture and build upon the swirl of talent, ideas, and knowledge within our schools? How might we build and sustain systematic distributed idea creation and collegial feedback as a core function of an evolving school?
I have previously written about, and use in my workshops, elements of the brilliant book Creativity, Inc., the story of Pixar. A key element of how Pixar built their remarkable track record of success is what they call the Brain Trust. It started as a daily meeting of the senior executives to review evolving story boards and movie development and grew to become the center of collaborative, collegial, peer-based strategic evolution at the company. Participation in Brain Trust meetings became “fuzzy”; some people attend every day and others attend as needed or when they feel the need to attend. It is a place for people to share what they are doing and get feedback, not direction, from others. For example, a movie director may get feedback that a certain part of the evolving script is jut not working. The director is not being told to change; he or she is the director. But Pixar found out that, over time, people tended to take this feedback very seriously and good things result.
In translating the Brain Trust mechanism to schools, the key points are:
- It is made up of people who have a deep understanding of learning, the school’s mission, and how the two coincide; and have been through the experience themselves.
- The group has no authority; it exists for sharing, discocurse, and feedback.
- Argument exists to “excavate the truth”. Might this not be the re-definition of “collegial” that schools need?
- By acquiring feedback from the group, people are more willing to let go of things that don’t work.
I love the idea of daily or weekly gatherings like this at schools, and am recommending it to one of my partner schools (if it goes forward, I will report on it in detail). I don’t like the name Brain Trust because it implies that those not in the room are not smart. I have suggested calling these meetings the Compass Collaborative, because the core strategic need at an evolving school is to constantly be asking the question “is what we are doing aligning us more closely to our North Star?”
Let me know if you might want to start a Compass Collaborative at your school. Let’s share how this works and doesn’t work!