We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

imgresI REALLY hate to quote Donald Rumsfeld, but he was right when he said we don’t know what we don’t know.

Over the last two years I have held workshops with well over 5,000 K-12 educators. The schools and districts these people represent cross the spectrum from wealthy, autonomous, and successful, to poor, girdled by rigidity and regulations, and underperforming. By definition if I am in the room the leaders want their organizations to change.  And yet one near constant:

Given a blank canvas and no constraints, most educators draw a very familiar picture.  Given the permission, latitude, even expectation and directive to think broadly and freely; and given the clearly stated self-interest of many in the room to throw out the old and herald in a new day in education, the ideas that come out of design processes are almost always more “inside the box” than anyone would have predicted.

There are two reasons. The first is fear of the unknown; the second is the unknown itself. We can’t expect people to imagine something about which they have no experience. If you want to ignite innovation at your school, find ways to show them what a different future looks like, and many will find themselves able to imagine and see themselves in that future much more clearly.

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