Posted by: darcymullin | July 25, 2012

Change? No, innovate.

I have been reading Simon Sinek’s book “Start With Why”. His basic argument is that great organizations and leaders don’t focus on outputs or even process, rather they make decisions and lead based on a clear understanding of WHY they are engaged in their work.  Listen to his audio clip below.

Start With Why Learn Learning Library.

Sinek uses Apple as an example of an organization that starts with WHY. Every action they take is asked on the idea of innovation and challenging conventional wisdom. It is this type of decision-making that inspires others and builds loyalty within its costumers and staff. He argues that other tech companies have access to essentially the same resources (finances, brilliant engineers etc.), but they cannot match Apple’s brand loyalty. He suggests others companies focus on what they produce, not why they are doing it.  For example, Dell produces computers, so it would be odd to purchase a mobile device (phone\tablet) from them. We wouldn’t have the same level of trust, but because Apple focuses on WHY – innovate at all costs, customers have faith in any technology they produce.  In fact many of their customers would not buy a product from another company.

What does this have to do with education?


I work in a great school. I have only been there for a year, and it was a great school long before I got there.  Over the course of the year I have been thinking:

“What makes this school great?”

“What is it that makes this school different?”

Over the course of my career I have worked in really good schools, with really good teachers, but something was different, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.  The school has an experienced and professional staff, but so do other schools. Not only are teachers experienced, but there is a lot of talent…again other schools have talented teachers. A number of teachers have worked together for a long time and they understand one another, but again…so do other schools.

What is it?


I believe that for the longest time this school has started with WHY. I believe they have embraced innovative teaching practices to serve the students and community we teach. It is not what we do (SMART learning, inquiry driven approaches, innovative grading practices etc.). Rather it is a shared ethos toward innovation and learning.  This shared belief has created a culture of trust and when there is a high degree of trust, collaboration flourishes and as a result people have higher degree of commitment to the work.

My last post was titled “Change. You Better.” While I stand behind the content of what I wrote, I think I would change the context. The idea that you have to change your practice infers that you are doing something wrong. A somewhat fixed mindset.  In fact, assuming people are wrong and putting them on the defensive will likely stifle innovation.  If I was to write that post again I think I would change the title to “Innovate? You Better.” Focusing on innovation puts the onus on learning, and directs us to a growth mindset.

My job?

Continue to support innovation, but bring it to the forefront. Use it to guide decisions. Create a shared experience and continue to build trust that will inspire us to continue to grow and be a great school for the families in our community.  One that is safe and allows us all to be vulnerable.

Listen to the first 3 minutes of  this clip.  He says it so much better than me.

Trust + Vulnerability =Innovation.


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