Education & Business Have The Same Problems (And The Same Fix)

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Synopsis

As much as we don't want to believe it, the same challenges exist in every industry and there's one easy way to fix all of them in one fell swoop. Sadly, we all think our own problems are unique to us and ignore the best advice in front of our eyes.

Our jobs come with their set of complexities. As leaders, no matter what industry, we tend to think our challenges and problems are unique to us. Therefore, we shut off any advice or direction from sources that don't fit our pre-defined category of qualifications. Executives shut out educators, educators shut out business people and so on. It's a shame, because not only are the challenges we share exactly the same, but we may find better solutions looking into other industries and companies.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jaime Casap, The Chief Education Evangelist for Google for an interview on The Creativity Cultivator Podcast. As we discussed challenges in education, and a bit of his background, one theme became clear: Even though the challenges leaders face in education and business are the same, many ignore potential solutions found in other industries thinking they too different to be relevant. Heck, people even have a tough enough time looking at other leaders in their own industry!

Jaime recounted his consulting experience before coming to Google. "One of my favorite learning experiences from being in the consulting world is that every time I went to a new client, I would sit down with my main client counterpart, and they would say 'Look I know you were just at SRP or American Express, but now you're here at this company, and our problems are unique — they are completely our own.' And you just sit there and nod your head, but the realization is that they are not unique. They are all the same problems because the common denominator across the board is people. We are all people. We bring the same problems to every industry across the board."

But leaders don't recognize this, and it causes unnecessary problems. This genuine misunderstanding manifests itself in many ways, but one way in particular is in our implementation of technology. In schools, many times technology is treated as a silver bullet to make better teachers and fix schools. But technology doesn't fix anything. Instead, teachers will get to school one day to find some new device or system and instead of sharing the excitement their administrators feel, fear takes hold. 

It could be a system they don't want, haven't been trained on, or don't even know how to implement into their curriculum. This results in rejection of the system outright, possibly shoving it in a closet to be forgotten. But it can't be ignored because then something else happens. Leaders force them to use it.

Reluctantly, they proceed using it as little as possible, accommodating this new technology that was supposed to make things easier. Problems abound left and right with no one in the organization even knowing how to fix the errors, due to seemingly overnight implementation. Finally, after a few years, when the technology fails to fulfill expectations, new technology is introduced to address the problems the old technology created. Then the cycle starts over, continuing indefinitely. This challenge isn't unique to educators at all — it happens in business just as frequently. We need to call technology implemented in this way, what it is: a gimmick.

Jaime recounted "What kids end up learning, how they become life-long learners, that's the important part. We never talk about, 'Oh, and they also use Google Apps' or 'they also use ChromeBooks.' That doesn't matter; those are the tools that we use to get to the outcomes that we're looking for." In other words, technology isn't a fix; it's a support system.

So, how do we know when we are implementing technology as a support system and tool vs. a gimmick that will just create chaos? "Technolgy is not the solution," Jaime said. "It's just a tool, just like the desks are a tool, and just like the electricity in the classroom is a tool...If all we do is take technology and put it in our classrooms and continue to do the things that we do, then all we potentially have done is made old education faster and more efficient." "Let's look at research over the last ten years and ask ourselves what does good learning look like? How do we make it engaging? How do we make it personal? And then ask ourselves, how do we use technology to bring this to life? How do we bring these ideas to life with the technology we currently have and also what's coming next?"

Spend time with teachers or corporate staff on the front lines, and they will tell you what they need, or you may simply observe it. It may be technology, or it may just be your ear, ideas, or encouragement. Technology in business and education should never be implemented to fix a systemic problem. Ever. It should be applied to support a solution that already exists in the first place. 

When you do implement tools, make sure to communicate openly with your staff and explain the reason for implementation is because you listened to them. Tell them exactly how this can help them and then you will find massive buy-in and the results you've been longing for.

Justin Brady (@JustinBrady) cultivates creativity & help others do the same. He is the host of The Creativity Cultivator podcast and has written for WSJ, WaPo, HBR and others. Find out more about him at www.justinbrady.me.

Tags: business communication, business model, business strategies, jaime casap, justin brady, management, problem solving

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