Education Needs Management Changes to Survive

Writing at Forbes.com last month, management consultant and former World Bank executive Steve Denning said because of the economic and social changes brought about by technology, there’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur if you can develop products that are  “better, faster, cheaper, smaller, lighter, more convenient and more personalized.”

At the same time, he argued, it is a frightening time to be an entrepreneur because customers are learning to expect “better, faster, cheaper, smaller, lighter, more convenient and more personalized” products. Business that can’t deliver won’t survive.

To a significant degree, the same dynamic is at work in education.

Schools are no longer at the center of the education universe. Anyone who wants to learn can find many more places to learn than bricks-and-mortar classrooms. As a result, people expect schools to provide better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands.

The public cannot understand how educators who insist they are professionals cannot respond as quickly as businesses do to changing conditions. The public thinks that if an auto maker can retool its plants to produce cars with 25% more fuel efficiency within three years, schools staffed by professional educators should be able to retool to raise student test scores 25% within three years.

Parent and educator push-back against new standards that require significant school changes quickly will not ultimately succeed: The river of change is at flood tide, and its going against them to deliver better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands.

To even survive in the new educational landscape, educators will need to adopt the mindset of successful, creative businesses. Borrowing the characteristics Denning posits businesses must have, I suggest schools will have to make these five changes to survive in an era of rapid social and technological change:

Embrace a new goal. The new goal must be to deliver better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands. Instead of focusing delivering benefits to the direct school recipients — students, parents and staff — they must focus on delighting taxpayers who have no direct connection to the school program.

Adopt new organizational structures. Hierarchical structures controlled from the top do not permit collaborations that unleash creativity and permit rapid responses to changing conditions. Without the ability to adjust work groups to changing needs, schools cannot deliver better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands.

Develop curriculum differently. Instead of buying curriculum, schools need to develop curriculum that responds to the needs and wishes of their communities and incorporate the resources of their communities in the curriculum.  Better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands must be home-grown.

Value growth over predictability. Education’s customers are hard to read and hard to please. Schools that don’t work in transparent, public ways to deliver  better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands will find themselves left behind in a world of rapid change.

Inspire communication.  Information necessary to delivering  better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands is located in repositories within and outside schools. Communication needs to be multidirectional and transcend the school’s boundaries to tap and use that information.

What’s your opinion? Can education survive without delivering better, faster, cheaper, more convenient and more personalized learning for students that’s smaller and lighter in its infrastructure demands?

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