#44 Scaling Innovation in Education with Ted Fujimoto

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Innovation. You’ve probably seen the word being generously used across the media you consume. It’s the buzzword that many companies and organizations strive to achieve and specifically mention in their strategy (including ours!).

A consulting firm, Board of Innovation, estimates that there are over 70,000 books written on innovation and the philosophies behind it. Despite its status as an overused term, it’s value is still appreciated and adopted by industries alike, including the education space.

However, education has been one of the sectors where innovation and change have been notoriously difficult to scale. Many cite challenges such as limited resources, under-compensated teachers, and students who are disengaged.

At WISE, we know that innovative education projects are taking shape in many forms across the globe.

What Is the Most Effective Way to Scale Innovation?

We talked to Ted Fujimoto, President of Landmark Consulting Group, in an attempt to crack the code.

Ted is an entrepreneur and expert in leadership development and organizational redesign. His guidance helped launch and expand the 400+ school organization, New Tech Network and the growth of Big Picture Learning. The network has become famous for its ‘speed scaling’ across the United States.

Here are a few of the topics that were discussed:

How Project-Based Learning Became a Focus for New Tech Network

Ted: “The thing about traditional school that really wasn’t helpful to me, and I got along with I would say 80% of the teachers, we all have that minority where we just don’t get along, but the relationships were there and they were all very helpful to me and trying to encourage me in their way.”

“Education talks about trying to prepare kids for the real world. They talk about all these goals, even social emotional learning and the idea of leadership and communication and some of these other skills outside academics – those are all the right goals for sure, but the distance between what they talk about and their goal to actual practice of high performance teams and companies of what you experience in real life today is like a huge chasm.”

“It’s a 24/7 mental and team exercise to figure out what do we need to iterate on to figure out how we navigate in this changing world, and that level of intensity – you don’t see that. Even just the time and space to be able to do that in the education system, so naturally they begin to fall behind.”

Having the Right Mindset and Culture in Schools

Ted: “We talk about school culture and the need to have healthy relationships, but how do we actually accomplish that? It can’t just happen out of good intention. There has to be a very deliberate way to make that happen.

“The idea of the power of importance of mindset and culture. You cannot just leave that to good intention, you have to have an intentional system to guarantee that mindset and culture as a foundation to be able to scale.”

“It’s culture first, trust, respect, responsibility, and having the sacred time and space in routines and protocols to enable people to actually build on that. From that, that gives a necessary platform to start solving the big problems on a macro and micro level.”

Working Around the Rigidity of the Education System

Ted: “Everyone wants to win, and they want to score big. Whether you’re failing school or very successful, everyone pretty much has the same goals. The difference is execution. Even when you can say ‘a particular team member didn’t pick up the technical skills needed to be successful’, then the question I ask is what’s getting in their way to pick up those technical skills that are needed. It always boils down to a personal agency of doing what you say you’re going to do, which detracts from the culture of trust, respect, and responsibility.”

The Importance of Creating Sacred Time and Space

Ted: “Every culture has a certain sacred time and space to bring people together to reinforce that belief system and a course of personal action based on that system.”

“With many of the new tech schools, they have a kind of backstage concert pass style lanyard that kids get when they enroll at the school, that we call a trust card. That trust card allows that kid to go anywhere in the building, even to the cafeteria to get food, anytime in their day without asking permission. As long as they maintain the culture of trust, respect, and responsibility, they have that trust card. If they violate it, they lose it and have to ask permission for everything, and they have to get agreement of their peers on what it takes to earn that trust back. Even the most ill-behaved students, they’ll lose it once and never again.”

Listen to the full conversation to learn more.