Monday, December 12, 2011

Saying, Doing, And What They Suggest

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If actions speak louder than words and we are judged more by what we do than what we say, then what does it mean when nothing gets done?  If there is no progress, movement, or any obvious attempt to do so, is there any leadership?

For example:

You are in a group of people who were invited to attend a party.  When you arrive, you and the others are shown into a large waiting room.  There are no instructions, but in the room are three doors.  Each door leads to another room (unknown to the group is that all three doors lead to the party).  You can hear the party going on, but are unsure which door leads to it.
What should you do?  Well, you have choices.
  1. Do nothing and wait for someone from the party to arrive and tell you what to do.
  2. Do nothing and wait for someone in the room with you to try the door(s).
  3. Discuss what to do with others in the room.
  4. Get up and open a door.

I think individual schools are often like the people waiting in the room.  They can hear great things going on around us.  They are aware of the potential impact that making the next step will have.  They know others are doing great things in the "next room."  Their challenge is deciding what to do.  

Some experts on decision making may suggest that because there are multiple options, schools have trouble deciding which one is best and fall back on the default choice - to continue to do what they are doing now (in the example above, that is choice 1).  This is similar to what Dan Ariely implies in Predictably Irrational; that because the decision is important we often cannot decide and therefore are subject to the decision someone else made for us (sit in the room).  This is the same mindset I wrote about in Why Some Resist Tech Integration in School.

At some point, someone needs to get up and try a door.  That person (or group of people) is the leader.  Not just because she took the initiative and risked failure; it is also because taking action caused others to move.  She opens the door, finds the party, and goes in.  Guess what happens?  Others get up and go in with her.

Saying suggests doing.  Once spoken, most people expect a follow up in the form of action.  The risk of saying is losing credibility, unless you actually follow through.

Doing suggests engagement, investment, and the acceptance of judgement that comes along with action.  The risk of doing is learning from the experience, even if the outcome is not exactly what you expected.

Try another door.
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