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Simon Sinek’s book Start with Why, has great points about beginning with WHY. I’ve been involved in several large scale technology initiatives and the why of what we’re doing has always been front and center. Having a shared vision is essential to any new educational initiative or innovation.  For your initiative to be successful, however, you must also focus on WHAT you want to achieve and HOW you want to get to desired results. Follow the steps below to put your initiative on the path to success.

Define the problem:
The WHY has to solve a problem in your organization. It isn’t enough to decide that you want to implement a 1:1 computing initiative without knowing what problem it will solve. All stakeholders should be involved in the decision making to take a big problem and make decisions about moving forward. Don’t underestimate the power of a few individuals to undermine the group efforts. Get the word out to everyone in as many ways as possible and invite them to participate. Everyone in the organization – your WHO – much know the vision and be able to explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Define the problem with as much detail as possible. Examples of problems you might want to tackle include declining literacy skills or low graduation rates.

Develop your outcomes:
You also need to look at the outcomes that you expect – the WHAT. What will it look like when your innovation goes viral throughout the organization? Paint a picture of the results that you expect. Rapid prototyping with small scale projects allows you to try out several strategies and will ultimately give you something tangible for everyone to see. For a 1:1 computing initiative, the WHAT isn’t a device but an outcome for student learning. If your problem is literacy skills and you believe that 1:1 computing will provide students with a collaborative environment for research, writing and publishing, you might want to pilot your solution with a team of teachers at your school and develop a model that others can follow.

Create a road map and measure your progress:
The devil is in the details and HOW you’re going to get to your desired outcomes. A recent news story talked about a school district that was ending their 1:1 computing initiative and looking for a way to recycle the computers. I’m sure that they talked about WHY but I wonder if their WHAT was about a device instead of an outcome? Was the problem in the implementation – the HOW? If certain steps aren’t taken by everyone, will you end up with silos of innovation?  People must work within teams and across teams for you to see widescale adoption of your initiative. A pilot program will allow you to develop a detailed plan and help you to determine the essential elements for success.

Measuring your progress along the way is a big part of HOW you will get to the finish line and see the desired results. Project management is key and it’s essential that everyone knows their role. Teams will be learning throughout the process and it’s always good to take the temperature with discussions that will help determine the next steps. It’s okay to fail on a small scale but fail quickly and use your experiences to iterate or even pivot if necessary.

As you continue to solve problems for your school or district, start with WHY, define WHAT your outcomes will be, and then decide HOW you’re going to get there. Your innovation will be successful when you get those three things right.



D. Teuber



August 2014
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