What Teachers can Learn from The Originals by Adam Grant

Recently I listened to the audiobook The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. Although the primary audience for his book are entrepreneurs and business people, many of his ideas are very applicable to teachers and school leaders.

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SOURCE: Amazon.com

Teachers too often bring each other down. We champion our causes (ed tech, project based learning, gamification, flipped learning, etc) and too often look down on other teachers who don’t share our excitement.

  • A documented phenomenon is horizontal hostility in which two groups with related but different views often are more critical of one another than people outside of the movement. For example,  research shows that  Conservatives, Orthodox Jews, Environmentalists, and Women Suffragists were more critical of different camps within their overall movement than outsiders often were.
  • Leaders need to look for similarities in our causes and build alliances instead of finding differences and tearing others down.

Punishments are ineffective for classroom management

  • When rules are backed by clear explanations, teenagers are less likely to break them.  Enforce discipline with a set of principles & values (e.g. We don’t do X in this classroom because we value respecting all people.)
  • Parents/teachers need to ultimately let children select values that best represents them
  • Empathy & guilt together can be highly effective, even for adults (e.g. A sign telling doctors hand washing prevents patients from catching diseases was significantly more effective than saying hand washing prevents you from catching diseases.)  We feel guilty about doing harm to others and often care less about ourselves.
  • The goal of effective ethical type of decision making is to move from a simple cost-benefit analysis to one of appropriateness—what would someone with my values do in this situation?

Persuade your principal to support your project by sharing its merits AND its weaknesses

  • Be forthright about the limitations of your ideas. When presenting them to others balance its merits with shortcomings. Your audience will see you as fair minded and as someone who has analyzed their proposal from multiple viewpoints

If you have a transformative idea, you have to share it over and over and over with your course team & administration before they might even consider it.

  • The exposure effect says that the more familiar people become with an idea, the more people like it but we have to be careful of overexposure.
  • Studies show that when we are exposed to an idea 10 to 20 times with enough variety in the way it’s presented and sufficient time between instances of presentation, the degree to which people like the idea increases significantly. We like what’s familiar to us. 

You don’t have to be the first to try blogging, Genius Hour, flipped learning, etc. but be sure you learn from the mistakes of those who were.

  • There isn’t always a benefit to being first, you can improve on and learn from the first mover.
  • Many startups (and initiatives) fail because the scale up faster than the market (or students/community) could bear.

If you’re trying to transform  your district, school, department or team start by trying to transform one class, one club/activity or just one project. 

  • If the vision is too bold and different from the current state, focus on taking small steps, and get your foot in the door. When persuading others start with the more practical how instead of the bolder why.
  • Link your new bold agenda to other familiar values and modify your argument to your audience. There’s a sweet spot so your argument is new enough so it’s not boring but not so new that people reject it immediately.
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