I remember vividly as a young principal when I started to drink the “edtech” Kool-Aid many years ago. It represented a true turning point in how I thought about change in education. Up until this point, my thinking was relatively traditional and as such, so was the culture of my school. However, I was motivated like never before to move beyond the nearly impenetrable walls I had mentally constructed that had inhibited me from moving beyond my comfort zone until this point. It was now time to become a true leader and that required being honest about where not only I was but also the culture of my school.
When I first attempted to channel this excitement into a call to action, I failed miserably. Basically, all I did was talk about what “I” wanted to accomplish and what “I” thought was important when it came to the purposeful use of technology in the classroom as a catalyst to improve outcomes. After some deep internal and external reflection, I soon realized that I failed to help my staff see the value for themselves when it came to shifting their practice in new and innovative ways. Herein lies the reason that most change initiatives fail. If people don’t see the value in what they are being asked to do, the chances increase that they won’t get on board.
I learned an important lesson that still sticks with me today. Change for the sake of change is often a recipe for disaster. My role as a leader was to alleviate fear, mitigate risk, and create the conditions where my staff wanted to change for their own sake as well as that of their students. While research and data certainly play a pivotal role in showcasing the value of change efforts, the real key is to make everyone part of the solution. Leaders who do this strive to:
- Create a shared vision
- Empower people
- Build capacity
- Improve outcomes
All of the above elements play a part in achieving collective efficacy, which is the belief that a group can work together effectively to achieve common goals. Some positive outcomes include improved group performance, increased motivation, greater resilience, and better problem-solving. Collective efficacy is hard to achieve without an initial sense of value in doing things differently.
Leaders need to be attuned to the fact that the world is rapidly evolving, something I discuss in detail in Digital Leadership. Abiding by the status quo doesn’t cut it, no matter where performance indicators reside. Herein lies a significant challenge when it comes to venturing down an innovative path. Organizations can become more efficient and effective by continuously looking for ways to improve processes and systems, but people need to understand the value from the beginning. Valuing change is critical because it helps to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation within an organization. When people value change, they are more open to new ideas and approaches and more willing to embrace and adapt to change when necessary.