60 minutes piece on UMBC's President Freeman Hrabowski in which the power of teaming students in projects was discussed as training students to work and learn smarter. It made me think about the natural reluctance of many people and organizations to work together in collaborative efforts. Somehow our individual identities get threatened when we collaborate. Yet when we think of the two individuals who most revolutionized our digital world today, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, we forget that they were only one part of a team. Bill Gates had Paul Allen and Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak.It is very possible that Microsoft and Apple would never have happened if each had not met the other.
We can find many examples of teams creating the most successful efforts. With a sports team the blending of the skills of a team owner, a general manager, coaches and players have to work together to be successful. In Baltimore with the Orioles we see how when those elements don't exist you can't succeed as a team. Many of us feel that the Orioles won't be a winning team until they have a new owner.
What achieves student success? Today nothing seems to be debated more than how to improve student performance. Unfortunately the solution always seems to be focused on one element of the education system. Holding teachers to a higher degree of accountability or testing students more often seem to be the answers. I feel that each is doomed to fail because it doesn't address the issue in a team or collaborative manner. Success comes from a collaboration and team involvement that includes students, parents, teachers, principals, elected officials and communities in a coordinated effort. Leave out the involvement of one of those elements and the chain of success is broken.
Successful teams have some common elements:
1) Clear outcome to be achieved- How often do we go into an team effort with no more clear goal other than to "increase, improve or develop" a current situation. There needs to be a specific outcome to be achieved, how it will be achieved, who will be accountable for which element and when will it be achieved. Just the old "what , how, who and when."
2) Valuing of a diversity of skills and ideas- The most creative ideas are a blending of very different perspectives. New paradigms are most likely to come out of divergent thought.
3) Buy in by team members- Nothing dooms a team effort like reluctant team members. Teams need to have the ability to control their work and outcomes.
Take away for today---"Two heads really are better than one." Remember the computing power of a computer is the linking of many computer chips working in a coordinated manner.
So Newt Gingrich was was only hired by Freddie Mac as an "historian." There must be college history professors all over this country who are kicking themselves because they never realized that in Washington "historians" can make 10 or 20 times what a college professor can make.