Byron's Babbles

Making Your Conversations Count!

Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful EngagementConversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement by Jackie Stavros

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anyone involved in leadership or in education needs to read this book. I love the fact that it has education examples with actual stories from teacher and student interactions. This books helps the reader to better understand how appreciation and inquiry enhance relationships as well as productivity and performance. After reading this book I realize how important it is to bring an appreciative dimension to conversations and add value. We have all been involved in conversations where someone is bringing the depreciative dimension and devaluing the conversation. In this book we are given the guide to be generative in our conversations. Our community, whether an organization, school, classroom, or business is defined by the conversations we have. If we want our conversations to be meaningful in shaping and defining the future of those we serve then we need to use appreciative inquiry and make those conversations generate greatness. Find out how in this book!

Dr. Byron L. Ernest

View all my reviews

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You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

This guest post originally appeared on the Conversations Worth Having Blog

You Can’t Know It All So You Might As Well Be Curious!

By Cheri Torres

Adopt an attitude of curiosity about life. When we are genuinely curious, we naturally ask generative questions. Such questions:

• Make room for diverse and different perspectives. How do you see it?

• Surface new information and knowledge. How did they manage this process at your previous place of work?

• Stimulate creativity and innovation. What might be possible if we . . .?

When dealing with any issue, even difficult issues, generative questions make unseen information visible and result in conversations that create trust, positive energy, and the transformative power to move the system forward in a desired direction. The result: new ways for solving complex problems and compelling images for collective action.  Here is a table from our book, Conversations Worth Having.

Here’s an example that parents of teenagers will easily relate to. Monica, mother of a teenage boy, uses generative questions to change the conversational dynamic with her son. Monica had been in the midst of a recurring argument with her son, Aiden. She was tired of the same old interaction that never produced a way forward. Aiden wanted to borrow the car over the weekend to go ‘do things’ with his friends, and Monica didn’t like the idea of him joyriding with the possibility of getting into trouble. Their critical conversations had created a rift between them, which saddened Monica, but she didn’t know what else to do. Suddenly, in mid-conversation, it occurred to her she could use the practice she’s learned at work for shifting the tone and direction of a conversation. When Aiden started to reiterate the argument, Monica held up her hand, paused and said, “I really do understand why you want the car, and I hope you understand why I’m worried for your safety and well-being. So, how can we have a more productive conversation? How can we come to some agreement that allows you to get the car and me to feel comfortable that you’ll make good decisions, even if your friends are pressuring you?”

Aiden was stopped in his tracks. This time it was his turn to pause, and then they began a brand new conversation that promised to be worthwhile . . . and it was. Monica’s question allowed Aiden to let his mom know he did understand. He shared that sometimes he was glad he hadn’t been allowed to have the car because of where his friends ended up. But other times, he’d missed out on experiences he wanted to have and at those times, he felt she was being over protective. Upon hearing that, she realized she hadn’t even considered that part of the stalemate might be her own refusal to let go. They eventually arrived at an agreement to start small and keep expanding car privileges as trust and confidence grew between them.

Monica shifted the conversation out of critical debate and into a conversation worth having by reframing the situation and asking a generative question. This simple action shifted the tone and direction of the conversation. It allowed both of them to step back, reflect for a moment, and be more open and honest, and this shifted the outcome of their interaction.  [To read more stories like this, order Conversations Worth Having today.]

This is one of the most valuable practices you can develop for building strong relationships, expanding the potential of a group, surfacing possibilities in the face of challenges, and rapidly moving towards desired goals.

Generative questions often arise naturally when we frame a conversation around what we want but don’t currently have. For example, “I don’t have the money to buy a new car” to “I do have the money to buy a new car.” It’s as if the second statement primes our question generator automatically:

• “Where did the money come from?”

• “What did I do to earn, find, or save it?”

• “What miracle might occur to support that?”

• “I wonder how I could ask for a raise, it’s been six years, and they tell me I’m a real asset.” What if I frame it as an adjustment in pay?

• “What if I offered a workshop and had just enough people coming to pay for the car?”

Take the opportunity now to try this little miracle maker with your own problems or “don’t wants”.  Flip it, and then let the generative questions flow. Let your curiosity and imagination help you turn the flip into your future reality. You can download the Executive Summary for an overview of the practices and principles.

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About Cheri Torres:

Cheri Torres, Ph.D. brings the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, design thinking, and an ecological worldview to communities and organizations striving for sustainable growth. Her work facilitates learning, innovation, and dynamic interpersonal relationships capable of achieving remarkable outcomes. Cheri has worked with diverse communities across the globe, from public schools and community organizations to corporations and government entities, to elevate their strengths and broaden their capacity for collaboration and collective intelligence. She has trained thousands of trainers and teachers in the use and practice of Appreciative Inquiry and Experiential Learning, with a particular focus on leadership development, teamwork, creativity, and sustainable collaboration.

She has authored or co-authored numerous books and articles, the newest of which is Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement co-authored with Jackie Stavros.

Excited About Learning!

img_2534Last week when I was in Germany and Switzerland, I made the comment a few times that adults want to learn in the same way that kids do. What prompted this was some of the learning we were doing while at some of the vocational and apprenticeship centers. As we were touring, there were a few times that I asked our guide (usually an apprenticeship student) if I could try the equipment. At one point I was able to run the robotic welder. This was important to me because I am a very hands on learner. I needed to experience what the students experience.

This is really an extension of Howard Gardner’s Theory Of Multiple Intellienges. That theory does cross over into adult learning as well. One thing I have learned from the Harvard research is that adults really want to learn the same way kids do. And, when I got involved in a hands on way (engaged) I got very excited. Then, when others got involved, they got excited too. I already blogged about building a model truck in the Benteler Industry 4.0 Learning Factory. Click here to read Learning 4.0.

It was important for me to do this post because we need to be reminded occasionally what are important elements to remember when facilitating learning, whether for kids or adults. The big difference for adults is making sure we know our audience and what they are there to learn. Here are five things that need to happen. We must make the learning:

  1. Immediately transferable to their everyday life
  2. Relevant to the learners current context
  3. Welcoming – safe place to ask questions
  4. Engaging – consider the way each person learns
  5. Respectful – understanding every person comes from a different context or knowledge level

Think about it, if all five of those items happen, there will be a good chance that learning will occur. At least a much better chance than if I come in and listen to you talk and point at a PowerPoint.

In other words, the material presented should have immediate usefulness to the learners. Therefore it should have a real world context for the learners and the material should be relevant to adult learners’ lives right now. The material learned should also be able to be used right now as well.

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Two Very Excited Learners!

Furthermore, the learning environment should be welcoming so that all learners feel safe to participate. How the space is arranged is very important in adult learning and engagement. The learning needs to be facilitated in a way that engages the learners. Representative Bob Behning and I became partners and very engaged when we were allowed to build our own truck. We became curious and active participants in the learning. Really, an opportunity for learning was lost when all participants did not have the opportunity to be paired up and go through the whole 4.0 process. We were fortunate that one of the students realized how interested my partner and I were and bought in to us building a truck. The instructors also realized this and bought in. Fortunately, training for this Industry 4.0 training was presented in a respectful and safe manner, where learners have an opportunity to share their experiences. The learning environment needs to also be a place where it is ok to not have a great deal of knowledge about the topic. We need to remember that just like when teaching young students, adults in a group will all be at different places in terms of knowledge. When facilitating Learning we must recognize the unique background and experience of people.

As you can see it is very important to consider how adult learners just as we do our student learners. Really, as adults we want to learn just like children. Let’s strive to make sure we are creating learning environments that allow adults we work with be curious and engaged.

Reaching For New Heights In Talent Development

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Bern Switzerland

Because my job now involves talent identification, training, retention and helping educators discover, develop, and distribute skills in leadership and their craft (what we at Noble Education Initiative call 3D Leadership™), I have been thinking about this a great deal the past few days while in Germany and Switzerland. While our Indiana delegation organized by Horizon Education Alliance has been focusing on educating students in the 10-18 year old space (high school for Indiana), many of the principles apply to any age or experience group. The application to any age group is important because of the number of incumbent workers, those adults already in the workforce who need training or retraining, in Indiana (I am sure this is the same for many other states, industries, or countries). I really like the idea of a dual track approach to learning in Switzerland. Students are in class one to two days per week, depending on their program of study and then three to four days per week in meaningful employment (apprenticeship).

IMG_1537 Yesterday, our Indiana delegation spent time with CSL Behring in Bern Switzerland studying their talent development. Talent development for this great company includes upskilling current and new employees, soft skill development training, leadership training, and apprenticeships. It impresses me that this company takes a holistic approach to being a talent magnet.

CSL Behring‘s vision for talent development says it all:

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The pillars are the most important part here in my view:

  • Pioneering
  • Reliability
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit
  • Passion

CSL Behring is committed to working on these pillars with not only young apprentices, but with all employees. Let me dig a little deeper and give you my take on the four pillars.

Pioneering

Pioneering leaders are adventurous — driven to keep seeking bigger and better roles, products, and experiences. They inspire a team to venture into uncharted territory. We get caught up in their passion to grow, expand, and explore. Pioneers have a high need for freedom and see opportunities where others don’t. The pioneering leader reminds us that innovation doesn’t happen without active exploration.

Reliability

Reliability means that you do what you promised to do and that others can count on you. It is a positive social character trait. People don’t like to deal with those who are unreliable. They’d rather give their business and rewards to someone they can count on. Being considered reliable means that you are conscientious and keep your promises. A reliable person does not make excuses. A reliable worker will be trusted to do the job as promised and can reap the rewards of raises and promotions. A business that has a reputation of being reliable or making reliable products will get repeat and new business, as well as reducing costs of rework or repair.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

This is about employees thinking like owners. This entrepreneurial spirit is really an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It’s a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement. It really boils down to taking ownership and pride in one’s organization.

Passion

Passion, without compromise, is the fuel behind all great leaders. If we want outstanding employee engagement, then we must help those in our organizations find their passion. This is particularly true with young apprentices. I don’t think we are even scratching the service on what needs to be done to help our young scholars find their passion. Leadership is the passion toward each team member, pushing them toward a higher level of accomplishment. Leadership is the passion for continuous and deliberate self-improvement.

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Noble Education Initiative’s 3D Leadership™ Approach

Here’s what I’ve learned, we must be providing practical know-how and the skills needed for all occupation. Incumbent workers and young apprentice scholars need to have an active part in the production process of the industry he or she is studying to be a part of. In the classroom we must be developing technical, methodological and social skills, theoretical, and general principles. I have been calling these the core competencies and transferable skills. We also need to figure out how to leverage our third party providers of technical skills and knowledge for our students. We owe it to all our learners to provide high quality training that is delivered through state-of-the-art teaching and efficient transfer into practice™.

Application of Practice & Theory

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Valerie and I

As I prepared for dinner last evening in Bern Switzerland, I had no idea what I was in store for. First of all, the views of the Swiss Alps were breathtaking. The meal was absolutely awesome! The restaurant first opened in 1862. But, it was the conversation with our waitress that blew me away.

Here I was in Switzerland with a delegation from Indiana organized by Horizon Education Alliance to learn about vocational education and apprenticeships, and all of the sudden I am in a conversation with our waitress, Valerie, who was in her last year (4th year) of apprenticeship in Service. She was two months away from taking her final exam. She will earn a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training in Service. Valerie was outstanding at serving us and spoke incredible English. Most would say she spoke better English than me.

Check out the video of me introducing Valerie to our delegation and telling her story here:

Valerie really values the apprenticeship program she is a part of. She explained that she really likes the fact that she is learning in a real world context. As the guy who really values teaching in a relevant context, this was amazing to me. In Valerie’s case she went to her vocational school two days per week and then works in the restaurant three days per week learning the business. In addition, every so many weeks she got to what are called “Branch Courses” to learn specific skills. One of the themes that has come out in the Swiss model is the belief that a student should not just “know it,” but “know it and do it.” This is an applied model.

“A Swiss Apprenticeship doesn’t define you for life, but it is designed to prepare you for life.” ~ Ambassador Suzi and Eric Levine

When I asked Valerie what she thought could be improved about the way she was being educated she talked about career exploration/guidance and how students are sometimes “pushed” into different areas. Valerie explained career guidance is very important and believed she needed more. She also discussed that she believes her teachers in compulsory education (k-10) do not know enough about business and industry. This caused a lot of discussion in our study group about needing more teacher externships. We need to really ramp up the number of our teachers we are putting out into actual workplace environments to learn first hand about the places their students will be working.

IMG_2574When we get push back in the policy-making space about how having Graduation Pathways in Indiana and providing more opportunities for students makes more work for counselors, I disagree. As a former teacher, I believe teachers have the closest relationships with students and must take on part of the responsibility of helping guide students to post-secondary paths and choices. Valerie was also concerned that student sometimes get pushed into the wrong area of interest.

IMG_2550In Switzerland 2/3 of the students do vocational/apprenticeship training while a third go on to college. I believe it is great that in Switzerland wanting a vocational education is not the second choice. In the United States we need to really work on making sure students understand the value of vocational education and apprenticeship programs. We need to make sure that students and families understand that it is just as great of education to go the career and technical education and going to a university. It is all about what the student wants to go into and where the high wage, high demand jobs are.

Furthermore, Valerie really has lots of options with her apprenticeship program – what the Swiss call “Permeability.” She can go straight into the workforce, or go to the university, or into professional education. See the chart below:

IMG_2565Make no mistake as you read this post. I do not want us (Indiana) to copy the Swiss model. I do not believe you can just cut and paste or copy another system into our own, But…I do believe there are pieces of the Swiss model that was started in 1932 that we could use in our system to better our apprenticeship programs for our students.

Fully Qualified Worker

IMG_2533The past two days in Paderborn Germany have been awesome. Our Horizon Education Alliance education study group had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time at the Benteler Education and Training Center. We have spent a lot of time learning about the German Dual System of Apprenticeship and vocational training. Students in Germany can chose a company/employer apprentice or college training. See pictures here to get an idea of the German system:

IMG_2500IMG_2502IMG_2501The German system is intriguing and I am amazed how much the companies take responsibility for being part of the training. Students have the opportunity to do two week internships to help them sort out what they want to do. Then, if the apprenticeship option is chosen they can then apply to companies. This can either happen after year 10 in school or can be chosen to do after year 12 in conjunction with the university.

IMG_2497We had the chance to spend time with Benteler’s student touring and getting a first hand look at how the final examination/certification process works for the apprenticeship program. This examination is taken in two parts. One part is taken after 1 1/2 years in the apprenticeship and the other part is taken after 3 1/2 (the end) of the apprenticeship. The examination contains a theoretical part and a practicum part where the apprentice is doing an actual project in his/her chosen field of study.

I am amazed at the community that Benteler has formed to educate the students. The students are very engaged and interested in the process. In fact, I had the opportunity to have a student teach me how to use a robot welder. The same welder that would be used and in the same way he was taught in the apprenticeship program. This was a great experience for me to put myself in the shoes of the student. Here is a video clip of part of my robotics certification training:

IMG_2528This was such an awesome experience and it is so incredible that Benteler has made the investment here in Paderborn Germany to educate its workers and these students. Due to Industry 4.0, the BENTELER training program has become very important to having a highly trained workforce and is constantly changing, integrating content and thus adapting it to the needs of the market. I was proud to be award an Industry 4.0 certification while I was there and again was really glad I took the opportunity to interact with the students and experience education from their point of view. Have you ever taken time to visit a school and experience life from the viewpoint of the student? You should!

From Best Practice To Next Practice

IMG_2336Today was the final day of the 2nd Annual Global Smart Manufacturing Summit in Berlin, Germany. I really valued the time to get to know business and industry leaders from around the world. I was reminded of what my good friend Kevin Eikenberry and I used to talk about a lot – when we look at the differences between different industries (eg. manufacturing vs. education), we see about 90-95% of our issues being the same and about 5-10% different. What I mean here is that many of the challenges and roads to improvement are the same. Think about it, we all have responsibility in finance, HR, facilities, and customers. If we break that down further, we all have one of the same groups within the customer category – employees. Now, I get it; our employees are our competitive advantage, but employees are still a customer to be taken care of at the highest level.

Organizational Commitment

The first session this morning was about initiatives and organizational commitment. As a believer in learning organizations, I was really enamored by the discussion of organizational commitment. This thinking really fits with a lot of the Gallup® research I have been studying around employee engagement. When we discuss organizational commitment, we are talking about the bond employees experience with their organization. Broadly speaking, we know employees who are committed to their organization generally feel a connection with their organization, feel that they fit in, and believe they understand the goals of their organization.

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 8.25.16 PMNext Practice

One of the session titles this morning was “From Best Practice To Next Practice.” I really appreciated this session because we talk a lot in education about “best practices,” but really it is about making the right choice and implementing the next practice. Good or bad, I tend to be the one looking for the next practices. Really, that is what this entire discussion was about for the global leaders here: what are the next practices.

Convergence

Then, it comes down to convergence. How do we take several sources of independent data and bring them together to develop strong conclusions? In education we call this using “multiple data points.” I don’t think we do the best job of bringing all the data points together. For example, this week I was reading and article about teacher pay and how it was decreasing. I question if we have been properly converging HR, financial planning, and student data in a way that would inform what we have been paying our teachers in Indiana. I’ll let you grapple with my comment here, but you get the point.

Problems

One of the comments that I loved most today was, “We shouldn’t be talking about the problems of today, but the problems of tomorrow.” This is so true! This means in education we need to be looking several years out as to what business and industry needs. We also need to think about what our execution model will be for making sure our students have the skills necessary to meet the needs of the workforce. A few phrases/questions coming from the global manufacturing leaders that jumped out at me were:

  • What data is coming from where?
  • How do you use your data?
  • Appropriate levels of (you fill in the blank here)
  • Move from reactive to predictive and preventative

Outcomes

All of this discussion has made me an hinkeven bigger believer in us (both Indiana and the United States) needing to move to a strictly outcomes based school accountability system. We could then, truly in partnership with business/industry and higher education, determine what transferable skills students need and have coming out of high school. Then we can match those transferable skills to outcomes that the students needs to accomplish. Here are some examples and outcomes:

  • industry certifications
  • 4 year degrees
  • Associate degrees
  • Trade school
  • Joining the military
  • Meaningful employment

At a time when our state has 75,000 jobs per year going unfilled because there are not skilled workers to take those jobs, we need to be thinking about the outcomes for our students. Thus the skills gap of only 42% having any kind of post-secondary preparedness versus the 75% needed.

If we are going to have our students ready for the workforce we will need to:

  • Teach students in a real world and relevant context
  • Enable, encourage, and stimulate students to be curious
  • Teach students how to fail and that it is o.k. to fail
  • Engage students in career exploration activities at a young age
  • Determine the transferable skills needed to have students ready for today’s jobs
  • Teach students to be disruptors
  • Provide pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, and work based learning internships

Business and Industry engagement in education programs not only prepares students with the skills they need for careers, but it also contributes to the development of clearly developed career pathways that lead students to careers after graduation.

What Does Industry 4.0 Mean?

IMG_2367Today, I had the honor of being in attendance at the 2nd Annual Global Smart Manufacturing Summit in Berlin, Germany. One of the topics we grappled with was of what does Industry 4.0 mean? Ron Zahavi, Chief Strategist for IoT Standards and Consortia, Microsoft Corporation did a great job of walking us through some history.

Industry 1.0

This is the first industrial revolution:

  • Technology such as wheels and engines replaced artisans
  • Child labor laws had to be introduced to prevent abuse

Industry 2.0

  • Assembly lines allowed workers to be turned into consumers

Industry 3.0

  • Lean Processes improved the quality of products
  • Advent of computer use
  • Robots reduced mistakes and improved productivity and safety, but began replacing people

Industry 4.0

  • Big data and analytics
  • Autonomous robots
  • Simulation
  • Horizontal and vertical system integration
  • The industrial Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Cybersecurity
  • Additive Manufacturing/Advanced Manufacturing
  • Augmented Reality

Interestingly, in all these cases technology and mechanization are involved, but in the revolutions of Industry 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0, I wonder if we forgot how important people are. We must remember as we navigate Industry 4.0 that people are more important that the devices and technology.

In my world of educating young scholars and creating education policy, we have a responsibility to make sure as we move to Industry 4.0 to put people at the forefront. We do not want to make the same human mistakes with 4.0 that we made with the first three revolutions.

I really believe more than ever that we must make sure that we create space for industry to do as much of the training of our students as possible. Industry is in a good position to do this. What we have to do, though, is identify the transferable skills students need and institutionalize those skills in the framework of the internship learning being done in partnership with industry. This is crucial because of the mobility of our students.

We must be educating our students on the new things being done with Industry 4.0, but must also be educating them on the benefits. In other words, answering the question: How does this make life easier? Not just always pointing to financial improvement and the bottom line. We must begin to develop a workforce made up of the right quantity and right quality of workers. The skills we are preparing students with must match the needs of the workplace.

Industry 4.0 will require new skill sets, and manufacturers will need to attract the right talent. This may involve partnering with k-12 schools to train students. Existing training programs may need to be expanded to include new technologies that are introduced to the marketplace. Manufacturers also need to recruit for Industry 4.0, which may differ from how they have done it in the past. Both business and industry and education will need to stop all focus being on qualifications determined by degrees and certificates, companies should recruit for capabilities to succeed. These capabilities will include specialized skills.

For us to compete during Industry 4.0, it will require us to conduct constant iteration and be flexible. It’s not about buying software or purchasing a curriculum and then watching it all play out. To compete in Industry 4.0, the education sector and manufacturers must be flexible and agile in the face of change, and, most importantly, partner together.

 

Learning to Do, Doing to Learn!

Today, while in Berlin, Germany, I was reminded that what I always say, “Once an Agriculture Science teacher and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Director, always a CTE guy. As I visited with Yorck Sievers of The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, I was reminded just how engrained the FFA motto of, “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve” is to making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. This is also engrained in my core values of how to educate young scholars. The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag, DIHK) is the central organisation for 79 Chambers of Commerce and Industry, CCI (Industrie- und Handelskammern, IHKs) in Germany. All German companies registered in Germany, with the exception of handicraft businesses, the free professions and farms, are required by law to join a chamber.

The FFA motto gives members 12 short words to live by as they experience the opportunities in the organization. Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve. Learning by doing is also a cornerstone of the German education system. Whether someone wants to become a carpenter or a hotel concierge, she has probably gone though what is known as the dual education system. This system combines time spent in the classroom with work at a company. During our education research trip with Horizon Education Alliance, we learned about how Germany’s vocational education system pairs hands-on learning with classroom learning to give young people a leg up in the workforce. Most students graduate not only with a degree, but also with job experience and a deep knowledge of their trade. This vocational training offers a high degree of job security. The professional certifications issued to students at the end of their programs are well respected within their fields, and more than half of apprentices stay on as full-time employees at the businesses where they trained. They even get paid during their studies.

Check out a few slides from our meeting with Sievers:

During this time with Sievers we also learned that schools follow the companies and not the other way around. This training model is all about the future of the company, but the companies are not left alone. The companies need support. This is competency based education. The Chambers in Germany provide:

  1. Organization
  2. Registration
  3. Examination
  4. Certifications on a national level

In this German model there are courses that cover more than 350 different occupations that are approved by the businesses and federal bodies overseeing the program. In Germany, they are truly walking the talk by facilitating students for “Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.”

What Do You Think?

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Governor Eric Holcomb

I had the opportunity to meet with an impressive group of community leaders this past Friday. As we continue to work through the guidance and implementation of our new Indiana Graduation Pathways, of which I chaired the panel that created this policy, we are working very hard to learn from the groups in the state that have been doing this work already and successfully. The Community Education Coalition and Economic Opportunities through Education (EcO) Network in southeast Indiana is one such group that brings educators, manufacturing leaders, workforce, and community-based organizations together to coordinate and align educational program offerings for students to successfully connect with well-paying manufacturing occupations.

Last year, the Indiana State Board of Education was charged with establishing graduation pathways per HEA 1003. The goal was to create an educated and talented workforce able not just to meet the needs of business and higher education, but also have students able to succeed in all post-secondary endeavors. To account for the rapidly changing, global economy, every K-12 student needs to be given the tools to succeed in some form of quality post-secondary education and training, including an industry recognized certificate program, an associate’s degree program, or a bachelor’s degree program. Every student should graduate from high school with 1) a broad awareness of and engagement with individual career interests and associated career options, 2) a strong foundation of academic and technical skills, and 3) demonstrable employability skills that lead directly to meaningful opportunities for post-secondary education, training, and gainful employment. During the process of our panel convenings we did a lot of asking, “What do you think?” Now, thanks to the Community Education Coalition we are able to continue to ask “what do you think?” as we work through making sure schools are able to put the pathways in place for students. We are so grateful that they put the event together last week that included Governor Eric Holcomb, State Legislators and Policy Makers, business and industry leaders, higher education leaders, K-12 school leaders, and most importantly students. There was a lot of question asking and learning going on.

IMG_2035The partners and facilitators of the Community Education Coalition and EcO initiatives have learned to make inquiry a habit of mind, thereby initiating a long-term commitment to continual improvement and growth. This coalition has developed an outstanding process that uses the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” in order to identify key community issues. You can bet the four words of, “What do you think? are asked in this process. Essential to the success of this process was collaboration with colleagues across different disciplines for clarifying their questions and for understanding and analyzing the data they collected. For example, data like: high school graduation rate, education attainment growth, STEM enrollment growth rate, GDP per capita, employment growth, and average annual wages are used as outcomes to measure success.

IMG_2005This data is then able to be used by stakeholders to answer the questions of “who?, why?, what?, and how?” and the question of: What do you think? We are reminded of how important these four words are in Gem #7 entitled “Four Magic Words: ‘What do you think’” in 52 Leadership Gems: Practical and Quick Insights For Leading Others by John Parker Stewart. In this lesson Stewart reminds us that leaders often fall into the trap of assuming they have the right answer. I am also reminded of the teaching of one of my heroes in community work, Peter Block, who believes that effective leaders are not problem solvers, but conveners of communities of people to solve issues.

“Using these four inclusive words [What do you think?] is evidence of an effective and healthy leader who actively listens to the input of the members of the team.” ~ John Parker Stewart

All research is messy and recursive; and it has been my experience that collaborative inquiry is more so because no one knows the end. You are not starting with answers, but with questions. Throughout the process, partners reflect on what is being observed and found out. The stakeholders may change direction, ask new questions, challenge the inconsistencies they discover, seek new perspectives, and fill gaps in their information. During our gathering on Friday we were reminded over and over that the process of connecting the stakeholders is more important than looking at programs. It would be very hard to replicate programs in all parts of the state, but it would not be hard to replicate the process of deciding what programs are needed and developing programs specific to each area. It is all about bringing collaboration to scale.

To do this we must remember to ask the pertinent questions, listen, and ask “what do you think?”