What can school leaders learn from PepsiCo?

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo since 2006

Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo since 2006

My friend and collaborator Carla Silver recommended this recent Freakonomics Radio podcast featuring PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi.

Mid way through the episode, Nooyi talks about PepsiCo's R&D function:

I mean, very often I’d write [R&D] a note saying, “Look, I have six challenges I’d like to give you. And this is why I’m putting these challenges out to you.” And they loved it. Somebody else might say, “God, she’s wasting our time.” But to the R&D people? “Wow, this is great that the C.E.O.’s interested. She wants to use us to move the company to a better place.”

This got me wondering:

  1. Who does R&D at your school?
  2. Does the Head of School (or other school leader) issue R&D challenges? Does that person explain why these challenges are important for the school's future?
  3. How do people react to such challenges? Do they feel as though they are "wasting their time"? Or do they get excited about the opportunity to "move the [school] to a better place"?

In an age of "Whiplash," R&D could help to foster a culture of "Compass Over Maps" and "Disobedience Over Compliance." 

And—most important of all—to do so in a way that aligns to Mission and Vision.


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Christian Talbot