It's a Team of Teams world--are your learners prepared?

In “A Team of Teams World” in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Bill Drayton wrote,

Consider our traditional goals for education: to give students a body of knowledge and mastery of the associated rules so that they can go forth and be a potter or a banker for life. […]

We are moving rapidly into a world defined by change, which is the opposite of repetition. Whereas repeating parts fit together with repetition reinforcing repetition, we are now tipping into an equally coherent world where change begets and accelerates change. When one system changes, it bumps all those around it, and then they bump all those around them.

Value in this world comes not from providing the same thing over and over to a client, but from managing kaleidoscopic change processes that are busily bumping one another. Because one now needs to see and seize ever-changing opportunities, the new organizational model must be a fluid, open team of teams.

Drayton wrote those words five years ago.

Three years ago, Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote Team of Teams about the need for the modern organization to become a mission-aligned, adaptive team of teams.

Two years ago, I performed a PechaKucha talk at NAIS’s Annual Conference 2017, having been inspired by Gen. McChrystal’s thinking. I also invited Gen. McChrystal to Malvern Prep, where I was Head of School at the time.

Last week, I interviewed Sam Walker, author of The Captain Class (2017), who agreed that our students will have to solve more and more problems no one has seen or thought of before—and that the only way to do this successfully will be in adaptive teams.

And yet…

The vast majority of school involves learning as individuals and solving problems as individuals. Sure, there are occasional group projects, but they are the exception rather than the rule. So, some gut check questions:

  • How many of your teachers design scenarios for collaboration?

  • Do your teachers help students to practice collaboration skills and healthy group life?

  • How often do students have the chance to identify problems they have never thought about—and then work in teams to solve those problems? How often do those teams get to iterate on their work—that is, adapt?

It’s a team of teams world. Are your learners—both students and teachers—ready?


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