Monday, 15 September 2014

Indyref & Education: A Class Lesson From MIT & Silicon Valley

"What I don't understand is why, all of a sudden, my dad is so broke" Steve Jobs to 4th Grade Teacher

This statement has been the only glimmer of hope that I have had during some of the many dark days we've had to endure over the course of the previous 3 years. It truly has been one of the only examples that I had that made me think that "things would turn out all right in the long run"

It's been a bleak period for me and my family, both professionally and personally. Today I take the difficult decision of sharing our story.

Before I get to my story I have a few things to say about responsibility, leadership and collaboration. As you will see these organisational culture themes have been a constant presence in my blog from day 1. But my first ever post went unnoticed because I had no readership which, I think you might agree, is unfortunate.

Another unfortunate thing is that my experience is in sales and I am no writer. So, even if/when I do have any useful insights, they can easily get lost in some bad writing. This is extremely frustrating!

Therefore, if you are an educator who wants to see reform I would be extremely grateful if you could take a the time to read this post, including two of the links "The Race to Get to Class" and "Culture in Education: A House Divided Against itself Cannot Stand," and forgive any poor writing, I hope that you get the kind of value out of this that I think you will.

No Blame... All Responsibility
I take full responsibility for the role I have played in putting myself and my family in a horrendous and pretty untenable situation. For example; 
  • I have worked in small startups, with full knowledge of the high failure rates
  • I made poor decisions about the people I placed my trust in, including my children's educators
  • I have, intentionally, lived outside our means.
The outcome here has been that we have come close to eviction and bankruptcy. While I take full responsibility for this, there are others who have played a role with this. However, these people have never provided a satisfactory account for their actions. They chose instead to tell bare faced lies, which I can prove without a shadow of doubt but, because they are an elite organisation they appear to be "untouchable" it would appear that they are accountable to no regulatory body, so have gotten away with it!

I am writing this post today because my personal experiences have spilled into my "professional" life (NB I use the word professional in the loosest term as I have been unemployed for a while... although I have been more productive than ever, despite my only resource being an old refurbished laptop).

With MPs It's ALWAYS someone else's fault

Anyone following my Tweets will have noticed some very personal views on politics this week. When I found myself sending a moderate number of Tweets on politics I published this post "Getting Political...About Education"

Over the last few days the activities of the Westminster elite has angered me so much that my Tweets on Scottish Independence have been more frequent and opinionated, I feel it is time to explain this and to

Join up the Dots...
In his fantastic Stanford commencement speech Steve Jobs tells us how it's impossible to join up the dots without having the benefit of hindsight. Today I'm going to join up some dots...
  • I'll join the dots with my personal life by sharing relevant details with my professional contacts
  • I'll join the dots by forming the ideas from my very first blog post 2 years ago to detail why it is Westminster's toxic culture that has put the UK on the verge of break up, as the extent of Scotland's dissent has been expressed and 97% of the electorate have registered to vote.
  • I'll join the dots as I show how the ideas from this same post from 2 years ago were accurate, they have worked to good effect since I stopped focusing on the FE sector 3 months ago
  • I'll join up the dots regarding the importance of a culture of collaboration, but why this is stifled by poor leadership as decision makers make one of the biggest mistakes that a leader can make. 
Just Lead! Without the Usual Mistakes!
While I do discuss politics in this post, this isn't about's the exact opposite! It's about ignoring politics! It's about breaking the rules. Whether the macro politics of the useless people at Westminster/Holyrood, or the micro politics of your school/college or department.

Whether Westminster, The School/College or EdTech Companies leadership positions are filled by people that Adam Grant calls the "Takers" and "Fakers" and here is the biggest mistake these leaders make
What Do you Think It Is? Any Suggestions Before you Watch?
I've encountered "Takers" in politics, with employers as well as in Further Education. Unfortunately, as these people head up their organisation, they set the tone for the culture. A result of this is that these people are only out to see what they can get for themselves, they are also masters of manipulation to ensure they get what they want. Channel 4's "psychopath night" highlighted that the job with the largest number of psychopaths is CEOs. If this is the case, there will be room for improvement with culture.

I hope that my story, and whatever I have managed to achieve in the last 2 years, might inspire others to "Be the change." Please stop and consider for a moment how important this is. If YOU don't do what you can to facilitate change... WHO will? Our politicians? If a college does have an arrogant, bullying principal who doesn't listen will he/she even know that change is needed?

Maybe he/she is a "Taker" who is close to retirement so is "coasting" until then? Maybe they're more worried about their lucrative consultancy opportunities than running the college. Perhaps they think, if they rock the boat, it could cost them their OBE or some other accolade. I can imagine SMT members taking offence at this suggestion, therefore I feel compelled to provide at least one example: Scottish College Principal Quits Amid Bullying Claims

I've done "what I can, with what I've got" to affect change and improve outcomes for young people... But the only resource I have had is a PC and an internet connection (wifi which has borrowed from libraries and coffee shops at times when the phone line has been cut off).

Collaborate... as If Your Company (And Country) Depends on It!
With regard to "Doing what I can, with what I've got," as far as leadership is concerned, I've followed the advice of Adam Grant and Dave Logan and have been as collaborative as possible, to demonstrate the kind of results that are possible compared to this common "me, me, me" leadership culture.
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  • I have collaborated with a competitor to help raise funds
  • I have put my business plan online for others to see 
  • I have made an offer to help the Westminster Elite, while making it clear that I have no time at all for the political classes
  • As you will see below, I will be extending an offer to two orgs, one which has been directly responsible for putting me in this situation, the other partially responsible.
Has this willingness to collaborate backfired in anyway as "Takers" have taken advantage of this generosity? Absolutely! On a number of occasions! But it's also helped me find a few like minded people as well. I hope that, together, we will be able to facilitate some further changes.

As you read on, please don't see this story as a political one. It's more about change than anything... and I guarantee that everyone in education who is reading this has more resources than I do at the moment to facilitate change!!! Right, cue that old and sad Radio 1 song they used to play before "Our Story".

The Race to Get to Class
In 2012 the number of medals won at the London Olympics by Private Vs State education raised the issue of inequalities (again). I thought this was a good opportunity to pen an article about my own struggles with social mobility and experiences with the elite, complete with their arrogance and desperate need to win at all costs... even if this meant consistently distorting the facts (A LOT), but refusing to offer any explanations when taken to task over any inconsistencies.

This article was very much a cathartic exercise, although I did consider publishing it. However, for the reasons highlighted above, I did not. I was extremely uncomfortable blurring my personal struggles and failures with my education contacts.

Last week I struggled with the decision of whether or not to get involved with the Scottish Independence debate on Social Media. As you read on, you may find it difficult to believe that my initial voting intention was between "No, thanks" and spoiling my ballot. However, the more the "Better Together" campaign has progressed... The more that some real bad memories have been evoked.

I have experienced firsthand what the Westminster Elite are doing in this campaign, which is that their elitist attitude means that they have a "win at all costs attitude," and the fact they are arrogant enough to think that the rules don't apply to them. To an extent they are of course right, they don't have to play by the rules... there is always someone they know who can get them out of any trouble if they get caught "bending the rules" and/or any of their other transgressions go awry.

My views on Twitter have become so strong that, in an attempt to maintain any credibility I may have established with educators, I feel there is no option but to share the reason for these forthright and rebellious views. Just as this experience was (and is!) painful to go through, it is also not easy to share this personal Journey. The few critical friends that I shared this with in 2012 told me how compelling and heartbreaking they found it. Here it is:

The Race to Get to Class

I would like to draw particular attention to the point made at the end of this article, where I state that:

"I will do what I can to help people from disadvantaged areas and to play a role in helping them reach their potential" 

Making a Difference
The Better Together campaign has elements of what I have experienced: inequalities, win at all costs, call in favours and we're so elite that we're above reproach that the rules don't apply to us. This can also be seen with expenses, employing members of family and other things. A quick 

"We're sorry, we've listened, we've learnt"

Then it's back to the Ivory Towers and it's "business as usual" I cannot see this ever changing. On the other hand, I have some ideas that could wring in the changes...and can be found in my very first blog post 2 years ago. While I did not publish this "Race to Get to Class" article, I did share these experiences in a different way. I offered some solutions when in the eye of the storm of my battle with the untouchable elite.

Given all my experiences and, as this was my first blog post, this article does not exactly conform to the traditional form of 700-1600 words, but I remember publishing this was extremely important to me. Despite its length a lot of my FE contacts did read it and I had some glowing comments and feedback about it.I was especially pleased when Jay Matthews (Author of "Work Hard. Be Nice) and Mike Feinberg complimented me on this post and my Culture Report.

This article was a prelude to my Culture in Education Report, which was, again, my attempt to take these painful experiences and try to do something positive with them to help marginalised and vulnerable groups.

The Big Clean Up Vs The Big Revolt
It was not until I reviewed this post recently that I realised just how insightful these ideas were. I hasten to add that this assessment is based on the fact that almost every project I am working on today (and am having success with) revolves around this blog post.

In addition to this, I suggested something like #TheBigClean up in this culture post. Today this is now taking place, although not in Education but on a national scale with the SNP wielding the broom that could bring in some sweeping changes.

We also saw glimpses of this during London 2012. Summer 2011 London Riots; Summer 2012 unity with Team GB. The importance of this has never been realised and/or developed. In an education context the running battle of words continued as Educators vilified Michael Gove he, in turn ignored teachers except to criticise or scrutinise... what an example of how much can be achieved when we are #bettertogether and their idea of employer/employee relations.

I would say that David Cameron's Big Society was a flop because he could not get the buy in from dissenters, in truth he doesn't appear that he tried very hard.

So the issues I discuss in this post were left un-addressed. Like many people, I believe that the dissent that is unraveling the UK is because of these very issues around inequality. However, what has added fuel to the fire (in a big way) are the campaign tactics of Better Together. They have tried to mobilise their tried and tested "Old Boys" network to "call in favours"... The very act of attempting this in an election (esp post News of the World) demonstrates the arrogance, hubris and sense of being above the rules... and may even give us a sense of what they see as their "entitlement to rule," are entrenched. The self interest of the establishment continues regardless, and has the very real potential do so forever more in Westminster.

Elitism is one thing, it is also always going to exist in one form or another. I would even argue an elitism, of sorts, is justifiable. If it's the right sort... one based on meritocracy and ability. Like a number of Tech startups I am a fan of Ayn Rand, and agree with John Galt's perspective.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made - before it can be looted or mooched - made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced" Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

In the real world we have Henry Ford observe:

There is no difficulty in picking out men. They pick themselves out because – although one hears a great deal about the lack of opportunity for advancement – the average workman is more interested in a steady job than he is in advancement. Scarcely more than five per cent of those who work for wages, while they have the desire to receive more money, have also the willingness to accept the additional responsibility and the additional work which goes with the higher places. Only about 25 per cent are even willing to be straw bosses, and most of them take that position because it carries with it more pay than working on a machine. Henry Ford, My Life and Work

Whether you agree with this or not, in order for there to be success and prosperity with any endeavour one thing is vital... There needs to be unity. Thanks to the divisive Conservative Government and Better Together Campaign, an independent Scotland could achieve great things

Silicon Valley... We're Great They're Not
I'm going to share 3 examples of exceptional leadership and ask you to consider this question:

Based on the "Yes" and "No" Campaigns, who do you think is most able to achieve this?

"Shackleton's leadership style was formed when working under people like Scott and vowing not to treat men they way he and his crew mates were treated. What he hated most about these jobs were pettiness, irresponsible bosses, insufferable working conditions and a lack of trust and respect among crew members. In the early expeditions which he led he learned that leadership that was rigid, remote, undemocratic, and uncertain didn't work. On the Endurance he focused on the one thing that that gave the best chance at reaching their goals: Unity"Shackleton
Dave Logan Ted Talk: Tribal Leadership

How Bad Leadership Helped Launch Silicon Valley
Consider Shockley's management style with Westminster's and all the people who said an Independent Scotland can't be successful. This creates a natural "We're Great, They're Not" Stage 4 culture and environment... What a great campaign legacy and spring board to establishing a new nation!

A word about the SNP: Education Minister #NoThanks!!
When trying to get my case heard about the injustice and lies of this school we went to every MP we could think of across both parliaments and every party, the result was the same... We're not interested!

This includes one Mike Russell, the SNPs Minister for Education, here is Mr Russell's reply to us at the time

"Not My Problem" Letter from Mike Russell
In addition to this any time I contacted Mr Russell or the Scottish Government about reports and projects has been working on, I found the correspondence to be as useless as Westminster's.

Add to this the fact that I think that what Mr Rusell has done with Scottish FE colleges is the same kind of questionable decision that I criticize Westminster for in my "Getting Political About Education" post. The feedback I have had from some of my Scottish FE contacts is that this policy has caused a lot of issues with the culture.

So, as you might imagine, I would prefer NOT to be involved with this individual in any capacity. However, I will liaise with and collaborate with ANYONE who is interested in the outcomes of our young people... another example of this is that, for the sake of parity, I need to extend an offer to collaborate with a former employer who I have no time for at all, but I will... if they accept the offer to collaborate in a way that could improve the quality of EdTech in the classroom.

As I say in the letter I sent to Nick Boles MP:

"I can help, I’ve been working on these ideas for years and know what the issues are and am confident that I have some solutions that would see results before the next reshuffle and make you look good. I’m happy to help, but I really am not interested in the usual nonsense that comes from dealing with “the political class”. 

"Yes Scotland" ...Lets Collaborate
I hope that my story for why I am supporting a "Yes Vote" has helped. This is why I think an independent Scotland is best for our young people's future. Westminster will not change! Are there issues with the SNP? Of course there are! They are still politicians, so I will be wary of them and anything they say... but it's time for change. It's time to say "Yes" to change.

This is not because of some ardent zealot, neither is this just some kind of personal revenge and baseless "hope" that things could be better. For example, I think there are parallels with how Silicon Valley was established to what is happening in Scotland, and why it could became a hub of innovation, It is also my belief that Scotland has the potential to do this. As for the size/population? With the right education standard... check out what's possible: If MIT alumni companies was a would be the 11th richest

Or maybe it's a mind set thing, maybe the "Yes" camp have more fun, take the right stance and have the right vision who believe that "Yes" could be best. I'll leave you to ponder this with these examples:

People who have Fun... are more adventurous Gaming can make a Better World (See 12.14sec-15.01)
What's your stance? Is It "No, Thanks?" Your Body Language Shapes Who you Are (See 16.06-21)
Bigger is Better? Really? Check your Eyesight: Goliath was the Best thing that Ever Happened to David
Even the Hopeless can have a fresh start-up Prisoners become Tech Start up Entrepreneurs 

United we Stand?
Regardless of what happens on the 18th, whether two separate Nations or a "United" Kingdom, one things for certain: If there is not a different kind of politics and different type of leadership, leaders who have a commitment to addressing inequalities and authentic collaboration then I doubt that Britain will be "Great" for a long time but, as the Occupy movements, London Riots and this ugly, divisive political campaign demonstrates...these will be recurring issues. Compare the big noise that the dissenting voices, arguments and recriminations from the Independence Referendum creates with this
The kind of Big Noise that a bit of collaboration can create
As for me? Who knows! I know what I want in my professional career, the problem is... it just doesn't seem to exist or I don't have the right experience (or connections. Lol!), I sure don't have the credit rating to establish the organisation I'd like to implement my ideas.

For anyone who has read Ayn Rand and "Doesn't get it," you'll maybe see why Howard Roark's character resonates with me... here are some Fountainhead Extracts

Who knows where it will all end up. Know anyone that's hiring... someone who has a great culture, a great product, and a desire to change the world for young people? ...Oh yeah, and an org that will collaborate with anyone - even competitors - and even if there is no clear business case? Oh and another thing, someone who doesn't mind a straight talking irreverent and dissenting voice if people decide to implement any rubbish ideas! Nope? Oh well... was worth a try. 

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