Thursday, 21 May 2015

How2: The Kipp for Educators Professional Development

This is the second post which details my experience of spending some time with the HOW2 team for a couple of days last month. If I was to describe what they do in a sentence, I would say;

"HOW2 develops 'Classroom Ready' Infographics for Educators' Professional Development” 

As the founders’ story unfolded through sitting in on their strategy meetings, listening to the anecdotes at meal times and one-on-one conversations, I saw similarities with the background of HOW2 and "Work Hard. Be Nice." which is Jay Mathews’s book about the KIPP schools and the founders' story.


This post details how the HOW2 Team have “Worked Hard at Being Nice" to educators with their innovative Professional Development (PD) visual guides.

This startup idea was conceived while the founders where transforming a special school. One of the tools in their tool kit for achieving this was a massive amount of empathy and support for their staff.

Their passion for good PD and the desire to support the wider educator community with good PD became so strong that it led to them leaving the safety of classroom to head for the less certain startup land.

Here's how and why the founders came to identify that there was a need for what would eventually become "HOW2" and their visual demonstrations of teaching techniques.

The Happy Hippy Teacher… Popular, But Rubbish
 Read the Weird Teacher's book?
Here's the Happy Hippy Teachers
The first I hear about the origins of HOW2 is Co-Founder Oliver Caviglioli's hilarious, humble and self depreciating observation;

“I was a happy hippy teacher who was popular… But useless” 

Not content with the "useless" bit, he went looking for good PD to help improve his teaching, but couldn't find anything that was useful.

Straight away this reminds me of the introduction of Jay Mathews’s “Work Hard. Be Nice,” and how KIPP Founders Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin had grand plans to inspire a generation as young teachers but came to the realization that they were… well, “a bit rubbish” at teaching.

What changed this and what kept the young KIPP teachers in the teaching profession was the steady hand of an experienced teacher and mentor, the awe inspiring Harriett Ball.

Harriett Ball mentored & inspired the KIPP Founders ...
And her students... And other teachers.. And, well Everyone really
There was no Harriett Ball in Oliver’s school, and every method of PD that was available, he felt was... well, "a bit rubbish." Every solution had their strengths, but it also had its flaws.

Work Hard. Read Lots… And Question Everything!
So Oliver undertook a voyage of PD discovery that has lasted a lifetime. He is extremely knowledgeable about the various teaching techniques, methods and models. He also searched for personal and professional development outside the world of education (for more information on this in a future post).

There were all kinds of academic research some of which was accurate and has stood the test of time, others which were nothing more than fads based on the science of "hokum" (And they say EdTech sales people are like snake oil peddlers! Lol).

I think that Donald Clark highlights this extremely well in his presentation:
It's Not Just the EdTech that can be "A Bit Rubbish"
Check Donald Clark's 2,000 Years of Learning Theory
As Clark highlights, some of these models were not as effective as educators, policy makers and researchers first thought.

The research clearly worked, as Oliver did enough to survive the classroom. He even did a good enough job to bag the top job.

Walking the Walk Vs Dead Man Walking?
I believe what the HOW2 Founders partnership when working as Head and Deputy Head is similar with the results (and methods) the KIPP Founders achieve in their schools.

Dear reader, I am bursting to tell you the details of this story… but that’s a post in itself. What I will say, though, is this. If you:
  • Are a change agent 
  • Understand the role that physical space plays in facilitating change 
  • Appreciate the importance of culture 
This will be a right riveting read! I'm not sure if I'll be picking up this story in my blog, or if someone more experienced like Jay Mathews will want to tell it... But, if no one else does, I'd be honoured to give it a go!

The children had severe and complex learning difficulties and associated medical conditions that made a comprehensive care regime a necessity AND given the fact that there were no carpets in corridors or classrooms, there was no curriculum as such beyond that of a 1970s behavioural checklist. And resources and associated knowledge that might support a more modern approach seemed limited. It is perhaps no surprise that, HOW2 co-founder and Deputy Head, Ian Harris' immediate impression was that the environment and culture  were more akin to that of a hospital where care came first rather than a school where care was given to ensure that teaching could occur.
"Environment and culture was more akin to that of a hospital"
Could have been worse... It could have been like a Prison  
When the KIPP founders were starting out they found it a challenge to convince parents that their kids would be in good hands with:

Two young teachers... In a new school... Which was outside of the traditional system

Now that's a tough sell! Not sure that I would have applied for that job!

When all other presentation content and styles failed the KIPP founders went for a more direct approach: Desperate, passionate... and brutally honest. Their opening statement was:

"80% of the kids in this area will be in jail by the time they are 21... 
We want to make that 80% of kids graduate from college when they are 21!"

So the outcomes for the kids at Oliver's school could have been worse! Nevertheless, a lot more education was now going on and, as a result of Oliver's professional development initiatives, the level of teaching improved.

Through self learning and sourcing his own PD he went from "Popular... but 'a bit rubbish" to "Extremely well respected... and exceptional" not just as an educator but as a change agent and mentor.

Oliver's learning and unorthodox approach to PD was soon applied to his staff in his new role as Head Teacher.

A Hire Learning...
A few months before starting at the school Oliver saw an enterprising young teacher do some incredible things with students with learning difficulties.

This was Oliver’s first hire at his new school: Ian Harris, his future HOW2 business partner. A special partnership had begun. The changes were as immediate and significant as they were unorthodox. This included Professional Development.

...But Low Expectations?
Just like the opening session of HOW2's strategy meeting, any time the topic of teacher assessment came up at the school, Oliver and Ian made sure staff knew who's side they were on, and left their colleagues in no doubt what the purpose of the assessment was for.

“Assessing the teachers at the school when we started would have been like telling a fireman to go out and put out a fire without a hose!

There was no curriculum, no training, no resources and no support, and our staff didn’t deserve that! So we put the right infrastructure and the right culture in place BEFORE we assessed any staff"

I've never taught but, from what I understand about teacher assessments and the culture at many schools, this sounds like some radical stuff! Quite the departure from the culture of associating assessments with Ofsted who, at best plays the role of "Big brother is watching;" at worst "The bogyman of education"

I imagine that the fight with the authorities regarding any conversations between Ofsted and Local Authority bureaucrats etc, these conversations might even have been as challenging as it was for KIPP to get all stakeholders (Superintendents, schools, parents, etc.) to give them the space, permission and paperwork they needed to establish their first class.

A Lasting Legacy
Through his meticulous research Oliver understood that in order to make lasting changes at a school takes 10 years, he worked there for 11 and, in grand "Good to Great" style, he made sure that the right succession preparation and the relevant staff training (obviously) had been done.

Ian moved on after 2 years but their partnership had been established, and they remained in contact. They collaborated on various PD projects and resources like training sessions, writing books and some early "How to" Wise Guides (The hard copies of these are a really elegant designs)
HOW2 Mapping their way to "Product Market Fit"

HOW2 Quantify Clarity in Teaching Practice 
In the US a lot of startups have core values that help inform the actions of the organisation. I'm not sure if HOW2 go in for "core values" or "mission statements." If they did I would imagine that they would include concepts and frameworks built around;
  • For the sake of the Kids
  • Clarity
  • Rigour & Due Diligence
For the Sake of the Kids... No Excuses!
During my visit Oliver used one of Helen Timperley's comments/quotes a number of times: "Driven by student need." Sounds obvious, but I have been at education meetings, workshops and conferences and noticed that the word learner/student was hardly used during the event.

I'm sure you can imagine the kind of resistance a new Head Teacher might get when they take over a school at the best of times, but when this is a former hippy and the previous Head had been in charge for 30 years... it can take the resistance up a notch. Oliver and Ian's battle cry would become;

"For the sake of the kids, if it's an idea that has the potential to benefit the kids... we'll explore it"  

Some of Ian's stories about the number of reasons and the ridiculousness of the arguments for maintaining the status quo were hilarious.

This reminded me of KIPP because of the many hilarious excuses that people make when it comes to why people from low income areas can't perform at a high level. While the excuses may be funny, the impact this has on our young people can be tragic!

The repetition of HOW2's battle cry reminded me of one of my favourite KIPP videos. I imagine that the walls of their schools are full of positive affirmations like this:

"For the Sake of the Kids"
HOW2 Founders achievements reminded me of my faviiourite KIPP video
There are a number of ways that clarity seems relevant to the HOW2 Founders mission and brand.

First, there is clarity regarding what works and what doesn't. Oliver has studied education from every angle, this has produced a clarity of thought, he seems to intuitively know what's needed. Here are two clarity gems from him;

"There's one thing that teachers value and it's the advice of their colleagues"

"Educators who teach the same students and share techniques they use in class is invaluable"

Secondly, there is gaining clarity with what the speaker is saying and clarifying that the listener has understood. Through working at the special school Oliver and Ian found that visual aids were used a lot, and if a student didn't understand a concept, the task was broken down further.

For example, if a student was not able to tie their shoes in 4-5 steps, it was broken down into more and more steps until they did get it.

Clarity of Action: Professional Conversations
Oliver's analytical mind commitment to excellence when it comes to educators PD is obvious. Nowhere is this more apparent than when he speaks about the work he has done around applying the "Theory of Action" to HOW2;

"It facilitates better teaching conversations, the granular nature of the questioning was impressive and you could see the thought process on how and why teachers used a certain technique.

It also give teachers the permission to make mistakes and try again in a supportive way… not in the usual blame culture that education seems to be caught up in around making mistakes.

It’s about decision making and there’s no way to get inside a teachers head to find out how they go about making decisions. Check out HOW2s flow chart for facilitating “Better teaching conversations” using this theory of action;

This is quantifiable and it's iterative, you can test, reflect, adapt and test again.

You decide the learning that you want students to achieve… then get the HOW2 you need to use to teach it”

Great Teaching… And More of it!
Listening to the achievements of these startup founders is a lesson in "HOW2" put into practice elements from some of the books I've read, like:
  • Jim Collins Level 5 Leaders
  • Dave Logans' Stage 5 Teams 
  • Marcus Bukinghams Rule Breakers 
  • Bo Burlingham's "Small Giants," 
  • Bill Aulet's "Disciplined Entrepreneurship"
As well as a few others, but the most accurate comparison that I would make... happens to also be one of the biggest compliments could pay anyone working in education.

This post has referenced a few of my favourite education videos above including:

1) "KIPP Bay Area" because it shows what is possible when we focus on the concept of "For the Sake of the Children."

2) Three Technologies that Could Change Learning because this shows that educators and policy makers can get it wrong, just like EdTech startups products can go wrong... but sometimes technology companies and startups can get it 'more right' than policy makers do too!

Mike Feinberg gave a talk on the role that the best technology plays in the classroom at the 2013 ASU/GSV Summit. Here's what he told the young go-getting startups:

"Great teaching and more of it, that's what great EdTech does." 

He went on to elaborate on this, tools that either:

1) Reduce admin functions so educators can spend more time teaching, or 
2) Allow educators to teach for longer by enabling students to learn outside the classroom" 

"If you had the choice of a master craftsman or on educator who taught in a bare room OR a mediocre teacher who had all the gadgets and gizmos... Which class would you want your kids to go to?"

It is my belief that the experiences, culture and knowledge that HOW2 has built up in the classroom AS WELL AS the way the startup has "Pivoted" (from writing PD books and providing training to visual guides) and have collaborated and co-created with the early users to ensure that they have achieved "Product Market Fit" over the last 3 years that they now have a service that will meet with Mr Feinberg’s approval. But as the saying goes... "The Proof is in the Pudding"

I hope that the KIPP and HOW2 Founders might connect to test if HOW2s do facilitate "Great teaching... and More of it" ...I'd love to see what would be achieved if the KIPP of KIPP and the KIPP of PD got together.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Ctrl, Alt, Delete: Refresh Education... with Alt School?

This post details why I like the sound of the Alt School model and explores the relationship with startups and education. 

I also explore if and how some commentators may be right that Alt School could be a model that works well in Silicon Valley, but may not elsewhere. 

However, unlike these commentators I will not see this as a "failure," but will question if we need to return to the way education was once managed and organised

Are startup schools like Alt helping education return to a more traditional model?  

A recent Wired article called "Inside the school that Silicon Valley thinks will save education" observed that

"By Silicon Valley standards, AltSchool is already a runaway success. But the world of education doesn't operate by Silicon Valley standards. To be a true success, Ventilla and his team still have to prove that AltSchool is more than just another private school for the tech elite, and that it can actually make a difference in some of the country's neediest schools"

But another non-state system that I am a fan of, KIPP, has made a difference in some of the most deprived areas... but this model also comes under fire from various education stakeholders. 

In the 14 years since I've been involved with engaging the education sector I've come to understand that it's quite a complex space to operate in. Here is a successful new model, but the rhetoric above and in other articles is hardly what you'd call a ringing endorsement. How about we compare this runaway success with how the status quo has dealt with issues like social mobility?

"The real tragedy is that, broadly speaking, the areas of deprivation in the UK have not shifted a great deal since Dickens Day, and any talk [by policy makers] of a new approach of the kind I fervently believe would work has led to nothing but lots of strategizing, meetings, papers, conferences, seminars, websites...and when the money runs out, there is nothing left to show, no tangible results and so, of course, the show moves on." Andrew Mawson, The Social Entrepreneur 

A philosophy of becoming is not possible without change
As you read this post it might be useful to ask yourself: If Aristotle or Plato was an administrator or a startup founder who had "a good idea" about education, learning or critical thinking, would all education stakeholders jump up and down and say "Hey that's a great idea," or would there be individuals/groups who had issues with the proposed idea?

Out of all the various projects I've worked on, and the reaction I've had from the various groups and stakeholders, I've come to the conclusion that;

1) The projects that policy makers (and even educators) roll out have just as much chance of having questionable value as an EdTech supplier... if the ideas are not assessed properly.

2)  Policy makers are unlikely to reform education in the way that is required (At least not in the UK)

3) Senior administrators can tend to be "too expert” to realize how much of an overhaul is required

Where I have seen the most progress and potential for EdReform is with

·       Young teachers who have grown up with social media and are not encumbered with  “expertness” ...They are young and idealistic enough to believe that they can change the world

·         Innovative startups... especially the Silicon Valley variety

I am also beginning to wonder if the gulf between educators and innovative Startups may be too great a divide. 

The motives of any company involved in education can tend to get a lot of negative press from educators "These startups think they know it all," "They are only interested in money and making a profit" and other such comments can, unfortunately, tend be the norm.

Alternative Views & Attitudes... To the same Message?
As I've highlighted in the past, the same message can get a different reaction depending on the context;

Sir Ken Robinson talking about the need for reform because "schools kill creativity" at a Ted Talk gets applauded.

Meanwhile any talk from startup founders on how and why their idea will "disrupt education" at events like the ASU/GSV Summit can (and does) get condemned as "those greedy startups who are only in it for the money"

The next moment educators are praising Ipads, Twitter or Google Chrome books in education. So there's a bit of a mixed message.

The message is the same, but the perception and reaction is very different. This is not a positive development, as the culture is all wrong. 

There is something that I've come to rely on as I navigate my way towards "Product Market Fit" and it's this... Culture! Culture, in particular the right core values, along with a shared goal are key to the success of any project/organisation.

"Every venture, at its inception, is imbued with a core purpose and set of values that emanate from the founder, shape the organisations culture and largely define its future, for good or ill.

Amazon is famous for its "customer obsession" largely because of its founder, Jeff Bezos, is hell bent on making it the "world's most customer-centric company." Google's mission to "organise the world's information" reflects its founders surroundings - Silicon Valley and Stanford" David Robertson, Brick by Brick

So culture matters. A lot. So when we add everyone's faviourite group to this startup/edu mix, our politicians, you have a fantastic recipe for a cohesive culture and unity... Erm, well, maybe not!

I've become way more interested in politics than I should have through being fascinated by the SNP during the Independence Referendum and the UK General Election. It's not easy to explain that my support is;

1) Not universal: I think that most politicians are self interested ego maniacs, who crave power.

The SNP might be good for Scotland but their record with Education "could do better"

2) Is the result of a positive culture during the Scottish independence referendum. 

My interest here was because I recognised some similarities between the referendum and the culture of technology companies and the way they roll ideas out (See Freakanomic Politics: Why SNP Domination was Inevitable)

In my opinion the SNP had an opportunity to do some great things in various areas, but they decided to settle on using it for petty party politics.

100,000 new members of the SNP, who does this ultimately benefit? The 56 people who were sent to Westminster to have a laugh and a joke in the Commons Bar with the rest of the "Political Classes" in their ivory towers.   

So the people in the SNP who came up with the "Yes" movement was inspired!

The people responsible for education, using the unique momentum and conditions of the referendum to attract new members to a political party and not managing the culture to allow the rise of the "Cybernats" = Erm, questionable. 

While I have expressed more interest in politics because of the culture during the referendum my views remain unchanged, and have been compounded, as a result of following the General Election.

"A man cannot rob, exploit or rule - alone. Robbery, exploitation and ruling presuppose victims. They imply dependence. Rulers... create nothing. They exist entirely through the persons of others. Their goal is in their subjects in the activity of enslaving. They are as dependent as the beggar and the bandit" The Fountainhead

If people in politics crave control then the opposite might be said of many Silicon Valley startups... They want to push the boundaries and give other people control.

Some founders start things off as a prank (Like Facebook) others like Tim Berners Lee created the world wide web to connect and share information with colleagues, Ev Williams wanted to give people a voice with blogger and Twitter.

These startup founders are keen to change the world, and they are in a hurry too... So they can be very impatient. What happens if they find the pace of implementing their ideas too slow?

They find other ways of doing things, they create Circle the Schools and they establish alternative schools.

Something that might compound their desire to do things differently might be if these successful tech investors and entrepreneurs found the traditional school setup was not a good "Person Environment Fit" for them.

The fact that a group of successful techies are getting together to create an "Alt School" doesn't surprise me at all! In her book about introverts Susan Cain discusses how Steve Wozniak worked;

"Did Steve Wozniak huddle with fellow Homebrew club members to work on computer design? No. Did he seek out a big, open office space full of cheerful pandemonium in which ideas cross pollinate? No. When you read about his account of his work process on that first PC, the most striking thing is that he describes the period of quiet midnight and solitary sunrises as "the biggest high ever" 

In his memoir he offers this advice to kids who aspire to great creativity;

"Most inventors and enginners I've met are like me - they're shy and they live in their heads. They're almost like artists. In fact the best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an inventions design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don't believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you're that rare engineer who's an inventor and also an artist, I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is : Work alone.You're going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you're working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team."

As for the model, a one room school house, its the way things used to be! Who said that a school has to have administrators, gyms, cafeterias or hallways in order for it to be a school? Why can't people learn better in this environment?

Will this roll out across America seamlessly? Maybe not. If it doesn't does that mean that its a failed experiment? I would argue that it does not.

“Until the 19th Century, the small scale enterprises which provided the bulk of formal education were, typically, private concerns. The early universities were also independent; while in some societies there was a mixture of religious and charitable concerns. With the rise of the Nation State, and the development of the industrial society, all this changed. Education came to be viewed as a core responsibility of the state, and came more and more under tight state control… [as part of the] increasing tendency for government to actively involve itself in every area of social life.”  Alison Wolf  Does Education Matter

Wolf goes on to discuss how the curriculum for these local schools catered to the economic needs of the region. Richard Florida picks up on this in his Economic Impact of Knowledge Clusters article, so there's an argument to suggest that education and economic conditions remain closely linked.

IF this model does not work out elsewhere, maybe it's more a case of a return to "the good old days" ...maybe these visionary tech startups are just going back to basics?

I wonder how some of the educators who don't like the idea of these "meddling profit making companies coming in and disrupting education with crazy ideas that end up not working" feel about the suggestion that 

Startups like AltSchool are being as traditional as you can get in education.

With the exception of an ipad and some coding, the Alt School appears to have taken education back to the 19th Century: A single room school, with a strong focus on the local economy's needs... How much more traditional can you get?! Of course;

1) This won't be to all education stakeholders liking, and
2) This perhaps isn't the best possible model we might hope for

But these two points above are in conflict with each other...

A preferred model might be for these crazy startup people to be allocated a classroom and conduct their startup experiments under the supervision and guidance of qualified educators.

But getting consensus for this would take a lifetime and the techies, who perhaps didn't like school too much as they were introverts and/or because they just wanted to code all day, now have successful careers. They may also have school age kids which can obviously be a powerful motivator for wanting change sooner rather than later. 

"The U.S. education sector is highly fragmented and politicized; it's hard to win major contracts for radically new approaches without a lot of tussles. By contrast, in countries such as Chile and Australia, the national authorities can embrace new tools quite quickly and decisively" Ramona Pierson, Declara CEO via Forbes

We all want the best for our kids and, if parents who work in startups feel something isn't working in education and if they have the time, money and influence... Of course they will approach the problem in the way they know best, by getting creative and disruptive. I'll leave you with Susan Cain and the political classes; 

"The kids break excitedly into their groups, seating themselves in three large clusters. there's no need to move any furniture. Since so much of the curriculum is designed for group work, the classroom desks are already arranged in pods of seven desks each. The room erupts in a merry din. Some of the kids who'd looked deathly bored during the 10 minute lecture are now chatting with their peers.

But not all of them. When you see the kids as one big mass, they look like a room full of joyfully squirming puppies. But when you focus on individual children - like Maya, a redhead with a ponytail, wire-rimmed glasses and a dreamy expression on her face - you get a strikingly different picture.

In Maya's group, the "executive branch," everyone is talking at once. Maya hangs back.

Maya is an introvert; she is out of her element in a noisy and over stimulating clasroom where lessons are taught in large groups. Her teacher told me that she'd do much better in a school with a calm atmosphere where she could work with other kids who are "equally hardworking and attentive to detail," and where a larger portion of the day would involve independent work." Susan Cain, Quiet  

Meanwhile, back at the "political class" unlike these startup founders, politicians don't even use the service that they are in charge of... as they opt to send their kids to private school instead.

Or what about the fact that many commentators have highlighted the role that social media has played in the 2015 General Election, something that David Cameron dismissed in 2009 with his comment that;

"Too many Twits might make a Twat"

Given that 92% of MPs who were elected earlier this month are now on Twitter, I'd be tempted to agree with our PM, as well as highlight the short sighted thinking of our politicians. 

As for Twitter going from being dismissed to 92% roll out in 6 years? Not bad for a small Silicon Valley startup that is only 8 years old. Who's to say the founders of Alt School won't help the politicians and, more importantly, our kids win at education too? 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Freakonimic Politics: Why SNP Domination was Inevitable

So the SNP look to disrupt the political landscape in tomorrow's General Election. This post details how, if you look at events in the context of the adoption of technology, the result was not only inevitable, but that I predicted it eight months ago during the Scottish Independence Referendum.

This post is not meant to come across as "I told you so" or to make me look in any way intelligent... but simply to highlight that this process can be replicated with the same effect in other areas like business and education.

Abraham Maslow observed that; 

In one awkward interview with young people Ed Miliband highlighted (in a round about way) that he's only ever been in politics.

Getting the perspective of different groups can have it's advantages... Even from a random EdTech sales guy. This is advice that Fred Terman, the father of Silicon Valley, gave to his Stanford colleagues

"Get out and get acquainted with local industry and with the people in it who were doing interesting and creative things" 

He also encouraged industry to get acquainted with university staff and find out what was going on at the university... to make the acquaintances with people who had similar interests.

SNP General Election Success... It Was Inevitable!
To political advocates any success of the SNP in Scotland may be seen as the result of the party having some fantastic politicians.

I am neither a political advocate, nor am I entirely of this opinion. After all this is a party that had MSPs like Bill Walker, who refused to give up his constituency duties when he was jailed.

However, I became very interested in the referendum because of the process that I recognised... as a result of my exploration of the roll out process of technology in education, I saw this result as inevitable. Don't believe me?

8th Sept 2014
I could not care less about any political party (or politician) and was reasonably unfazed by the forthcoming referendum.

9th Sept 2014
After witnessing a rally I saw that this was something special, I immediately wrote to my Further Education contacts to encourage them to vote yes and detailed why I was "Getting Political About Education"

19th Sept 2014 
On the the day of #IndyRef result, I wondered "Is the best still to come?" here's the introduction to the post I wrote;

"As Scotland wakes up to the fact that the hopes of Independence have been dashed and the army of #VoteYes feel "a little down" and are licking their wounds... this Glasgow nutter wonders if victory might be snatched out of the jaws of defeat. Is the best yet to come?"

28th Sept 2014 Sept
In a post called Achieving the Impossible, I made the following observations

"This post includes information as to why I would advise that, based on Technology sales and roll out principles, Labour and the Conservatives should just pack up and go now, and why a second referendum appears to be inevitable

[Other parties] task now is like Yahoo Vs Google, My Space Vs Facebook... ie you had your chance and you blew it. If you want to get Alex Salmond style popularity, stop off at Newcastle and declare the North East free from Westminster and you'll be the peoples' champion too"

7th Oct 2014
I felt that an opportunity had been lost (See #The45Plus Where it all Went Wrong), although political activists saw this as a great result, because their membership increased... Great! 100,000 new SNP members that's really going to help with jobs and the economy, which I believed the #indyref conditions could have aided!

What I felt should have happened to get maximum impact out of these unique conditions was

"On Sunday/Monday (21/22nd Sept) leadership of #The45Plus group was missing... A leadership that could only have been established by the 60+ "Yes Scotland" accounts, as this was the unifying thing that brought a diverse group together. Here's 2 things that I believe should have happened: integrating #VoteNo people and setting the culture with a new shared goal and identity"

7th May 2015
In all I wrote 30 posts in September 2014 all of which detailed various aspects of why the conditions of #IndyRef were special. I'd like to pick up on this and detail how these conditions have continued, and why they have played a role in tomorrows historic result which, ultimately, comes down to one thing... Alex Salmonds' Legacy of the #IndyRef grassroots movement.

Yes Scotland
The Yes Scotland campaign was truly inspired! People from different towns and sectors establishing and rallying round a positive and non-partisan "Yes" message.

Slowly but surely people in these towns and sectors saw more and more people they knew get behind the Yes message and, eventually, became brand advocates themselves for #VoteYes who then also got others people involved too.

A few weeks before the referendum the "Yes" Message "Crossed theChasm" and reached the "Pragmatist Market," which is key with the roll out and mainstream adaption of any product or new idea. Here's Geoffrey Moore describing the customer profile of pragmatists;

  • The word risk connotes the chance to waste time and money. 

  • Will undertake risks but with safety nets in place and manage risk very closely.

  • Pragmatists tend to communicate within their own industry (Which is why the Yes campaign was so inspired).

  • Pragmatists do not tend to volunteer to be early test sites. 
Pragmatists may be hard to win over but, once a supplier has won their trust, are loyal and will assist their suppliers. When pragmatists buy, they are planning on living with this decision personally for a long time to come, so they care about the company they are buying from, the quality and reliability of the product and the infrastructure of supporting products.

Early adopters are comfortable with "Hope over Fear" risky and untested ideas, like a Country "Going it alone"

Pragmatists, on the other hand, want to make sure that any decisions are safe ones and the best way to influence them is through their peer networks... not from a third party (Like some one canvassing on the doorstep for votes).  

Network Effects
So different groups have different criteria when looking to make the switch from one supplier to another. The Yes campaign provided the kind of "Network Effects" that were needed to engage pragmatists.

Something else that is needed for new ideas is Positive Feedback loops

Positive Feedback Loops
The more positive the experience for users the better the network becomes. For example, if you like a site you will invite others to join you, the more people from your network who join, the more relevant the conversation becomes to you – the more time you spend in this space. Positive feedback loops create momentum.

There were positive feedback loops in buckets during the referendum as the "VoteYes" camp had a far better sense of humour than the negative "Better Together, No Thanks" camp.

Personally, I probably spend 2 hours a day checking out the fantastic humour of the vote yes group.

However positive feedback wasn't enough when the #BetterTogether camp came out with "The Vow." Some of the pragmatists from the poll that put VoteYes at 52% decided on the safer option.
Once these network effects and positive feedback loops are established they can be very powerful. If any outgoing MPs want to test this theory just try and develop a rival platform to Facebook or YouTube... You'd have as much success as a Tory or Labour MP has in Scotland at the moment.

We saw the "VoteYes" network effects and positive feedback loops first emerge post-referendum when people took to Twitter to discuss the result and, later in the evening, to condemn the Better Together "celebrations" when the BNP party came to town to have a riot.

#The45/The45Plus trended for 2-3 days and made it into the main stream media and into the debating chamber.

However, leadership and guidance of this group was lacking which, in my opinion, has not helped any problems with the "Cybernats." There were lost opportunities, possibly due in part because neither the SNP or other politicians realised what was going on.

Margaret Curran demonstrated this by dismissing #The45Plus movement and not realising how #the45Plus could and should have evolved, this has come about as the minority parties have much more influence this time around... #The45Plus has indeed become a mindset and has affected the whole of the UK.

If Labour and the Conservatives knew what they were up against, they would have either worked with it and/or built their own network to combat the ensuing challenge.

Consolidating Pragmatist Support 
"The Vow" was always going to be a challenge! A deal designed to appease a small portion of the UK's population... and agreed in a hurry by 3 different parties to boot! It's no surprise that it's still not implemented!!

The consequence of the vow not being implemented? The general election is a consolidation of all these events from the referendum. Each having a knock on effect on the other;
  • The impressive non-partisan grassroots outreach, produced
  • The network effects required, the fun campaign created
  • Positive feedback loops, which helped
  • A party that had focus on a niche market to achieve "Product Market Fit"
  • "The Vow" not being implemented consolidates and added to the SNPs support
Collectively, this has demonstrated to the pragamtists that the SNP is now the safest option... All of which I suggested would happen in a number of posts over the course of September 2014.

A Sting in the Tail?
If the SNP does have a disappointing result tomorrow it will be because it did not take the lead with the post Independence Referendum supporters to guide and influence #The45Plus community.

Whether staged or otherwise the "Cybernat Violence" a few days ago, could lead the pragmatists to go back to Labour. Then there is the fact that the noise that the VoteYes hardliners make that could mean that Labour voters are simply keeping quiet, in the polls and on the streets.There are all kinds of posts about "The Scottish Nasty Party"

This negative aspect could easily have been prevented. Experienced Community Manager, Scott Moore, is fantastic with the topic of the culture of communities and shared a fantastic post on the impact that Norah Jones had on a community... which no longer exists Norah Jonestown

(NB I tried desperately to reach various politicians to make them aware of all this in Sept)

Insightful? No Just Different
Why mention all this? To show how insightful I am? No!

There is little by way of insight here, it's simply that I have been able to apply a different set of principles and knowledge to the political advocates .

In my opinion, the SNP's success tomorrow is not the result of it being a great political party... but the conditions that circumstance created made it inevitable!

Don't get me wrong I think the SNP has a few leaders who are exceptional! But they also have people who are typical members of "The Political Class," complete with self-interest, hubris and... Erm those bloody trams! FE mergers (with questionable savings) and a fall in literacy skills.

Replicate the Success
So why mention it? Because this is a process. It's the exact same process I highlighted to Mike Russell when he was the Education Minister, and tried to get the "good and the great" of the Further Education Technology Action Group to consider using.

This process could be used in many areas of Scottish society. The SNP benefited from the kind of process that major technology companies utilise, so they know it works. When I'll be impressed with the SNP, or any other party, is when they decide to use these principles in other areas, not just politics.

If any politician (from any party) wants to know how to continue to take advantage of this process in politics or, ideally, apply to other areas, especially in education, you know where to find me if you have any questions.