Sunday, 12 October 2014

Visionaries + Space + Edu = Ideal Economic Conditions

Robert Owens New Harmony Town
Publication of MSPs £12.5 million expenses bill this week led me to question: Do Politicians Deliver Value? I explored their record with urban planning, education and facilitating personal and business growth.

Today I want to explore some of these same issues looking at the contribution that some visionary business people have established. I'm sure that many political activists may have an issue with just about any corporate example that I use to put a case like this forward.
Have MSPs delivered results like
the visionaries below have done?

My answer to this is that it is possible to look at the advances they make without condoning any of the more questionable practices. For example, I would be reluctant to take business or marital advice from Earnest Shackleton, but I sure would take leadership advice from his Antarctic expeditions!

These people were competent, collaborative, had the right culture and created something from nothing... Give me the achievements of people below over most politicians any day. 

MSP Vs Corporate Expenses
Compare the MSPs expenses bill on taxis to and from their Edinburgh homes or the over budget Holyrood building with Doug Edwards experiences with Google:

"The love of efficiency begat fondness for frugality, because paying more than the bare minimum for something was by definition wasteful. Larry liked trimming unnecessary expenses, but it was Sergey who fully applied his razor sharp intellect to cutting costs.

"That seems kind of expensive" Sergey said, looking at the $100 price for a cab from Malpensa airport to downtown Milan in January 2003. [Doug Edwards] and Sergey had flown in for the opening of Google's new Italian office, and [Edwards] was looking forward to travelling in style with the president of a booming internet company. The dot-com era was over for everyone else, but Google's financials were deep in the black. Even though we'd flown coach, surely we'd be kicking loose a little change to let the old world know we had indeed arrived.

"Maybe we should take the bus" Sergey suggested "It's less than 5 Euros per person" The bus? What? Were we college kids backpacking on spring break? Maybe we could just hitchhike into town. It was pouring out, and the cab would take us right to our door, not to some run down depot a short walk from nowhere. We compromised on the train...Efficiency. Frugality. And oh yes, integrity." Doug Edwards, I'm Feeling Lucky

Digital Space
I don't think I need to go into too much detail to highlight how the top companies have transformed or affected people's lives with digital space compared to politicians contribution. Here is a list of 10 most popular websites 

Google, Facebook, You Tube, Yahoo, Baidu, Wikipedia, Twitter, Amazon, Tencent QQ and LinkedIn

The Scottish Government had a fantastic opportunity with Scotland and digital space with #indyref and #The45Plus, but a lack of leadership has seen this opportunity to squandered for the sake of party politics.

Physical Space
With physical space I have written about the extent that some companies consider their office space with developing the right culture for my education contacts to consider.

As well as office space, some companies have created towns... and appear to have done so to good effect. Here are two examples.

Now I am sure that political activists will have issues with these examples and may be keen to highlight things like "Mills employed children and had horrendous working conditions" or "what if you lose your job at Facebook, do you then also lose your house too?"

My counter argument to any criticism is, as usual, that culture matters! Just as we have politicians who are just "In it for themselves," some business people are too. However, a lot of business people also start out in business because they want to make a difference.

In Robert Owen's case he was a social reformer and one of the founders of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. He also established New Harmony which was to be a model community where education and social equality would flourish... That sounds a lot like the SNP's #indyref "Just Society" to me!

With regard to Facebookville there are professions like the military where housing is linked to people's jobs... Or what about the fact that there are plenty of teachers, nurses and other Government employees who I'm sure would love to see their employer spend $120 million on them, whether on housing or in general.

Just as Robert Owens created the first infant school in the world, we have a lot of enthusiasm from companies who are keen to make a difference with education and with practical initiatives... some of which, like Ipads and Google Apps for Education, appear be more promising than politicians ideas.

From the very earliest days of Apple, he set up programs that provided ways for students and teachers – from elementary school all the way through university – to purchase computers at a very steep discount. This wasn’t some public relations gimmick; it was a reflection of a deeply held belief growing out of his own childhood experiences in Mrs. Hill’s classroom:

“I’m a very big believer in equal opportunity…equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great education… it pains me because we do know how to provide a great education. We really do. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short of that…I’m 100% sure that if it hadn’t been for Mrs Hill in 4th grade and a few others, I would absolutely have ended up in jail. I could see those tendencies in myself to have a certain energy to do something wrong. When you’re young, a little bit of correction goes a long way.” Steve Jobs, in Jay Elliotts "The Steve Jobs Way"

Equally powerful is Google's Jaime Casap with his Ted Talk "Saving the Silver Bullet"

In my "Do Politicians Deliver Value" argument I suggest that Competency, Culture and Income were defining factors. Here are 3 examples along the same lines to support my business argument;

1) Competency: Compare the record with these 3 technologies and 2,000 years of the "experts" and their teaching models: 2,000 years of edu models Vs 3 Technologies that could change learning forever

2) Culture: As education stakeholders debate about the value of MOOCs and argue about minutia, new providers unencumbered by "The Old" ways may emerge as market leaders
Will Starbucks win with MOOCs before schools, colleges & universities

3) Income: In the UK and US you can predict education attainment by looking at household income. This is not the case at the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP)

Competency, Culture and Income
While I believe that teachers are competent, I do not beleive that the culture is right... How can it be when family income has dictated education outcomes for decades... if not for over a century! How can it possibly be acceptable that only students from the wealthiest families are the ones that fulfill their potential?

In previous posts I have questioned the UK's poor record of social mobility and the extent to which the conditions are artificially created... This is not a difficult argument to make when you compare Miles Corak's Great Gatsby Curve research with some of Funders and Founders fantastic infographics like From Zero to Billionaire. Then there is Andrew Carnegie's observation

"It is not the rich man’s son that the young struggler for advancement has to fear in the race of life. Let him look out for the “dark horse” in the boy who begins by sweeping out the office" 

The conditions today have made it more problematic "For this dark horse" to emerge. Can we buck this trend? It is my belief that we can. 

Curriculum for Excellence... In a Culture of Inaction & Blame?
Mike Russell courted controversy last week around the issue of the implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence. For me, the reaction to this highlights one of the big problems within education. If someone is not behind an idea they can always find ways to "kill it" and/or make it difficult for the initiatives' successful implementation. A culture of open communication and trust seems distinctly lacking between politicians and our educators.

The debates about the curriculum for excellence has raged on for 2 years now and all stakeholders seem to have an opinion. Based on the opinions in the press, there does not seem to be a great deal of unity.
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Are Politicians Edu Policies Expensive... and Ineffective?
It is my belief that no concept of "excellence" in the curriculum can thrive without unity or when the culture isn't right and/or if the team doesn't work well; just as very few bad ideas will thrive in the right team with the right culture! These team will identify and fix problems quickly and efficiently. (See Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast)

I work in education because I admire the difference teachers make in young people's lives. However, I have found the culture in UK education to be far to complicated to navigate. After exploring the issue in depth I feel that some areas of UK education is a "Bad Market," something that I was advised of by senior entrepreneurs 4 years ago.

If you were to apply Jim Collins research on the "5 stages of decline" it might be argued that some UK education sectors are making their way through the latter stages of decline. Maybe this is why the government is advocating academies... because politicians know they have made such a mess of things.

But is any decline here the fault of politicians with their education policies... or their plans with the economy and the facilitation of growth?

Or maybe the poor record for politicians has been poor for a while but, until relatively recently, businesses with their old style apprenticeships filled a gap that has been missing since the 1980's? One where young people learned a trade as well as life skills?

The Economy
I can't find the extract, but believe it was in Alison Wolf's "Does Education Matter" that a student studying the same maths or computer science qualification will have a different experience for someone in Glasgow, Newcastle or Silicon Valley. In Silicon Valley every Ferrari that goes by you know that it was some complex algorithm that paid for the car. So education and the economy are interlinked: 

There is certainly no firm evidence to suggest that 'over-education' does raise productivity; nor, conversely, that being better educated (Or at least educated for longer) makes you less motivated or actually worse at your job. We can't use the 'over-education' figures to establish whether current education is economically a waste of money. However, we equally can't get much support from occupational changes for the idea that we are currently seriously under-educating for our new century's economy.

...Perhaps... we will find that those countries which are economic powerhouses are also those which have educated their way to a 'high skills' equilibrium... In the new economy, highly educated people don't just produce more themselves but create an environment in which everyone is more productive. This would mean that their education spills over to everyone's general benefit: The whole is more than the sum of the parts.

Of course, if you look at somewhere special like Silicon Valley, something on these lines is certainly happening: the energy, ideas and creativity generated by a critical mass of very clever and skilled people are greater than if you scattered that group evenly across the United States.Alison Wolf, Does Education Matter

"Get acquainted with local industry and with the people in it" Prof Terman 
Some argue that William Shockley and "The Traitorous Eight" is the birthplace of Silicon Valley. One of the eight was Gordon Moore, Founder of Intel and The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. This foundation invests in projects that will benefit future generations.

"So many people are saying "me, me, me" and Moore is so unassuming, so humble. He says "We don't need publicity, we're not looking for publicity, we're looking for projects to fund." It's so different from the people I knew in politics" Frank Jordan, Moore Foundation Leader and former Police Chief & Mayor of San Francisco 

These are great examples from Silicon Valley, but what would you think if I said we have exactly the same people and conditions right here in Scotland! Want to see the "Somewhere Special" that Wolf discusses above? Then get yourself to Glasgow's Museum of Transport and see the environment in which everyone benefited through Robert Napier's efforts achieved... and the "number of people he took with him!"

Or take a trip to Dundee and see the environment they have achieved... These same "special conditions" are right here in Scotland. I've no idea what involvement any politicians had to make the conditions at Dundee happen, my hat goes off to any individual politican who facilitated these conditions.

But let's be clear that, at best, this is all the politicians did... facilitated favourable conditions. Silicon Valley was the result of Professor Terman's vision. Glasgow ship building was the same;

"Napier's reputation was almost single-handedly responsible for the success of this massive [Cunard] undertaking. (NB This is a classic example of Dave Kerpens: Show your Friendship first) Napier's role in fostering talent continued and the majority of shipyards and marine engineering factories on the River Clyde were established by his former employees... There arose on the Clyde a tight-knit community of engineers and builders with a pioneering spirit and a progressive risk-taking attitude towards the business... Gradually the Clyde began to succeed the Thames as the major shipbuilding river in Britain." The History of Clyde Shipbuilding

Anyone spot the similarity here with Silicon Valley? COLLABORATION! IT MATTERS! Dundee will be the same, it will be down to a handful of people whether at Abertay University and/or business people who were involved with some hard graft as opposed to the popularity contest that is politics... it will be the visionaries (who probably put up with some horrendous conditions) to create a great ecosystem.

Here's to the Crazy Ones...
So I argue that the vision (and struggles) of people like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Howard Schultz and Scotlands very own Robert Owen, Robert Napier and Jim McColl... have achieved more than our politicians... and that what they've achieved has "Spilled over to everyone's advantage"

Oh and if you think that Educators don't have the ability to innovate when the culture is right check out what Fred Terman, Mike Feinberg, Dave Levin, Kim Ki-Hoon and Jack Ma have achieved since leaving the state education system. Equally, join any one of the 300+ (out of hours) EdChats and you'll see educators have plenty of ideas for innovation, but some may not the best culture to implement their ideas during their 9-5 work day. 

I have only provided a handful of examples in this post but hope that I've put a convincing argument forward in the Politicians Vs Business people with the right vision and culture. My own experience has led me to believe that little is going to change in UK state education, so have shifted my focus to the US and other areas of education who are more receptive to my ideas. 

I am a fan of some charter schools like KIPP, I am aware of (and even agree with) some of the criticisms of KIPP, but you can't deny the culture and results achieved. However, I am not a fan of all charter schools. Neither do I agree with the UK government's love affair with and/or the rate that they are rolling out the academy model. However, I am a big fan of Jim McColl's new Junior College and this Businessman's Vision for Non Academic Pupils

I have no doubt that Mr McColl will continue along the same lines that Robert Napier did both with Fergusons shipyard and with this "junior college" and that, just like Napier did, he'll take others with him.

How many boats will Jim McColl help rise at Fergusons and in Newlands?
Obviously we don't all have the business acumen of Jim McColl so we can't all open our own college, but can we all lend a hand to contribute to the "Just Society" that the Vote yes politicians were promising? I say yes we can! And will be suggesting how in my next post.

In the mean time 2 years ago I made the following offer in my Culture in Edu post;

"Kipp if you ever come to the UK...get in touch!, anyone looking to replicate Kipp in the UK...get in touch! Sutton Trust happy to chat over coffee…I’d be happy to help organisations like this in any way that I can"

So, Mr McColl and Mr White if I can do anything to help Newlands Junior College in any way please, please don't hesitate to get in touch. I will certainly be in touch to detail some ways that I might be able to assist the college and this exciting new education model.

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