Do We Need A Startup Mindset (In Education)?

“How can we make a better experiment?”  -Warren Berger ‘Make Your Mark’

We live in a time where promises of stability, constancy and permanence can no longer provide our organizations and people the same foundations that we’ve been afforded in the past…and can often do more to destabilize, disrupt and disturb the current state of things. Often more than if we would have leaned into that uncertainty, ambiguity and unknown we’re doing are best to sidestep, from the beginning.

We live in a time when taking risks is not as much an occupational hazard, as it is an occupational necessity. As they say, “no risk, no reward.” And yet, we try to shield ourselves from these risks with plans, policies, and strategies that promise assurances and guarantees. We throw out mantras like, “failure is not an option,” not realizing that in the same breath we are extinguishing any hope of experimental or discovery learning. Not realizing nor comprehending that we are institutionalizing status quo through false promises of safety and security.

Abolishing risks then, will most certainly eradicate and eliminate a questioning culture. If we are not willing to take risks, to engage in experimentation and discovery learning, then why ask the questions that will eventually lead us down that path. Especially when a simple answer will do just fine. It is much easier to feed the inertia of the status quo, than disrupt that delicate balance with questions that point us down paths we are not willing to venture down.

So, if we are unwilling to take risks, or ask the difficult questions, we will definitely have a difficult time embracing or moving quickly on new, novel, creative and innovative ideas and thinking. We will struggle to pivot and adapt with the quickness and rapidity that is necessary to match pace with the speed of change in today’s world. Slow to move, slow to change. A titanic mindset that makes any shifts, rotations or turns painstakingly methodical, measured, heavy, sluggish and reactionary. A mindset that lacks the incentive to accelerate forward with type of momentum.

Inability to take risks, ask the difficult questions, embrace or move quickly on new knowledge, will hinder the possibility of incorporating cutting edge practices that make the progress and learning gained from constant reinvention possible. As the saying goes, “why teach an old dog new tricks.” Especially if they will neither be needed, necessary or incorporated in any systemic way.

Or we can begin to turn the tables on our thinking…

We can begin to see the need and necessity for our people and organizations to take risks, to ask deep and difficult questions, to embrace and move quickly on new information and creative and innovative thinking and ideas, to pivot and adapt in a proactive manner, and engage cutting edge practices that lead to progress and breakthroughs from more experimentation and discovery learning. We can begin to engage a startup mindset.

Or not…

“Most companies are full of ideas, but they don’t know how to go about finding out if those ideas work. If you want to harvest all those ideas, allow employees to experiment more – so they can find out the answers to their questions themselves.”  -Eric Ries ‘Mark Your Mark’


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