Greetings. "Back-to-School Night" at Westland Middle School provided a great opportunity to think about learning, asking questions, problem solving, critical thinking, being prepared, collaborating and being totally engaged–all essential topics in the world of education and in the lives of companies and organizations. Because today's schools need to be able to produce students with a lot more skills than simply the ability to pass a math, science or English exam. Even though that often seems to be their main focus. And because today's (and tomorrow's) businesses need leaders and employees with a lot more skills than simply technical or domain knowledge. "Not that there's anything wrong with that"–to quote our friend Jerry Seinfeld…but it's definitely not sufficient to enable us to compete locally or globally. The present and future belong to the most inquisitive, creative and engaged people and organizations.
So as I raced through the halls of our son Noah's middle school and into each of his seven classes, I was struck by a sense of energy, hopefulness and possibilities. A sense that he and his classmates and teachers could have a brilliant year if they all got off on the right foot, worked together and were inspired to see the magic of learning and stretching their collective thinking rather than simply filling kids' heads with a bunch of well-meaning curriculum that didn't have the chance to come alive. And in each classroom I looked for clues as to whether or not this was possible.
- Clues that learning would be challenging and fun.
- Clues that teachers also saw themselves as students.
- Clues that students might be encouraged to also see themselves as teachers.
- Clues that rules were designed to inspire each student's passion for learning rather than stifle it.
- Clues that learning was an active pursuit tied to the exploration of ideas and hypotheses.
And then in Mr. Wellman's science class the pieces came together when he shared a story about how he got excited about science. A story about being an 11-year-old boy (the same age as his students) and going to a local stream with friends and an empty bucket. A story about struggling to move the largest rocks in the stream to see what creatures and wonders would appear–including the largest crayfish he had ever seen. "I want my students to move the rock," he concluded with a child-like sense of delight in his eyes. And that's exactly what I hope Noah and all of his colleagues will do in the year that is beginning to unfold.
And what I hope all of our customers and partners in corporations, government agencies and nonprofits will do in the face of this challenging economy.
Move the rock in order to learn and create greater value.
We win in business, education and in life when we are determined to move the rock. And when we are open to the magic of discovering and learning new things together.