I actually had a couple hours in a car recently and for some reason I popped on the the TED presentation by author Charles Leadbeater from a couple of years ago. It’s a pretty interesting talk about the struggle between open and closed organizations that has a lot of relevance to schools. This’ll be a bit sketchy, because I was taking notes while driving…yikes! But anyway…
He asked a great question at the beginning…How do we organize ourselves without organizations? We really don’t need an organization to be organized any longer, or at least it doesn’t have to look like a traditional organization. But if that’s the case, then the ability to creatively self-organize is huge in this world. And we’re talking about a whole host of different levels here…from an information standpoint, business, learning. There is an independence that is available to us now if we want to seize it, which I think is a big question in how this all progresses from a school change standpoint.
He also made a point that collaboration is highly creative, and said that more and more, the inventors of things will not be able to say what their inventions are for. It will be worked out in collaboration with users. That’s been true with SMS, MySpace and bunches of other tools that have ended up being powerful for much different reasons than their original intent.
Another quote: “Big corporations have an inbuilt tendency to reinforce past success.” (Read: education.) It’s very difficult for them to spot what is emerging, and yet “emerging markets are the breeding ground for passionate users.” I love that last bit.
At any rate, these open new systems are causing a huge struggle. The closed are threatened by the open and do whatever they can to stifle these new structures. It’s about control. And no one really knows how that struggle plays out. But Leadbeater says the end result will be somewhere in between open and closed. There are new organizational models coming about, mixing closed and open in tricky ways. Those models can be powerful and those that can understand them will be incredibly successful.
He finished with a great point: Imagine you took all the children currently in school and had one percent acting as co-developers of education, creating and publishing materials. What would that do to our educational system? Imagine the potential in that.