Creativity, Inc.

creativityincI’ve just finished reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. This book is chock full of thought-provoking ideas for educational leaders at all levels interested in leading their organization toward increased creativity and innovation. This book was so good that I plan to give it a closer read over the course of the summer. I suspect there are ideas here to improve my own practice. I just need to make more sense of them and determine thoughtful applications to my current leadership context.

School leaders may find the final section, Starting Points, of particular interest. In this section, the author distills the leadership principles peppered with stories throughout the book into a bulleted list. These ideas provide fuel for those interested in inquiring into their own practice – uncovering what’s working and what can be improved. Several principles that caught my attention:

  • Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better. If you get the team right, chances are that they’ll get the ideas right.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
  • Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.

The Afterword is a rather touching tribute to Steve Jobs – The Steve We Knew. Certainly paints a different picture from the major media. And Catmull should know as he worked with Jobs for over two decades.

I highly recommend Creativity, Inc. for school leaders interested in improving their practice. Commit the time to thinking about the ideas in this book and how they can improve your practice!

8 Qualities of Successful School Leaders

principalKeeping with my theme of school leadership, I’m sharing a wonderful article I ran across by Nick Morrison on the Forbes website: The Eight Characteristics of School Leaders. At the core of the article Nick shares a list of eight qualities of successful school leaders developed by a group of UK educational researchers.

In Pennsylvania, teacher and principal effectiveness are hot topics and it has been something I’m interested in – all school leaders, not just principals – not from a policy perspective, but just from the perspective of improving performance of school leaders. The list shared in the linked post is a good one! I see this as really useful to share with all school leaders to prompt reflection. Dare I say we could stand to improve in many if not most of these areas? Nick shares additional ideas beyond the list in his post, so be sure to check it out.

  1. They have consistent, high expectations and are very ambitious for the success of their pupils.
  2. They constantly demonstrate that disadvantage need not be a barrier to achievement.
  3. They focus relentlessly on improving teaching and learning with very effective professional development of all staff.
  4. They are expert at assessment and the tracking of pupil progress with appropriate support and intervention based upon a detailed knowledge of individual pupils.
  5. They are highly inclusive, having complete regard for the progress and personal development of every pupil.
  6. They develop individual students through promoting rich opportunities for learning both within and out of the classroom.
  7. They cultivate a range of partnerships particularly with parents, business and the community to support pupil learning and progress.
  8. They are robust and rigorous in terms of self-evaluation and data analysis with clear strategies for improvement.

Kinds of school leaders

LeadTheWayWhich one describes your leadership? Which one do you want to describe your leadership? What’s holding you back?

  • Catching up
  • Keeping up
  • Leading the way

Ideas from Paul Facteau. Important questions for all school leaders to ponder!

Engaged Leadership

lineI enjoy reading the monthly PDFs published by ChangeThis. Each month the site publishes several PDFs focused on key ideas around leadership, innovation and the like. This month, one title in particular caught my eye: Leading from Above the Line. Based on the book, Above the Line: How the Golden Rule Rules the Bottom Line, the ideas shared in the ChangeThis PDF are relevant to K-12 education and beg the questions, Are our leaders engaged? How engaged? I particularly liked the “definition” of “above the line” because I think it can (and should) be used by all educational leaders to reflect upon their work. Do your leaders lead “above the line” or below it?


AFT video on PISA – What does it say?

While those wishing to put stock in the rankings of the latest PISA results may claim some bias in this video from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the arguments reinforce the idea that our public schools are a reflection of our society. Until we (policy makers specifically) more effectively address issues such as poverty in America, we will only make incremental changes in student performance as assessed on these tests. It is interesting to me how much the United States’ ranking improves once levels of poverty are accounted for. Is this a valid argument?