Thursday, April 7, 2016

The importance of ketchup when building a team

I recently was listening to one of my favorite podcasts “Reply All.”  listen here:

They were interviewing Scott Page (TIME: 22:29), a professor of complex systems at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.  And his connection between the lowly condiment and building a team struck me!

"SCOTT: Now turns out if you’re British or if you’re African American from the South, not as a rule but generally speaking, you’re likely to keep your ketchup in the cupboard. If you’re not British and you’re not African American from the South, you tend to keep your ketchup in the fridge. And you could think “Vive le difference, who cares, right?” Well it actually does matter because suppose you run out of ketchup. If you’re out of ketchup and you’re a ketchup in the fridge person, what are you gonna use? Well you might use mayonnaise, you might use mustard because those are things you think of when what’s next to the ketchup. If, alternatively, you’re a ketchup in the cupboard person and you run out ketchup, what’s next to the ketchup in the cupboard? Well, malt vinegar.

GOLDMAN: So, the more diverse the backgrounds, the more associations you get, and the more paths towards solving a hard problem.

And there are actually a lot of real-life examples of this. Carl Zimmer, a science writer for the New York Times, he says that the ketchup story completely tracks with what he sees in the science world

CARL ZIMMER: You know if a scientist is looking at a problem and thinking about how am I going to solve it, there’s a range of approaches that they may think of just based on their training. You know, and they can’t even imagine that there’s another way of approaching it. You know, they can’t imagine that there’s ketchup in the pantry, really. And the fact is that another scientist can walk in and be like,“Oh, look, you’re looking at this totally the wrong way.”
That’s it!  The importance of building a great team is being able to understand where you keep the ketchup.

In all the profiling tools I’ve used, Strengthsfinder, Gallup, Myers-Briggs, Kolbe index, etc.  All of these tell me about who I am and how I work.  The importance of building a team is taking time to ask these kinds of questions, uncover the way we think and work and then build the best, most diverse, team possible.

So, the next time you’re building a team, pass the ketchup!

Do you want more innovation at your school, business or team? Focus on diversity!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The importance of scheduling the parade...

I live in St. Louis.  We are not afraid to host a parade, we've done it a lot lately in honor of the St. Louis Cardinals.  Here's an image from the 2011 World series parade:

I was listening to the latest edition of the EntreLeadership podcast when Dave Ramsey said something that made perfect sense.

Here's the episode link:, Dave's interview starts 24 minutes into the podcast.

If you aren't planning to win, you're planning to fail.  If you're not planning the celebration, will you set yourself up for a win?

Dave's exact quote:
"You don't schedule a loss, you schedule a win"

I'm working on our school's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan and couldn't help but think about that statement.

Sure we have a goal, a scale for measurement, and action steps to accomplish the goal, but do we have a date for the celebration?  How will we celebrate?

Whenever you start a task, a goal, an assignment, a unit, a season, a game, think about this and plan for it: How will we celebrate?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Can I be defined by a number?

My colleagues and I were having a great conversation around Data, Data-drive decision making, and numbers.  It was riveting and got me thinking.

Is there a number, any number really, that I would want to define me?

Credit Score

Test Score


Reading Level

AimsWeb Benchmark


Driving test score

Often I'm in meetings when we talk about kids, then list numbers associated with that kid.  Do we spend enough time on the qualitative descriptions of students than we do the test scores that they achieve.

What if we started discussing:


Family History

Home life

Favorite colors/foods/songs/movies

I'm not asking to eliminate ALL data from conversations with students, I'm just asking us to not LEAD with data.  Let's lead with the things that make a student special, unique, individual and real.

I'll be honest and say there is NO, I repeat NO, number I want to define me.  Please don't let numbers define the kids in your schools.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The "Power of Habit" and working in schools

Every day we react.  We react in the way we were taught, programmed, advised, mentored, parented, etc.

Our reactions have become a habit.

I recently was reading this:

 Then again came across this podcast about habit.  Learn more about habit here.

But do we ever analyze the way we react?

Have we even thought about whether we'd react the same way if we were given new opportunities?

Imagine this:

A kid is misbehaving in class.

The kids misbehaving are the stimulus.  The black box, being the thought process happening in our brain based on habit.  This leads to a response

That stimulus typically leads to a response from the teacher.  The teacher can:
  • discipline the student
  • reteach expectations
  • redirect the students
  • ignore the stimulus
  • send the student out of the class
  • etc.
But what if........

What if we imagined a different school?  What if we projected how they might behave, what their responses might be?  What if we taught differently? What if we thought differently...

Imagine the staff of "THE SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE" (I know cheesy).

But how would the teachers at that school respond to stimulus?
If we can examine the habits we have, we may be able to analyze possible solutions and the adjacent possible solutions that impact our kids.

What we do an how quick we react impacts students.

Take some time to list stimuli that happen today, how did you react to it?  Would the staff of this fictional school react differently?

Time to form some new habits....

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Time well spent?

I am an amazingly productive person.  I pride myself in being to do more with a minute than most people can do with an hour.  I have leveraged a TON of resources to be more productive in a given day.  But yet, there's still something wrong.

I'm struggling with how I use my time.  I hate to admit it but it's true.  I'm not sure I'm doing the best I can.

About a year ago I wrote this post about balance.  I still think I'm a work in progress.

I turn to this space for a number of reasons:
1.  It's an opportunity to reflect.
2.  I know I'll get creative solutions.
3.  I know those of you that read this have something to give and are willing to give it.

I ran across this today that prompted this post:

So here are my priorities:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Webster Groves (where I work)
  4. ConnectED Learning (the company I started)
  5. Social media
  6. Reading books
  7. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts)
  8. Religious obligations (church on Sunday, etc.)
  9. Working out
Here is how a day is typically structured:

Where are my opportunities for growth?  

Where can I be challenged to do/think differently?

If I were to base my priorities on where I spend my time, it would be:
  1. Webster Groves
  2. Family
  3. Social Media
  4. ConnectED Learning
  5. Reading blog posts (listening to podcasts) *typically do this while driving
  6. Reading books
  7. Religious obligations
  8. Working out
  9. Friends
What do you do?  How do you maximize and optimize your life? What does your day look like?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thinking about Experiential Learning

Great commentary from Grant Wiggins today I wanted to share.  It made me think of the conversations we’ve been having in social studies about content.

Grant shares:

"Student members of the Young Americans for Freedom at a school in Rome, Ga., marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany with a re-enactment at their school. They knocked down a graffiti-covered, 12-foot-long wall made from wood for the dramatization. "It is great to see them internalizing the lessons of history and exhibiting the power of freedom," said Brad Poston, history department chair.”

This is a great step in the right direction, can you imagine how powerful that experience was, see the image here?  Too often we think of history as words on a page and events on a timeline.  We can bring those events to life for our kids!

Also this event above is fun, the learning that happens before and after the event makes it closer to “Experiential”  Here’s a great resource on Experiential learning:

When you’re planning your next history unit, consider the lessons/activities/conversations kids are having with these questions:
• What are you doing?
• Why are you doing it?

• What does this help you do that’s important?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stop saying you're busy.

Stop it, just stop it right now.  Eliminate the phrase "I'm Busy," from your mind.

Imagine this.

You're walking down the hallway and someone asks you how you're doing.  You reply without even thinking, "I'm busy."

Stop it.  Stop it right now.

When you say you're busy here's what you're really saying...

I'm working really hard.  I have too much on my plate right now.  I planned poorly and can't stop to talk to you.  I'm prioritizing what I'm going to over building a relationship with you.  I'm also REALLY important and you should think about that when you say "Hi" to me in the hallway.

Imagine this too.

You get a phone call from a colleague/friend asking you if you can do this task to help them out.  You reply, "I could but I'm really busy right now."

When you say you're busy here's what you're really saying...

I poorly planned my own projects or I don't even like you enough to help you out.  I'l help you with your task but I'll reach back out after all of my other work is complete.

Finally, imagine this...

You're on the phone checking you're voicemail and your get one from your grandmother.  She just wants to check in and she says it, "I know you're busy."

When she says you're busy here's what she's really saying...

I haven't heard from you in a while, I miss you, I don't feel like a priority.  

Stop it, Just Stop it. Stop it this instance.

How to combat "Busy"

Saying your busy implies you're misguided, frantic, walking hard, but not towards a goal.  You have a lot to do, we all do.  But you know what successful people do?  They do this:
  1. Set yearly goals in all aspects of their life. (See seeking balance)
  2. Prioritize tasks
When a new "to do" list item is presented.  

Successful people check: 
1.  Does this get me closer to my goals?  If Yes, it goes on the list, if no, it gets omitted/deleted.  NOTE: some things like going to the grocery store or folding laundry do make it on the list of "life maintenance."

2.  How will it get prioritized?  Will it become more important or less important than the tasks that are already there? NOTE:  If the item takes less than 2 minutes to complete, do it now.

When you're doing busy work, you're working on things that are misaligned with your mission.  The items are NOT moving you closer to your professional or personal goals.  Keep focused.

Stop saying you're busy, focus on your goals and work to achieve them.