What signals need to be heeded for the future?
How can you move “best practices” to “promising practices”?
One legend holds that a baseball scorecard salesman introduced the hotdog to the baseball park.
The story unfolds in 1905 when Harry M. Stevens, the “scorecard man,” noticed that ice cream was not selling well at the ballpark one day. He dispatched a few of his workers to buy some sausages and rolls. Enough of the “red hots” sold that day to encourage Stevens to continue.
Whether he was or was not the first game day hotdog salesman does not matter as much as what Steven’s actions convey. He saw a signal for what became a future trend and an American staple—and, more importantly, he acted on it.
Steve Jobs and his staff recognized weak signals. So did Mark Zuckerberg when he launched Facemash from his dorm room in 2003 and soon after was called before a Harvard board to answer questions about privacy (another weak signal it turns out).
Smyre and Richardson write about weak signals in their book. These are signals that something is a foot, something is about to change, or needs to change. They do not represent full-blown trends yet, but they indicate coming adjustments and shifts.
No matter what calling you follow, you and your colleagues no doubt follow “best practices.” These tried and true processes have proven to work well in your space. They become habits. And they may continue unquestioned when, in fact, they need to be re-evaluated, revised, or scrapped. If we blindly follow the tried and true, they can easily become tired and not-so true.
In a few weeks I will facilitate a regional workshop in Raleigh, North Carolina on the topic of transformational teaching. An obvious place to start such a workshop is to examine what we currently do. How will those same processes work, unchanged, in ten years?
For instance, do you prepare new faculty for the classroom in 2017 the same way you did in 1997? Doubtful.
This has applicability for corporate training programs and professional development in general. Do building contractors, using another example, train for and apply the same building codes today like they did ten years ago? Again, doubtful.
A neighbor works for an insurance company. She does all of her work from home. She loves the freedom and flexibility. But, she shared with me, she misses working with (that is, physically connecting/seeing) colleagues. Is that a weak signal for those who “telecommute” for their jobs?
The following rank as a few of the areas where signals indicate change in education:
- Student demographics
- Faculty demographics
- Trigger warnings
- Technology in the classroom
- Virtual teaching and collegiality
- Virtual teaching and resilience
Think of your calling. Your office. Your space. What signals need to be heeded for the future? How can you move “best practices” to “promising practices”?
Video recommendation for the week:
One way to recognize weak signals is to shift the spotlight of where you typically focus. What seems small today that may be big in the future?
Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).
(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.