Look Beyond the Usual Suspects

One of my favorite movies is The Usual Suspects.  Certainly not because of the violence in the film, but because of the twist that I didn’t see coming the first time I saw it.  One of the gleanings I took away from that experience (since everything you experience is a learning experience whether you think it is or not) is that one must look beyond – or deeper – into what’s usually considered to be solutions to problems.

When you think about it, there are solutions that might work for one problem, and then, when someone or an organization have the same problem, they might connect with another person or organization that has had the same problem, discover how they tackled it, and then apply the same solution…sometimes with disastrous results.

That’s because every situation is different.  Just like every learner is different.  They come from a different set of circumstances, a different home environment, and a different background, and possess a mindset, viewpoint and learning preference different from everyone else.  The goal of solution development is to find something that intersects with as many of those differences as possible.  Therefore, a solution may not be “perfect,” but it can accommodate a significant number of situations.  That’s why there’s continuous improvements to existing products and services, as well as other competitive solutions which may attempt to solve the problems from another angle, and accommodate a significant number of situations with different differences than the first solution.  It also explains why customized solutions can also be designed and created which meet the specific needs of a single person or institution in a way that’s perfectly suited for the manner in which they serve others, but applying the same solution in a different situation with no adjustments can cause unintended negative consequences.

To apply economics to this framework, those solutions that work for an many situations as possible take advantage of economies of scale.  An app developer can sell a million apps at $2.99 each.  That’s affordable for the average SmartPhone user…but the developer just made $299 million by doing so.  Conversely, a customized solution designed for a singular institution may cost $299 million.  And many institutions might believe there’s no way they can afford that.  So they make due with what they can afford, complain, and continue to seek out inexpensive customized solutions – which don’t exist, and won’t exist.  Today’s pervasive mindset is that people want personalized experiences – but aren’t willing to pay for them.  They think they are entitled to them because that’s what they’ve been trained to expect.

With that in mind, then where can we look for innovation – that quality that brings something different to the marketplace, even though empirical research may show there is not a “need” for it, but there is something in the “buzz” (soft data) of the marketplace that says it’s looking for something that’s not currently available, and when it’s released, is hailed as something that’s been needed and is now wanted – even though no one could articulate what it was that they needed before it appeared.  Transformation happens through innovation, and not through doing what’s always been done and hoping things change for the better.

This article from NPR shows where innovation in education is happening…and it’s significantly different from the daily classroom experience that the public, schools boards, and seasoned educators keep trying to improve.  We’ve certainly had to adjust and adapt during this pandemic, and the reaction from parents and the community is outrage because they’ve been forced outside their comfort zones.  Regardless, after reading this, you might find that you don’t have to think outside the box, but around the box, over and under the box, and, perhaps way, way far away from the box.  Connections need to be made worldwide – and with a worldwide pandemic that continues to rage and isolate us, we need to find ways to connect – to learn.

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/10/04/554316261/want-change-in-education-look-beyond-the-usual-suspects-like-finland –