You want to revolutionise school? Apply kaleidescope thinking – same components, different possibilities

Short version

We often feel like our systems are so rigid that innovating is a pipe dream. Schools and organisations that have disrupted the status quo operate within the same constraints but apply ‘kaleidoscope thinking’. A kaleidoscope is made up of fragments of coloured beads and pieces of glass, and mirrors, using the incoming light to create the magic. As the casing is rotated, angles change to catch the light, each of those elements create a sequence of patterns. If you dismantle the kaleidoscope there is a finite set of elements. But together there are endless configurations.

This week I’ve been reading: Think Outside the Building: How advanced leaders can change the world one smart innovation at a time by Elizabeth Moss Kanter (2020)

Entire industries have been disrupted through applying the principle of considering what’s possible through rearranging the fragments, catching the light, looking from new angles.

How?

Reframe the situation
Set the kaleidoscope on a new pattern
Create a new combination of pieces

“Creativity is a little like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope”. 


Read more (you know you need to!)…

Our systems, structures, policies can become huge roadblocks. We might hear visionary speakers, see schools who are pushing boundaries and say,

“Yeah, but…. we can’t do that because <insert administrative bureaucratic/policy reason here>”.

Great innovations occur when people discover new ways of working that can revolutionise the system. If we truly believe that the factory model schools, cells and bells are no longer relevant, then tweeting about it, sharing an inspiring podcast or TED talk won’t change the situation. It needs action. The schools pushing boundaries have much the same constraints as anybody: hours in a day, curriculum regulations and teacher recruitment. Yet they manage to see the opportunities rather than the challenges.

Last year, I was sitting in a meeting at a school that is already operating with a timetable of 100 minutes over three learning sessions across a day, with cross-disciplinary deep dive project-based learning. The principal was still pouring over the curriculum regulations, looking for wriggle-room to make learning even meaningful and authentic for students.  This principal had the same pieces to play with as the traditional school down the road, but he was applying kaleidescope thinking.

This week I’m listening to an audiobook,

Think Outside the Building : How Advanced Leaders Can Change the World One Small Innovation at a Time - Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Think Outside the Building: How advanced leaders can change the world one smart innovation at a time
by Elizabeth Moss Kanter, published Feb 2020

Elizabeth Moss Kanter (EMK), uses the term ‘kaleidescope thinking’.  It’s a helpful metaphor. A kaleidoscope is made up of fragments of coloured beads and pieces of glass, and mirrors, using the incoming light to create the magic. As the casing is rotated, angles change to catch the light, each of those elements create a sequence of patterns. If you dismantle the kaleidoscope there is a finite set of elements. But together there are endless configurations. “Creativity is a little like looking at the world through a kaleidoscope”. Kaleidescope thinking allows us to see patterns emerge from the same pieces of reality, the incoming light and changing the angle of kaleidoscope create the magic.

“a new combination of pieces”

This is how the creative ideas emerge. Entire industries disrupted through applying the principle of considering what’s possible through rearranging the fragments, catching the light looking from new angles.

I am a big fan of car share service GoGet. As an independent worker, I don’t have a car, but rely on my own legs, public transport, ride share and car share, depending on my transport need. Car share differs from car hire in that:

✓ Within a 10 minute walk from home I can select from more than 10 different vehicles
✓ The power to access a vehicle is tag on my keychain and an app on my phone
✓ I can use a vehicle on an hourly basis, as I need it

GoGet was looking at the same pieces as traditional car hire:

People need a car
Cars need fuel, insurance and maintenance
There need to be an administrative back end
People may need to speak to a human
But they managed to rearrange the pieces differently, with greater convenience.

As EMK writes,

Where can you…

Reframe the situation,
Set the kaleidoscope on a new pattern, and
Create a new combination of pieces?

@anneknock

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