In my previous post, Problem X: eXploring and eXposing Problems In Education
Why is public education facing more than just wicked problems, but X-problems?
For public schools these X-problems might be a question of experience and expectation.
Adam Richardson, in his new book Innovation X, identified several factors that differentiate X-problems from wicked problems and as you will see they point to issues of experience and expectation in public schools.
More and Better Competition: The presence of competition, and competitors that are getting better and more diverse.
“The major element missing from the traditional definition of wicked problems is competition.”
Does public education have competition?
On-line virtual schools
“Certainly wicked problem address the issue of competition of stakeholders, but primarily stakeholders who have a common interest and will mutually benefit for the solution.”
The competition that public education is facing is expanding in number and diversity.
Private schools, on-line virtual schools, and home schools have no common interest with public schools. They compete for students and parent support alike. They attempt to differentiate themselves through the experience they provide and expectations they meet.
Public schools are teaching based institutions. That’s what they provide. Students are seeking learning and learning is not confined within the walls of public schools. Learning is becoming somewhat akin to the “cloud” of computing. As more and more great teaching goes online, students will be able to access more content, great content, in virtual and physical space. The learning cloud is going to provide fierce competition to public schools, especially at the secondary level. That is competition.
So the X-problem for public school is what do they do about it?
More Demanding Customers: The need to satisfy more demanding customers and provide superior customer experiences.
“The more informed our customers are and the higher their expectations, the better we will be positioned to demonstrate our differentiation.”
The public is the customer and private, on-line, and home schools are steadily eroding the monopoly that public schools have long held. We as a nation of discriminating consumers are no longer content with things that just work, we demand more. We demand design.
“These differentiation and expectation trends often translate into increased demand for aesthetic qualities of using a product, not just its raw functionality. As Daniel Pink has put it, ‘For business, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. It must also be beautiful, unique and meaningful.”
Who wants to send their student to a boring sterile institutionalized buildings, surrounded with fences, lacking any aesthetic beauty, with an crumbling physical infrastructure, out-dated technology and equipment, cramped spaces, etc?
“The term customer experience refers to the qualitative experience of using a new product: how easy it is to use, the emotions that are evoked by it both during and after use, the self-image that the customers feel they are projecting, and of course who well the product satisfies their needs and desires. The customer experience should be considered.”
When the public thinks of public schools do they think?
“…how a product does its job is now as important as what is does.”
Public schools are facing challenges on many fronts, but one of the ones that most education leaders and managers are ignoring is the “how.” It’s not going to be enough to just teach curriculum to students, society is going to demand more than just functional competency.
Nordstrom’s is more than just a department store. Apple desktops and laptops are more that just computers. Disneyland is more than just a few rides. They provide an experience. Does public education provide and experience? Yes, but is it the experience that society demands of them? It’s all about the experience.
Customer Expectations Are Resetting: The need to integrate products of diverse types and origins into comprehensive, coherent systems for customers.
“Customers no longer judge based on solely on comparison with direct competitors; they use standards set elsewhere: my satisfaction with a new dishwasher may be blunted by comparison to the ease of use of my iPod, for example.”
Take the examples I mentioned in the section above. Society is not just going to measure public school against public school or public school against private school, etc. Society is going to start measuring public school against the customer experience of a Nordstrom’s, or the encompassing emotional and sensory experience of a Disneyland. Society is not just going to compare the technology in school, but how that technology experience compares to the design and ease of use provided by the iPod and iTunes.
Systems, Not Products: The need to integrate products of diverse types and origins into comprehensive, coherent systems for customers.
“What often goes unrecognized is that every product is part of a system.”
Everything at our public school is a product, but is also part of a system. The problem for public schools is that the products are not being integrated to produce an excellent system. Different text, different standards, Curriculum covers things not on the test. The test assesses things not in the curriculum. New technology doesn’t work with old technology. They myriad of differences in policies, procedure, rules, regulations, organizations, etc. make it difficult teacher, student, and parent alike to navigate through all these differences.
Society is looking for results, but results with an experience. The system that has developed around public education provides varying results and virtually ignores experience. We are ignoring the “how” of what we do.
“Developing complex integrated systems is the new order, and it forces pieces of a company to come together and collaborate in ways that organizational silos had not previously required or even allowed.”
When a teacher, principal, or other school employees says to parent, “That’s just not the way it works.” Or “I can’t do that because we are not allowed.” or “I know it doesn’t make sense, but that is just the reality.” we demonstrating to the parent, to society, that our system won’t work for them. We are not able to provide the experience they seek or meet their expectations.
So what do we do?
Emergent Clarity: Clarity about the problem emerges slowly, as with wicked problems, but iterative approaches to solving them are necessary, in contrast to the one-shot deal of wicked problems.
In other words we need a lot of ideas, we need to try them, and we need to build on the ones that work and abandon those that don’t. Continually arguing about the one idea to solve it all is not going to move us forward. Government is usually lacking in ideas and loathe to abandon ideas that are not effective. Tweaking the edges is not going to solve the problems of public education.
The sooner public education begins the prototyping new models and methods, the sooner we can learn more about the very definition of the problem we face. Each prototype offers clarity and insight about the very nature of the problem. Without making attempts to solve public educations problems we are limiting our understanding of just what the problem is.
Clarity will emerge. The questions of experience and expectation can be answered.