Never Doubt a Scientist

While straightening up the house, I found a sign hanging in my daughter’s room.  This was one of those moments where I realized that her education is unfolding exactly as it should be — thanks to her teachers and school environment, she’s developing beliefs and mindsets that will be utterly foundational for her as she begins to add layers of skill, content, and insight.  And it sounds as if, should she pursue science, she might just be stubborn enough to succeed. “Never doubt a scientist because they never give up.”

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Notes on Fred Wilson’s Blog

I’ve written about AVC before, and I’m pretty sure this is going to become a regular thing as I process my learning from a source that has been consistently useful and enlightening.

Here’s a quote I like from March 16, 2017:

I love it when companies quickly get into a market, start delivering a product or service, and then, over time iterate on their products and services to expand the market and their share of it. Contrast that with a company spending years getting something right before shipping their first product. I much prefer the ship quickly, get customers, and iterate and automate approach.

And here’s a post about Disqus (from March 22, 2017) wherein Fred tells a business growth story fueled by a company’s ability to adapt more quickly than its bigger competitors. Additionally, he explains, in pure shorthand of course, that he invested in Disqus when he finally understood it properly: it was “a network, not a utility.”

Fred’s blog, I’m learning, is telling a consistent story as that story unfolds — i.e., what it means to live and work (and thrive) in a networked age.

Reading Fred Wilson Daily

A few weeks ago, I subscribed to Fred Wilson’s daily feed, automating a daily email from Fred.screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-2-04-36-pm
Immediately after setting this daily email in motion, I did what I always do after starting a new attentional habit, that is, a habit that will involve me turning my attention regularly to a new form of media or activity — I scheduled a “stick test.”

A stick test is something I made up.  It is unscientific and possibly unreliable.  But my attention (like your attention) is one of my greatest resources, so I like to be sure I’m not giving it out unthinkingly.  In a stick test, I spend 15 minutes thinking about a new product or service or program, and I ask myself some simple questions: now that some time has passed with this product or service or program, what sticks with me?  Am I happy with what sticks with me?  Is the time I’m spending with this product or service or program adding joy or knowledge or fun or health to my life?

If the answer to most of those questions is yes — in short, if good stuff is sticking with me — then I renew the habit.  If the answer is too often no, then I unsubscribe from the habit.

To cut to the chase, then, I am most definitely sticking with Fred Wilson’s daily email.  Even though we live in two very different worlds (me, education; him, venture capital) here’s what surfaced when I put his writing to the stick test:

Fred is a ridiculously clear thinker and writer, and he has made me want to be more clear in my own communication.  It’s helpful to have a near-daily model for which to strive.

His writing often reflects his values (time and time again you see him literally putting his money where his values are), which reminds me of the importance of (a) having values (b) using my values to guide my decisions, and (c) telling stories about how my values and decisions lead to action and change in my organization and, on really good days, in the world.

He taught me the definition of a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation), which is now something I aspire to build or support.  Here’s a statement from Kickstarter that he shared when he discussed PBCs.

He has taught me about the powerful things that happen when user generated content is supported and enabled:

The UGC content on SoundCloud is not just your daughter’s high school friends making music in their bedroom (which is how many of the current top artists started out). It is DJ mixes, mixtapes, remixes, top artists like Kanye dropping music quickly and easily . . . emerging artists like Chance who are unsigned and have chosen to stay independent, podcasts, and a lot more. It is the most eclectic, interesting, and vibrant streaming music service in the world.

(Read that last quotation carefully.  It’s a blueprint for how and why to build a platform devoted to creativity.)

He has reminded me of the importance of continuos feedback for organizations.  In fact, I shared his 2011 post with two separate leadership teams before meetings at which we planned to discuss our own evaluation processes. 

And last, and probably most important, his blog posts have led to some great conversations with some of my colleagues, who are also now receiving and reading Fred’s emails each day.

Subscribe to Fred Wilson’s blog posts here and let me know if they pass your stick test.

Local, National, Global: A Roundup for our Readers

Reshan and I have always described our work (in terms of blending leadership) as descriptive, provocative, and iterative.

It’s descriptive because we try to accurately write and speak about what we see, provocative because we are interested in challenging people’s habits and beliefs, and iterative because we are open to the ways in which today’s work leads to tomorrow’s opportunity or circumstance.

With that said, here’s a roundup of things that have been announced or published in the past ten days, wherein we have definitely reached some kind of lucky peak in terms of our chances to connect with readers and educators down the hall and around the globe:

We hope that some of this proves interesting to you — and that we’ll bump into you somewhere along the way.

Lunch Meeting

Last week at lunch, I sat down with a few colleagues like I always do.  One of the joys of working where I work is that you never know what kind of conversation you’re going to have at the lunch table.  On this particular day, after quickly covering some of the day’s current events, the conversation shifted into brand new territory (for a lunch).

We had all recently administered student evaluations of our teaching, and we were heading into an in-service where we would be working in departments to debrief the key learnings from these surveys.  But this particular group of people didn’t want to wait for in-service.  We spontaneously started sharing our results.  We started with the positives, but within five minutes, we were each sharing the “toughest thing we had learned” from our surveys.

  • One teacher was told, in no uncertain terms, that she should consider fixing her Moodle page.  
  • Another teacher was told that several students feel “invisible” in his class.
  • A third teacher was told that her tone was detracting from students’ enjoyment of the class.
  • A fourth teacher said, “I’m not opening my surveys until I’m sitting down with ____.  She helps me digest them.”  

As we shared these results, we all ended up coaching each other, offering suggestions and strategies.  It was very clear to me that each of these teachers is highly motivated to solve the particular problems that emerged from his/her surveys.  When you hear this kind of information from students, you simply can’t ignore it.  

Looking back on this experience, I’m still astonished by it.  At what other workplace (or even school) would people spend their free time at lunch talking shop in such a personal way?  In what other workplace (or even school) would people be willing to make themselves so vulnerable while slurping a bowl of soup with their colleagues?  This is another clear indicator that Montclair Kimberley Academy is building a very special culture around teaching and learning.  I’m proud to be a part of it.