Home' Teacher : November 2009 Contents THE REFLECTIVE PRINCIPLE 59
It's not just what you know but who you
know that matters. My father believed
otherwise. Personal discipline, obedience
and manners, he insisted, were the funda-
mental values you needed for a good future.
Such feudal values of command and control,
adapted during the Industrial Revolution
to meet the needs of hierarchical organi-
sations, still hold sway, even though they
make us ponderously slow in responding to
Fortunately, the world is changing and
so are the ways in which we work. Fewer
people are employed in industry in routine
roles, where following orders is critical, and
hierarchical organisations want employees
who can respond directly to new situations,
not seek direction from a remote author-
ity. Today a more intelligent, educated and
responsive employee is required.
In 1990, Peter Senge, author of The
Fifth Discipline, and others advocated an
updated version of my father's insistence on
the importance of personal mastery. Senge
wanted people to gain new knowledge and
skills appropriate to their challenges, and
advocated continuous learning that would
empower individuals so that they could
respond appropriately to new situations in
a changing society. Along with this com-
mitment to learning came an emphasis on
mentoring and business coaching.
Today, there's a new shift from the indi-
vidual to the collective. It's not sufficient
to have a high level of personal mastery,
important though that is. Individuals need
to be able to work cooperatively, in many
teams. We need connections with other peo-
ple to source knowledge and skills. Who we
know matters if we are to be successful.
A study of white collar workers revealed
that more than half of them obtained their
jobs because of a personal connection.
These people were known to the employer,
but not in any deep way. This is the strength
of weak ties.
As it turns out, close friends are great
for road trips, say, or intimate dinners,
but not for job leads or blind dates. Why?
According to David Hames, author of The
Five Literacies of Global Leade rship, it's
because our close friends know the same
people as we do.
Creating social networks is critical to
one's success. We need to be nurturing rela-
tionships, especially weak ties. It's from the
people in our social networks that we obtain
links to new people, ideas and knowledge.
The addition of one person to our network
is in reality the addition of a new network
of people to the team.
Using networks, a dispersed group of
people can achieve goals that they could
never achieve individually, especially with
the aid of smart technologies, the internet
and one of the most powerful new collabo-
rative approaches -- open source. The open
source approach, which is used in new soft-
ware development, involves freely sharing
source code among interested people who
then build on this to develop new and bet-
If you think this has no relevance to
schools, think again. If schools were to
open their curriculum, pedagogy and sys-
tems, and invite others to further develop
what they're doing, the result would be a
move forward to new thinking and pro-
grams, from best practices to next prac-
tices. Schools could cooperate with each
other rather than compete as they wrestle
with some of the intractable problems of our
time. Instead of introducing boundaries,
they could encourage innovation and adap-
tation from within and outside. Instead of
command and control from central authori-
ties, we need encouragement and support
for new initiatives at the local level.
The web of interconnected relation-
ships that exists in and between schools is
a strength. What may begin as gossip could
provide the answer to someone's question.
Spur-of-the-moment reactions to unfold-
ing events, when com municated, stimu-
late reflection in others. It's through social
webs that information is passed, intelligence
gathered, collaboration supported and
energy focused. These webs need spaces
and reasons for people to gather, and they
need technology to communicate. Central
authorities could create opportunities for
social interaction among school leaders and
teachers by setting up teacher cafes, staff
plazas and leadership centres as well as sup-
porting these with appropriate technology.
Schools need to liberate the community
in each person and enable each person to
extend their community through network-
ing. This, and an emphasis on continuous
learning for all, will lead to better outcomes
for students and schools. If that doesn't hap-
pen, I might get as mad as hell, but I'm not
going to take it anymore: it's time to net-
David Loader is an educ ation consultant
and Associate Professor in the Faculty of
Education at the Unive rsity of Melbourne.
His latest book is Jousting for the New
Generation: Challenges to contemporary
schooling , published by ACER Press.
Em ail firstname.lastname@example.org
Hames, D.R. (2007). The Five Literacies
of Global Leadership. San Francisco: John
Wiley & Sons.
Senge, P. (1990). The Fifth Discipline.
Ne w York: Doubleday.
IT'S TIME THAT VALUES OF COMMAND AND CONTROL GAVE WAY TO
VALUES THAT ENABLE US TO COOPERATE, SAYS DAVID LOADER.
Links Archive October 2009 December 2009 Navigation Previous Page Next Page