DAILY INSIGHT: Lessons from Apple for school CIOs, CTOs

By Dr. Gordon K. Dahlby, CIO Advisor

As most readers know, Steve Jobs has stepped down from his position as CEO of Apple. Many customers and business professionals have written about their concerns as to whether Apple, above all other concerns, will be able to continue to be as successful as it has been in the last decade. Can Apple continue to be as innovative when the company’s iconic leader changes? Of course, in this case, there is also historical evidence that raises the concern from the years between Mr. Jobs’ earlier departure from Apple and his celebrated return.

Meanwhile, as U.S. schools start up again, chief technologists are ready to test their summer efforts. These projects may include infrastructure and capacity growth, implementation and upgrades to dashboards and database systems, or the deployment of new and replacement of end-user devices and applications. Additionally, and maybe most importantly, there is the systematic professional development to introduce or reinforce how using these tools will positively improve teaching and learning or other district initiatives.

How are these two events related?

As your team gathers to examine the data for the metrics of success your initiatives have set, it is also a time to reflect on how these plans and metrics were determined. Your continuous improvement processes should also include looking at the processes themselves. One might look at the changes in Apple to reflect on the leadership styles that drive your information and technology efforts. Are these efforts the thoughts and ambition of one iconic figure that may not survive the loss of this leader? Is the vision and planning so tightly held to the aura of one individual who pushes and prods others to move forward (or hold back) or are district processes open and designed to invite and gather a broad base of input and needs assessments? If the district technology leader were to leave, would the vision of the role and goals for how technology supports the district continue on because it was deeply developed and woven into the district culture, or would it deteriorate and stagnate while waiting for the next Mr. Jobs?

Dr. Gordon K. Dahlby is an educational consultant for leadership in policy, planning and practice.