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Seeking Strategic Variety and Organizational Curiosity

A man's finger touches a question mark surrounded by the words When, Who, Why, What, Where, and How on a transparent display,
(Image credit: iStock/triloks)

This is often the time of the school year when school leaders begin to consider the strategic directions of their organizations. Often the strategic planning process begins with a bit of retrospection about the state of the organization and its challenges and successes. These meetings tend to engage the organization’s current staff. But this approach doesn’t always provide the necessary strategic variety for an organization to truly move forward. Strategic variety requires organizational curiosity. 

As Grace Hopper said, “the most dangerous phrase in the language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’” True strategic planning requires looking beyond the scope of what is being done currently to examine the underlying goals and objectives of the organization. A common example is the railroads in the 1950s, which didn’t consider trucking companies or airlines as significant competitors. They saw themselves as rail companies and not as transportation companies. In many ways, that kind of thinking reflects that of schools that see themselves as brick and mortar institutions and not necessarily as educational organizations in the broader sense. 

As we enter the strategic planning season, therefore, it’s important to look beyond comparisons to other schools in one’s conference or state and to look further—at Khan Academy, other virtual schools, and other organizations that educate children, like the Boy and Girl Scouts, public libraries, and the like. As educators look to develop gamification within courses, they need to be familiar with the MMOGs that capture the attention of many school-aged children. 

In addition to looking at other types of educational organizations, schools need to review their assumptions about financing. With the continued struggles of traditional tax revenue sources, public schools need to look for nontraditional revenue streams, such as grants and potential partnerships with other organizations.

The key to successful strategic planning in the future may be the development of organizational curiosity. Curious organizations see that new opportunities are positive challenges. They keep an open mind as they review options. They look for diverse opinions and perspectives. Governing has a good article about cultivating organizational curiosity in order to solve problems. Harvard Business Review also has a brief article about why organizational curiosity is important. TTA provides some ideas on how to develop a culture of curiosity within an organization. 

As we all brace ourselves to deal with the changing educational environment, remember that curiosity didn’t really kill the cat.