DAILY INSIGHT: Achieving escape velocity — the impulsive Twitterer

By Miguel Guhlin, CIO Advisor

Over the last few months, I've slowly come to the realization that we can accelerate professional learning in our schools. Those PLN connections pay off as educators give into the impulse to share something with each other via Twitter. First, though, allow me to share one of my favorite concepts and how it impacts my role as a school district administrator, and, I pray, a leader.

I'm on a quest to be more effective, to find out what I can do to get out of people's way, to maximize their efforts that result in real organizational change, and become more other-focused by clearly understanding my motivations, thoughts, and biases. This is a habit, make no mistake. Here's the relevant quote:

Some people are more effective than others. . .skilled people find a way to get all the information out in the open because the free flow of information is critical. Furthermore, people need to be able to open and honestly express opinions, share feelings, and articulate their theories. Think: The greater the group’s shared pool of meaning, the greater the group's IQ, the better likelihood of good results. So our “trick” is to create conditions for dialogue that will help us master the tools for talking when the stakes are high.
Source: TrueBridge Resources

Wow, what profound points are being made in this excerpt. We can use social media, which is by its nature open and transparent, AND if we can do that to get dialogue going, then the group IQ can be increased. If that happens, then the group has greater information available to it to solve problems, plan, and do more.

This concept simply blows my mind! Having participated in many a meeting over my career, one of the key concepts is that most people simply don't contribute to the pool of shared meaning. They will typically sit inertly, keeping critical data that the group needs to solve a problem, and plan ahead for a variety of reasons. Those reasons include the following, all of which I've heard in my work over the years (ok, I may have used some of these myself!):

  • "It's not my place to point that out! That's the boss's job."
  • "If I say something, then [team member's name goes here] will chew me out or badger me about it!"
  • "I'll get in trouble for saying something about it since the boss or someone likes to keep things harmonious."
  • "No good deed goes unpunished! I'll get stuck with the job, whatever it is, because I bothered to speak up!"

They don't make a connection between what they know and what the group needs to know so they keep their mouths closed, like a poor man who holds onto the vase that hides a precious gem that would alleviate his financial troubles.

The value of Twitter, of course, is that people can start sharing openly about various resources and ideas that highlight what's going on. If there's a lot of research, articles, or public opinion encouraging a different perspective, then it's THOSE people who are introducing the concept, enabling us to talk about our problem from an elevated perspective.... We are simply trying to solve the equation.

Others' perspectives + Internal Reflection on our issue = Positive dialogue

One of my favorite questions to ask at a meeting is: "What haven't we discussed that is important to discuss?" Another way of saying it: "What haven't I brought up or asked about that we need to talk about?"

When you ask this question over time, you can see growth in a team. If the team says nothing, then safety is low. No one will speak up because of one of the reasons mentioned earlier. In time, though, we should start to get more open dialogue. If not, that's an indicator that you've made less progress than you hoped for in building the team's relationship.

Absolutely critical is the need for team members to hold each other accountable so they can begin the work of solving real problems a team experience. As a boss myself, I love it when I get called on the carpet by a team member. It shows me that reverence is given to the needs of the organization over the retaliatory fear an employee struggles under.

I hope that Twitter—as a method of facilitating open dialogue about what we need to know and how we are going to get it done—can accelerate learning, helping us reach escape velocity.

Miguel Guhlin is director of technology for a 5A school district in Texas and past president of the statewide TCEA Technology Education Coordinators group. This blog is cross posted at Around the Corner.