What could open networks do for education?

Writing at Forbes, Michael Simmons  explains why being in an open network rather than a closed one is the best predictor of career success.

Headline and author photo

A closed network is basically the people you know personally who also know each other personally.  Closed networks—whether they be networks within an industry, a political party, or a geographic location—are comfortable. They can get things done because people know one another’s skills and, as the expression goes, speak the same language.

For many people, venturing into an open network is as uncomfortable as going to a party at which you know no one. That’s why many people don’t like Twitter—”I don’t know anybody on Twitter”— and why many of those who do rely on hashtags to keep them securely within a closed network.

Getting outside one’s network, mingling with people in other networks, however, may be just what’s needed.

Simmons quotes from an interview Apple’s legendary co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs  for Wired in 1995:

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.

It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences.

So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.

In the third paragraph of that quote, replace in our industry with

  • in our school district
  • in my school
  • in my discipline
  • in education
  • in the teachers’ union
  • in the state education department

Is it just possible that if we got out of our networks and away from our hashtags that we might be more successful educators?

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