Think Tank

cc licensed ( BY SA ) flickr photo shared by ToddMorris

When I was a kid, I felt I was pretty smart, and I was secretly proud of that. While I put up a front that I was really all about sports, I liked being good at Math and Science. I remember once hearing about a Think Tank, and asked what that was. I remember a teacher telling me that it was a group of smart people that got together to come up with solutions to problems or inventions or something like that. For some reason, I pictured these geniuses meeting in actual tanks, big metal bunkers with doors like on a submarine, locking themselves away from potential idea thieves. I know, I was a weird kid. Even as I got older, I thought the idea of being part of a Think Tank might be the coolest thing ever. To date, I have never been part of a Think Tank, but to me the idea still seems great.

Today I went for a coffee with my friend George Couros. I always enjoy our conversations, George is one of those people who is always a few steps ahead of the rest of us and challenging the status quo. What I enjoy most about our conversations is that they always bring the best out of me. We talk, we come up with ideas for my school and for our division, and I leave feeling energized and empowered. It was on the drive home that I realized that meeting with George is like having my own personal Think Tank. Earlier this school year I was able to spend time with Travis McNaughton, an Assistant Principal in my division. We spent some time in his building and at a conference. With our conversations, I had a similar experience. Travis is a dynamic and brilliant administrator and in our time together we helped each other develop ideas for each of our buildings and even some ideas of how we might help others in our division. There are many others in my division and in my school with whom I have shared these invigorating conversations.

I am sure that in most divisions, people have groups of colleagues they share conversations with that change their practice and the direction of their schools. We all have the potential for our own Think Tanks, but are we doing whatever we can to have these Think Tanks assemble?

I am bad for relying on Social Media to be my connection to the smart people. I am on Twitter, posting and reading blogs, and sharing whatever I can to those conversations, but there is something about meeting with George and Travis and others from my division that brings more to the conversation. Whether it is a shared understanding of where we work, our students, our parent community etc, for some reason those conversations have so much more meat to them.

I propose that regardless of whatever excuse we use to avoid these meetings from happening, we make them happen anyway. No money for subs, no time in the day, conflicting schedules, these are no reason to stand in the way of these meetings when we all know the power that lies in these connections.

I  am unsure if the power of the face to face meeting only exists when people work in the same school or division. In fact, I plan on putting it to the test. I am going to be traveling in less than  three weeks to BC, and while there I am going to make my way to Surrey, Coquitlam and Agassiz to meet with Gallit Zvi, Jess Pelat, David Truss, Neil Stephenson, and Chris Wejr for face to face meetings to discuss various education issues. While the five of them don’t work in the same division or even same province as I do, I know from our connections on Social Media that we do share a lot in common. I have great faith that might be all you need for a face to face meeting to have the potential for great things to come from it. I’ll let you know.

Do you have your own “Think Tank”? What does meeting with your “Think Tank” provide for you? Where do you meet? When do you meet? What structure do your meetings take on? I would love to hear from others on this topic so leave a comment and get the conversations started!

One thought on “Think Tank

  1. Thanks for this post, Jesse – I love your bunker and admit to sharing a similar nostalgia for Cold War concepts/ spy stratagems for secluded thinking.
    As you point out, enervation occurs when thinking in company, or even in the presence of those who are absent, to quote Rheingold. Talk about resonance and amplification! The whole tenor of talk, thinking, possible change avenues is enhanced by sharing ideas with simpatico others.
    Reading Gladwell’s Outliers and Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From also prompted realisation that those who may not share your bias/ predilection also play an invaluable role in provoking improved thinking. Velcro comes to mind.
    So to my own Think Tank: Significant Angels. Usually via email. Often on Twitter. They appear during conferences, online or in real time. Usually we share passions, and inspiration fires. If I’m lucky, we gather for a meal, coffee, review discussion. Talk seems haphazard, yet includes taking bearings, and calibrating a sense of what is, along with what could be (in education).
    I love these opportunities, and I see that you do, too.
    Interesting that George Couros was your galvanising catalyst; we loved his Travelling
    Scholar tour in Oz last year (undertaken in tandem with brother Alec). Definitely counted among the Think Tank impresarios!
    There, and I haven’t even mentioned #etmooc…..
    My gratitude to one and all for brewing provocation.

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