Introducing the Game Changers 2017 – 2018 Cohort

I’m so excited to start our Game Changers series again this year!

This is one of my favorite things that we have ever done. I love to learn from other people so much, and being able to learn from the high performance culture organizations in Texas has been amazing!

So, what can we learn from businesses that is applicable in education? Here are just a few of the things that we’ve learned over the past three years that have made us better as an organization, and have made our partner districts better as they have studied these organizations alongside us.

First, the intentional focus on creating the culture that they want in these organizations is the most critical learning of all.

Southwest Airlines, Whataburger, Google, The Container Store, Dell, Uber, and the others that we have studied do not have the exact same culture. However, they are all intentional about the unique culture they each want to create. The CEOs of these organizations, as well as other leaders, talk about the values they hold dear and how they model, measure, and mentor those values throughout the organization on the daily.

Secondly, we can learn a lot about how these companies think about recruiting, hiring, retaining, and recognizing their people.

One thing we have learned from these organizations is what types of skills our students need as they’re leaving our public schools to be more attractive to these organizations. Even though the cultures are unique, the skills list is pretty similar every time. It is the same list that we have included in our Future Ready Skills. 

You probably already know what these skills are, but it is interesting to hear from these organizations how much they want to find those skills and how rare they are to find. Why don’t we create a system of public schools where that is the focus?

Next, because these companies are so set on the organizational culture, they have very intentional measurements in place to ensure that the people that they have in their organizations are upholding their cultural tenets.

They also recognize those employees as a way to retain those upholding the standard in the organization. How many of us have a teacher of the year program in our district that’s really just a popularity contest? Shouldn’t we practice the same type of vigilance with the way that we reward and recognize people in our organization by ensuring that those kinds of recognitions are tied back to the cultural tenets that we truly value?

Finally, the last thing that we can learn from these organizations is how to market our school districts and communicate better about the value of public schools.

All of these organizations put a premium on internal and external communication. They do not leave it to chance. They do not leave it to the media. They create the messaging that they want, they invest in the messaging that they want, and they are consistent and the messaging that they want.

Because they prioritize that communication, you find that everyone within the organization understands, can speak to, owns, and is engaged in the work that will make a difference for the mission of those organizations. Granted, these organizations are for-profit organizations. They will not exist if they neglect to market and communicate about what they’re doing.

However, public schools are in the same situation. If we do not prioritize the clear, open, and transparent communication about what is happening in our public schools, and celebrate the great things that are happening in our public schools, then we are leaving that communication to the critics.

People will believe the critics on social media or in the general media if they do not have any other information to go on, and then they will no longer believe it is worthwhile to fund these schools.

What a sad thing it would be if a lack of communication were the downfall of our public schools. I’ve heard several people speak to this recently, and I believe it to be true. One way we can truly make a difference for public schools is by relaying a unified message

These are three areas that we consistently learn how to improve on from our Game Changer organization partners. The details and the practical tools that they share with us are priceless. We are so thankful for these partners and we know that we can continue to learn tremendously from the healthy, thriving, innovative businesses of our great state of Texas.

Shannon Buerk

By Shannon Buerk

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