It’s not luck. It’s focus.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.  I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

-Steve Jobs

This month e2L is looking at elegant solutions and strategic abandonment. As we reflect on our own processes and progress, we’ve realized something. Too often we hear people assume that great results are the outcome of dumb luck. But, in reality, good results come from focus.

Here’s why luck has nothing to do with the results you’re getting.

Saying “No”

Elegant solutions and strategic abandonment go hand-in-hand. Even though we might spend a great deal of time developing an idea, if it no longer serves our mission, partner, or business, it’s chucked to the curb in a process known as “strategic abandonment.” When we strategically abandon the things that don’t work, we have room to find solutions that work; these are solutions with the least amount of bells and whistles possible. It’s only through strategic abandonment that we can arrive at an elegant solution that’s streamlined and outcome-oriented.

When we strategically abandon the things that don’t work, we have room to find solutions that work; these are solutions with the least amount of bells and whistles possible. Click To Tweet

But how do you come to elegant innovation?

It’s about saying no.

Nobody can do everything, and that’s why it’s critical to hone focus on what you can do. We’ve found it’s easier to start with what you won’t do by listing your “No” first.

For example, here are a few e2L No’s that we use to hone our focus:

  1. No training that doesn’t include coaching: Our mission is to create a tipping point in public education. If we do a one-and-done training, that doesn’t help teachers, coaches, or their students. In fact, research shows there is a 0% transfer into the classroom with one-time training. We know the processes that work – we’re not going to compromise them.
  2. No to any processes that don’t have community input: Schools are at the heart of our local communities. Policies need to have input from the community to ensure schools reflect the needs and dreams of their community.
  3. No to short term solutions and Band-Aids: It’s not easy being an educator. Stressors and boundaries make it hard to implement long-term solutions that benefit administration, teachers, and students. But we know that true success is found when you embrace boundaries with creativity to make a solution that works for years to come. In spite of tough obstacles, long term solutions through culture shift are the best way to make real change.
  4. No to anything that isn’t student-focused: Learners are the focus and purpose of education. We need to have students’ best interests at heart with every policy, implementation, and action we make. If it isn’t student-focused, it’s not aligned to our values.

Our No’s help us maintain focus in our day to day operations. This focus lets us create the most elegant solution through careful strategic abandonment.

Too often it feels like we need to do it all. But focus is the key to seeing real success. Aim for depth over breadth to make the biggest impact in the most elegant way.

Tell us in the comments: What’s your No?


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