Last week I had the opportunity to visit Long Beach Unified School District with the purpose of learning about their Linked Learning and College and Career pathways. Their programs are truly inspirational and encouraging. We heard from their Superintendent Chris Steinhauser and several members of his staff who described the history and nature of their work to develop career pathways in all of their high schools.
One of the statements that was repeated over and over again in their explanation was their insistence in not working in silos. They were intentional about sharing information throughout their organization in order to develop plans that integrated the best thinking of everyone in their school community. Their discussion about silos reminded me of Hugh Howey’s trilogy (Wool, Shift, and Dust) that describes a post apocalyptic world in which society is organized into individual silos (none of which has knowledge of the existence of the other).
This dystopian novel illustrates the many negatives for developing around the concept of silos, which traditionally, has been the organizing premise of most education institutions. Why should we move beyond silos to a more networked and connected systems?
Silos do provide some superficial benefits.
Silos are organized
Silos are compact
Silos are manageable
Silos are comfortable (to an extent)
Silos produce predictability
And, how do silos accomplish these aims?
Silos thrive on secrecy
Silos thrive on darkness
Silos thrive on control
Silos thrive on specialization and separation
Networks on the other hand may appear to be a downgrade.
Networks are decentralized
Networks are messy
Networks are complicated
Networks lack control
Networks produce ambiguity
And what are the ingredients that produce healthy and growing networks?
Networks flourish in the light
Networks flourish with transparency
Networks flourish with sharing
Networks flourish with interdependence
The end result, as Long Beach Unified has demonstrated so clearly, is that improvement and innovation are much more likely to be produced in networks of connected educators than in silos of independent operators. What will we do today to move from silos to networks?