Adaptive Leadership: Embracing Technology as a Crucial Part of the Equation of More Kids Learning

Roland Heifetz, Alexander Grashow and Marty Linsky in their book –The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World (2009 p 13-17) write about how Adaptive Leadership has roots in evolutionary biology.  I think they make a lot of sense.  This information can help us as we lead our systems toward more students learning more effectively.  Whether it is our high achieving or low achieving students – finding ways to engage and excite them about new learning is our work and obvisously innovative technology has the potential to help us connect with more students.  All students desire schools that connect with them.  As leaders we must help our systems adapt to the available opportunities for our students so that they will not ‘just get by’ but ‘strive’.

Adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive. Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history and the future.

The concept of thriving is drawn from evolutionary biology, in which a successful adaptation has three characteristics:

it preserves the DNA essential for the species is continued survival;

it discards prophecies reregulate or rearrange in parentheses the DNA that no longer serves the species current needs: and

creates DNA In re arrangements that give the species the ability the floors in new ways and in more challenging environments.

Successful adaptations enable a living system to take the best from its history into the future.   What do these concepts of evolutionary biology suggest for adaptive leadership?

 Adaptive leadership is specifically about change that enables the capacity to thrive. – New environments and new dreams demand new strategies and abilities, as well as the leadership to mobilize them.

 Successful adaptive changes build on the past rather than jettison the past. – More than 98 percent of our current DNA is the same as that of a chimpanzee: it took less than a 2% change of our evolutionary predecessor’s genetic blueprint to give humans extraordinary range and ability. A challenge for adaptive leadership, then, is to engage people in distinguishing what is essential to preserve … and what is expendable.  Successful adaptations are both conservative and progressive.

 Organizational adaptation occurs through experimentation. Those seeking to lead adaptive change need an experimental mind-set.  They must learn to improvise as they go, buying time and resources along the way for the next set of experiments.

 Adaptation relies on diversity. –  In evolutionary biology, nature acts as a fund manager, diversifying risk.  Each conception is a variant, a new experiment, producing an organism with capacities somewhat different from the rest of the population. The secret of evolution is variation, which in organizational terms could be called distributed or collective intelligence.  For organizations, adaptive leadership would build a culture that values diverse views and relies less on central planning and the genius of the few at the top.

~  New adaptations significantly displace, reregulate, and rearrange some old DNA.  By analogy, leadership on adaptive challenges generates loss.  Learning is often painful. One person’s innovation can cause another person to feel incompetent, betrayed, or irrelevant. Nobody likes to be “rearranged.”  Leadership therefore requires the diagnostic ability to recognize those losses and the predictable defensive patterns of response that operate at the individual and systemic level.

~  New adaptation takes time. – Although organizational and political adaptations seem lightning fast by comparison with biological adaptations that occur – they also take time to consolidate into new sets of norms and processes. Adaptive leadership thus requires persistence. Significant change is the product of incremental experiments that build up over time. And cultures change slowly.”


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  1. Wombi said:

    Excellent article Jerry. I am a strong believer that technology not only makes the learning process much more fun, but it also creates allows a more hands-on experience for kids! If you are interested in other educational products for kids, I would check out our educational apps! 🙂

    Best Regards

  2. Pingback: Adaptive Leadership…interesting | mrsmorhart

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