Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Learning Paradigm (and not a Buzz Word)

It is clear to me that the 21st Century Jewish educational endeavor must develop its capacity for innovation and creativity. Jonathan Woocher makes the case in his article "Reinventing Jewish Eduation for the 21st Century" that we need a new paradigm for Jewish education in which innovation and change is the natural order, rather than a response to crisis.

For any new paradigm to emerge, Jewish education must forefront its change efforts around a movement that aims for the field, its institutions, its leader and its beneficiaries to thrive, and not merely to survive. Survivalism offers a comfortable feeling of security locked in a nostalgic authorization of past glory, upended by contextual infringement. To thrive in an age of rapid change and discomfort requires an embrace of chaos, uncertainty and willing experimentation, hallmarks for the innovative enterprise glorified in Silicon Valley, Israel's "start-up nation" and the technology revolution.

Firstly, we must forget the buzz words of innovation, design thinking, gamification, 21st century skills, etc. I am not sayin these concepts are not important, or critical to the future of Jewish education, but simply relying on these words to make us sound smarter at conference, at back-to-school nights and to funders is not going to improve the quality or value of Jewish education in order to make us thrive.

I believe the secret to Jewish education thriving in the coming century actually lies within something we all know well, and have done well for over two millennium:


The core of the field of Jewish education's capacity to innovate and grow resides in our organization's capacity for learning. Our organizations will evolve as every individual within our organization become agents for our organizations to learn. We will only be able to continuously improve at the rate to which our students learning needs grow if educational leaders can learn more effectively and faster. Rather than relying on tradition competencies, such as costs, Jewish education can create a clear value advantage over any competition (of which there is much), by emphasizing organizational learning.

So, thinking of your organization, which of these six organizational learning principles (Wang and Ahmed, 2003) do you want your organizations to thrive by?

1. Triple Loop Learning (See Video Below for explanation of Double and Triple Loop Learning)
Learning how to learn depends on constantly questions existing products processes and system. Organizations must engender the capacity to ask where the organization should stand in the future marketplace, rather than simply asking what is wrong, and how to correct and prevent flaws.

2. Organizational Unlearning
Organizations need to abandon current beliefs and methods even when producing reasonable results. Rather than prolonging a successful product, process, policy or system, organization must be willing to move on in order to create something better.

3. Knowledge creation
Ultimately, innovation capacity is considered a continuous process knowledge creation, which occurs through radical changes that lead to the accumulation, dissemination, retention and refinement of knowledge.

4. Creative thinking
Innovation occurs only through unexpected moments of creativity and insight, rather than predictable patterns.

5. Competence-orientation
Typically organizations try to attain a competitive advantage by being better and cheaper than competitors.  The organizational imperitive should be to make current competition irrelevant and focus on being open to new opportunities that assure performance on terms established by their own standards of excellence.

6. Organizational sustainability
Organizational learning is directly correlated to organizational outcomes and to continuous improvement. However the nature of the Jewish education market requires an emphasis on value innovation through a creative quality process as the only way to sustain competitive advantage. Only by delivering new value to the marketplace can a Jewish educational organization truly become sustainable.

So rather than simply emphasizing affordability, and other survivalist practices, Jewish education needs to veer from temporary profitability and incremental changes.  Instead, we must place a large scale emphasis or creative and innovative change rooted in organizational learning.

I hope to use this blog to further explore organizational learning, innovation and the importance of understanding these frameworks and tools to create the vibrant, valuable and successful paradigm for Jewish education in the 21st century.

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and explorations on these topics, either through comments on this blog, on twitter, or via direct communication.

Wang, C.L. & Ahmed, P. (2003) "Organizational learning: a critical review". The Learning Organization (10:1), P. 8-17.

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