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  • Writer's pictureMike Cobb

"Charting the Future: Embracing Innovation and Excellence in Education"

Updated: Jun 11

I am thrilled to embark on a new journey as the Senior Innovation and Organizational Excellence Strategist at Mission & Data! This role marks a significant milestone, allowing me to apply my 35+ years of experience in schools as I join a transformational team committed to inspiring and engaging impactful work for communities.

Leading schools and preparing for an uncertain future is important work, as we strive to equip students and educators with the tools they need to thrive. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to collaborating with schools on various fronts, including strategy, innovation, accountability, school leadership, and change management. As Peter Drucker said, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."

In my career, I have been fortunate to enjoy numerous opportunities to follow my passions and commitment to creating unique learning experiences that enable every member of the school community to be the best version of themselves. I have been blessed to launch programs across the innovation spectrum, imagining the skills and knowledge needed in the future—from AI, robotics, and cognitive cities to learning farms and outdoor education. These programs were joyous places in the present, but they prepared students for a future landscape where creativity, collaboration, and empathy play an increasing role in our complex world. The efforts aimed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in this environment through critical and creative thinking, effective collaboration and communication, and promoting adaptability and openness to change. Our efforts met significant success, as evidenced by the numerous accolades and achievements we received.

Strategic planning is vital for a thriving school community, ensuring that decisions are data-informed and forward-thinking. A thorough mission validation and focus on core values guide a thoughtful path to excellence. A process that empowers multiple voices into the conversation fosters a sense of ownership and commitment across all stakeholders. Reflective practices allow the community to learn from past experiences, while generative approaches encourage innovative solutions and future readiness. This comprehensive planning process not only builds consensus but also ignites energy and enthusiasm, driving the school toward a shared vision of infinite possibilities.

The establishment of a "North Star" and a clearly defined value proposition builds consensus around the significance of the school’s mission. My many experiences have driven home that to sustain and thrive, schools must carefully define and articulate a "North Star" statement that is reflected in all aspects of school life. This clarity of purpose and value proposition empowers cohesive teams to establish accountability processes that ensure the mission and vision remain the guiding force of the school and that these goals are actualized with an engaged board, administration, faculty, and staff possessing the mindset, skill set, and internal drive to succeed. This focus on impactful programs highlights the best efforts and elevates the results from current resources. In my experience, this “North Star” march allowed for respectful partnerships that reaped continuous improvement, enhancing our schools' ability to understand and meet the needs of others, thereby uplifting the communities we served.

Key to building momentum was the vision and accountability for the transparency and integrity of our bold vision. Tools like visualizations and dashboards made data accessible and comprehensible, enabling stakeholders to see progress, engage in growth, and identify trends. These tools empower schools to make informed decisions with real-time data and actionable insights. I have seen the power of leveraging visualizations and dashboards. In my past work, we created cultures of strategic visioning, accountability, and transparency where data-driven decisions were the norm, and continuous improvement was not only achievable but expected.

I believe in infinite possibilities and know that effective leadership is essential for enacting a bold vision. Coaching leaders and boards of trustees fosters a culture of inquiry-based decision-making, where decisions are grounded in evidence and reflective practice. This approach ensures that the organization’s vision is not only articulated but also realized through informed and deliberate actions. John F. Kennedy’s words, "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other," resonate deeply in the context of educational and organizational leadership. By coaching leaders and trustees, we create a learning environment where inquiry and evidence-based practices are central. This, in turn, drives us toward our mission and enhances its vitality.

Reflection is a critical practice for any thriving organization. By embracing agile processes, leaders can identify areas for improvement and implement strategic enhancements at the right time. I have also learned the importance of outside perspectives for reflection and analysis to ensure that your team remains agile and responsive to changing needs and challenges. Margaret J. Wheatley’s insight, "Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful," highlights the necessity of reflection in achieving meaningful progress. We can easily get stuck in echo chambers at our schools if objective validations are not shared to help avoid pitfalls, enhance efficiency, and make strategic improvements that drive success.

I am deeply honored to step into the role of Senior Innovation and Organizational Excellence Strategist at Mission & Data. This new chapter represents a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with an incredible team and many school communities. I am hopeful that our collective efforts in innovation, accountability, and leadership will foster environments where everyone can thrive. I am excited to work alongside passionate professionals and school leaders, leveraging their resources and strategic insights to create educational experiences that truly help us reach infinite possibilities.

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