Sunday, January 24, 2010


With apologies to The Graduate...

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you – just one word.
Jimmy: Yes sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Jimmy: Yes I am.
Mr. McGuire: Collaboration.
Jimmy: How do you mean?
Mr. McGuire: There’s a great future in collaboration. Blog about it. Will you blog about it?
Jimmy: Yes I will.
Mr. McGuire: Shh! Enough said. That’s a deal.

Cisco CEO, John Chambers has empowered the employees in his company to
cooperate and collaborate like never before. He explains that the bumpy part –
and the eye-opener – is that the leaders of business units formerly competing
for power and resources now share responsibility for one another’s success.
What used to be “me” is now “we.”

Cisco is moving from “me” to “we.” What about your school district? Your school? Your classroom?

“We want a culture where it is unacceptable not to share what you know,”
Chambers says.

How much opportunity does our staff have to share? Our students? Is it an expectation that they share?

Chambers promotes all kinds of social networking at Cisco: You can write a
blog, upload a video, and tag your myriad strengths in the Facebook-style
internal directory. “Everybody is an author now,” he laughs. Blog posts are
voted up based on their helpfulness. There are blogs about blogging and classes
about holding classes – all gauged to make it easy for less-engaged employees
to get with the program.

Cisco provides resources and training opportunities so that less-engaged employees can “get with the program.” Does our school – or district – provide this opportunity?

So, if you’re an administrator, what are you doing to foster collaboration among your staff, and especially your teachers? And I’m talking more than just PLC’s, although that’s not a bad start. What are you really doing to fundamentally change the structure of your school(s) from one of isolation (close the door and teach), to one of sharing and collaboration (knock down the walls)? Is it unacceptable to share in your School?

If you’re a teacher, what are you doing to foster collaboration among your students? And I’m talking more than putting them into groups of four and having the students create a PowerPoint presentation together. What are you really doing to fundamentally change the structure of your classroom from one of isolation (do your own work), to one of collaboration (work with others)? What are you doing to build their skills to succeed in a corporate environment that requires them to collaborate on a global scale?

If you're a student, what are you doing to improve your own collaboration skills - and those of your peers? What are you demanding of your schools, your teachers, your administrators to help prepare you for the collaborative marketplace that is your future?

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
You: ?


  1. I am a teacher in Marion Ohio and find that in our district it is so competitive that collaboration is not something that we exercise. Teachers don't want to give up their "edge". This is especially true between schools. Such a shame!

  2. I teach 1st grade in Nashville and I have to proudly say that my grade level team coolaborates wonderfully. However, I wish we could collaborate more as a district. Being able to share ideas with more people outside our school could really bring about some great things for our kids. We are talking about doing blogs and/or wikis here to encourage more collaboration.

  3. I found your article/argument to be very thought provoking and useful for the students and me in my field. It really made me think about technology and collaboration and how important it is. It is a necessary tool for future teachers and current students in the teaching field.

  4. In my experience collarboration is stifled at organizations due to management style that puts cohorts in copetitition with each other. Teachers and administrators are regularly compared to their peers by their managers. I have managed groups and have achieved exceptional collaboration to where, years later, many of these people are still good friends with each other. To do this I made sure no one was compared to each other. Top performers were rewarded but less successful individuals were never told "why can't you perform like Jim or Jane" Rather everyone was encouraged to support each other so that everyone became winners.

    James Todd

  5. Schools can only improve through collaboration. If that doesn't exist, greatness can never be achieved.