I have an office, but when I am at the board office, I usually like to work in the cafeteria. The cafeteria has windows, something my office lacks, but this isn’t the only reason I make the journey up from the basement. I enjoy the conversations that can sometimes ensue with the occasional passerby. Today, that passerby was Rick Pardo. We discussed a version of the Adoption Curve that he shared at a recent PD session. I’ve seen many versions of the Adoption Curve, but what I really like about this particular one is the inclusion of Forrester’s Social Technographic, Maloney’s 16% Rule, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.
I’ve always taken a keen interest in the philosophy behind the Adoption Curve. It helps frame my thoughts and provide perspective in both my professional and personal life. Moreover, knowing where someone resides on this curve often helps me choose a course of action that will help them build forward momentum.
During my discussion with Rick, we talked about what it would take for innovation to catapult over the chasm and reach the tipping point. According to Maloney’s 16% Rule, we need to provide social proof to make that leap. We need to demonstrate to the pragmatists that the innovation has a footing in the real world, and appease the concerns of critics. This is no easy task, by any means, but we both ended our conversation in agreement that PD might be both the hindrance, and a possible path forward.
In her book Learner-Centered Innovation, Katie Martin draws a distinction between training and learning. Take a moment to visualize the last few PD sessions you attended, now look at the chart. Which side of the chart more accurately reflects the PD that you received? My guess is that your experience was training, not learning. Training is never going to lead innovation over the chasm because it lacks one essential characteristic: it doesn’t empower teachers, and doesn’t lead to the social proof required by Maloney to drive innovation. To move innovation over the chasm, we need learning, not more training.
When we align PD with the learning model, we create opportunities for educators that permeate on a personal, authentic level. Learning begins where people are at, not where we want them to go. Growth is fostered in a supportive environment rooted in a collective desire to improve practice.
When all characteristics of Martin’s learning model converge, the product is teacher empowerment. If an educator is seeking social proof that innovation is working, they need only turn inward. Is this enough to take innovation over the chasm, past the tipping point, and on to the masses? Perhaps not, but I’m challenged to think of a better path forward.