Do Not Let Fear Be Your Guide
I chose to speak to our graduates about the idea of taking the road less traveled. To encourage them to consider the possibility that even if the less-traveled path leads them to a dead end, or a fall or a failure … they may be better off for the journey.
As I prepared my remarks – and searched for the right combination of inspiration and levity – I could not help but realize the parallels between my speech and the efforts of those transforming our world through innovation. We stay within the well-worn grooves of our one-lane road so often because it is far easier and safer to stick with what we know … at work … in education … in life. Yet all around us, there are examples of the magic that can happen when we ignore that fear of the unknown and choose the road less traveled.
Take the Internet of Things, for example. The Internet of Things is the network of physical objects or "things" embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging data with the manufacturer, operator and/or other connected devices.
Ordinary things are made “magical” through innovation, experimentation, trying new roads … failing, starting over and refusing to accept that fear of the unknown trumps the magic of possibility. (Check out this New York Times video for some amazing examples.)
One HBR article reviewed examples of this change to include:
· Joy Global – Mining machinery that can change on the fly for better efficiency
· Tesla Automobile – Automatically call for a corrective software download
· Ralph Lauren – Polo Tech Shirt that can monitor health vitals
· The Nest – A smart thermostat that can save you money automatically
While all of these revolutionary changes are taking place, public schools are still mired in debate about changing the way we do business. There is so much resistance to changing the way it’s always been, our reliance on the 1892 formula, that it’s tempting to ignore the possibility of another way, another path.
For those of you pushing back against technology, or its place in education today, we understand. It is not what you or I experienced in our educational past.
The resistance to embracing technology and its powerful role in customizing everything – including education – is nothing new. History has shown us that people have rarely met innovation or change with confidence and enthusiasm. Consider the reaction to the pencil, which scholars like Plato thought would have a negative impact on our memory. Or the advent of the printing press, when Erasmus cautioned against producing books and suggested the growth in printing books would be linked to a rise in barbarism.
What if we had all listened to those fearful people shouting to be heard over the innovators?
What if we are content to let fear of failure or the unknown bind us to an educational past despite the innovations – a device and the Internet – that give us not just two roads from which to choose, but dozens?
Tonight, when I conclude my address to our graduating seniors, I will encourage them to not give in to fear when they stand at a fork in the road in the future. I will urge them to consider that great, extraordinary things can happen when we challenge ourselves to try something new or different.
These are the same lessons public educators need to remember today.
We are at a fork in the road. It is time for us to see that fork, let go of our fears and consider the magic that could happen when we take the road less traveled.