execution

The Larger Perspective of Tools

A key component of the Coro curriculum has been learning heaps of different Coro tools. In seminars, we utilize these tools and frameworks to take a step back and look more deeply at areas we may not otherwise have explored. As such, we are then able to consider a wider range of possibilities when employing the tools with the eventual goal that we use mechanisms on a regular basis.

This blog entry will take a look at a tool I invented, the larger perspective circle, during our week in Sacramento to demonstrate both the framework itself and how tools can be used more effectively.

The Larger Perspective Circle

As you can see in the larger perspective circle below, this framework includes four components: objective, method, execution, and measurement (OMEM).  While discussing each component, I will also apply them briefly to the issue of education.

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Objective: The overall guiding purpose and goal(s) to achieve. Although it is usually best to have fewer goals, you can have multiple ones. Generally, the circle starts here. For education, although there are numerous goals to consider, a key objective I will use for this example is preparing individuals for college.

Method: The planned framework to meet the objective. This is often dictated by conventional norms, but can also provide the opportunity to be more inventive. For preparing individuals for college, the method in the United States is to use college preparatory schools, of the public, charter, and private variety.

Execution: The strategy and follow-through of carrying out a method. The execution is where most time and effort is spent, and covers most of the details and actions from creating regulation to budgeting on the strategy side and implementation on the other. The key differential with the method is that execution is an action phase. The execution for education includes both how school administrators distribute funding and resources within the school and also how the teachers train and instruct the students in the classroom.

Measurement: How the execution will be evaluated and checked against the overall objective. This final step completes the circle and ensures that the execution stays in alignment with the main purpose, and often describes the objective in a measureable format. For the objective of preparing students for college, checking to see what percentage of students go to college is an easy measurement. Even better would be to take a look at their alumni’s success in college and their college graduation rates.

Although all four parts are distinct, they are inherently related to each other and directly influence each other. It can be highly useful to re-evaluate different parts of the circle after thinking about other portions since the connections between the sections becomes more apparent during the process.

Applying and Learning from the Tool

Now that the larger perspective circle has been introduced, what can be deduced from using it in completely different contexts? Since it does apply widely, I will first look at education policy, and then take a look at something completely different, the job search.

1) Education

Much education policy debate revolves around the method and execution portions of the larger perspectives circle. In execution, we often hear debates surrounding the need for more school funding and the importance of more class time, whereas in the method portion, there are many disputes to address, including the one comparing charter schools to public neighborhood schools or even the importance of technical education.

Looking at the other portions of the circle can help explain some of the conflict. In the previous section I intentionally simplified the objective to be only aiming to prepare students for college.  Yet, most people would disagree with that sole purpose, as there is little consensus around the goals of education.  How much of education is meant to prepare students for the workplace versus allowing for social mobility or even preparing students for democratic citizenship? (These goals have been taken from the writings of David Labaree.) When the overall goals of education are not agreed upon and are in conflict with each other, the rest of education policy can suffer.  After all, how can policy makers decide on a method and framework for education when they do not agree on whether the priority should be educating all students equally or allowing students to sort themselves through ‘ability’?

Beyond highlighting the lack of clear objectives for education policy, the larger perspective tool also shines a light on measurement and standardized testing. For examples, if the actual objective of education was to learn basic core competencies, then standardized tests do an excellent job of evaluating a school’s success. However, considering few people believe this is the primary objective, it probably makes sense to have a dialogue about basic education goals, and then discuss how to measure those effectively. Utilizing the larger perspectives circle would enable policymakers to develop a clearer and more effective connection between objectives and measurements.

2) Job Searching

In the completely different context of job-hunting, the larger perspective circle also provides a useful framework. The objective is often not fully considered; even though the primary goal is to find a job, it is also important to contemplate the aspects of the job, such as the field, daily work involved, opportunities for advancement, and how the job fits into an envisioned career.  Once the goals have been identified, it becomes clearer which method is most useful. If there are many jobs that appear easy to attain and fit the objectives, then emailing many cover letters and resumes would likely bring success. On the other hand, if there are only a couple of positions that clearly match the target, then spending more time performing informational interviews and networking is logical.

Once the objective and method has been determined, it is up to the individual to execute their plan successfully. In this section, it is not just about doing the informational interviews and cover letter emails, but also being skillful, such as being presentable in person and avoiding written typos. Finally, although measurement is fairly straightforward (did you secure a job?), it is also the chance to reassess your objectives moving forward and reflect on the success of the job-hunt.

Conclusion – What is the Objective of Tools?

As can be seen in the previous two examples, the larger perspective circle provided new insights to both education policy and job searching.  In both examples, execution is a focus, whereas people often overlook refining the objective. Of course the circle can be applied to many other segments of life and society, and properly considering the whole circle will lead to greater success and productivity.

Now to apply the larger perspective circle to tools as a whole – what is their objective? In short, tools provide new perspectives and insights to how one perceives and interacts with the world.  Arguably, another goal is that the tools should be utilized subconsciously, freeing the mind to focus on fewer tasks. The method of utilizing tools is fairly straightforward: learn the tool and practice using it. When this method is executed, it is important at first to bring a high level of attention to include all aspects of the tool, and then over time integrate them naturally. As for the measurement, it depends on the tool. For the larger perspective circle, success is improved awareness about the overall objective and being able to measure it. Progress could involve intentionally avoiding norms for the method and changing the framework to better meet the objectives. Success for all tools also involves being able to achieve these benefits subconsciously.

Although tools can be quite useful, there is always the risk of over usage. Perhaps one of the more poignant examples occurred while teaching in Singapore. The Singaporean education system revolves around standardized testing, so there are many tools students must learn to master the format of the exams.  As a result, much of what teachers require their students learn and memorize are tools to recreate on exams. Tools can help the students write high-scoring essays. However, when tools must be followed, they become guidelines and laws that restrict further learning. Tools are definitely useful, but they are best used as tools, not rules.

The Coro program itself has given us many tools to utilize on an everyday basis, and it is up to us the fellows to hold ourselves accountable for using them properly.  When employed correctly, frameworks allow us to consider more possibilities and push ourselves beyond societal norms and previous thought limitations. Taking thorough advantage of tools with thought-out exceptions truly thrusts one’s thoughts to extraordinary heights.

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