Good afternoon!  I’ve had a busy week and I’m a little sick, so this letter is a little punchier than usual.

I have been reading Made to Stick, which is the first of the uber-successful books by the Heath Brothers. (The Heath Brothers are just too good to be true—I can’t stand them.  But they write very useful books, especially Switch, and they have great resources on their website if you register to receive their newsletter.  Check out, for example, this Reading List for Switch, or this list of Questions to Make Better Decisions—but actually, I think I could come up with a better list—I should try that, huh?  ).  Funnily enough, I thought I had read Made to Stick when it first came out, but when I picked it up again—I don’t remember why I went looking for it—I realized that it was completely unfamiliar to me.  It was a weird feeling, as I’m sure I’ve been talking about it for years as if I’d actually read it, not just in my imagination.  Oops.

The book is about how to make ideas robust and communicable and, not surprisingly, they have an acronym for that:

Simplicity—stripping an idea to its core without making it a sound bite.

Unexpectedness—capturing and holding attention.

Concreteness—making an idea easily understandable and memorable.

Credibility—making an idea worth paying attention to.

Emotional—making people care about the idea.

Stories—getting people to act on your idea.


And I have been thinking about Thinking in Bets since it was the subject of our book club (and another big thank you to everyone who read it, and a big shout-out to those who joined the online discussion—you rock!).  The essential messages of both books, in combination, made me think differently about the work we do at the Center.  So here’s my pitch:

We help you improve your bets.  The life of an educational leader is all about designing actions to achieve outcomes, and every time you do that you place a bet on what will work.  We help you make a better bet, and we do that by helping you:

  • Clarify what you are trying to achieve;
  • Involve others in your strategic planning and decision-making;
  • Focus on high leverage strategy (especially high quality teaching and learning);
  • Identify and manage your assumptions (build out and examine your theory of action);
  • Implement—we can help with that in lots of different ways;
  • Build capacity of you (leaders and teacher leaders) and your staff—we have deep expertise in adult learning and coaching;
  • Collect and analyze data to improve your strategy and measure your impact;
  • Communicate

This was enormously helpful to me—I don’t think it’s easy to explain what the Center is and what we do.  So coming up with this made me happy.  I don’t think I used all parts of the Made to Stick formula, but it certainly helped me crystallize ideas that I haven’t been able to pull together to my own satisfaction.  So I recommend spending some time making your ideas more sticky—as well as thinking in bets.  I look forward to hearing how you play with these ideas.  Have a terrific weekend.  Yours, Isobel

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