EP 17

What if the answer was less? In education, we naturally tend to try to solve problems and improve things by adding additional programs, initiatives and responsibilities. Too often, we overlook subtraction as a strategy for improvement. In this episode, Simon provides some provocative frames to use as a team to explore doing less. In a time of systematic exhaustion, the pursuit of less may be just the strategy we need in order to unlock progress.


What if the answer was less? A lot of us are trying to progress important work. We’re in the messy middle of the projects and initiatives we’re working on. We’re experiencing the systemic exhaustion of the profession and our teams, and we’re trying to find ways to keep moving forward. One of the things that we often underestimate is, well, the benefits of sometimes not thinking about addition, but subtraction as an improvement approach. Our default approach is so often to say, Hey, something’s not working all that well, or, we’re not making enough progress. What do we need to add? Do we need to add more training, add more resources, add more emails? Do we need to prompt people more? Ask them to do more? What else could we add? Who else could we bring in to speak to the group? How could we get people to do more observations and get more feedback? Is there anyone else we could add to the team?

All of us are really good at thinking about adding one more thing as a possible solution to making progress. Sometimes though, it’s worth asking an alternative question, how might we make things better by doing less? How might we improve this process by removing some of the steps? How could we take our professional learning design for an upcoming day or planning block and improve it by taking away 50% of the things we were planning to do? At least exploring the idea that sometimes subtraction is a very powerful, very effective and powerful way of actually enhancing the outcomes that we want can open up a whole new possibility space to explore as teams. So why don’t you try out asking, what if the answer was less? How might we enhance our outcomes by reducing some of the things we’re doing? How might we prune back and pull back from things? Not because they’re not good things, not because we need to get rid of them because they just don’t meet our standard. No, no, no. But because actually to optimise on the things that we really want, we might actually be able to get there by doing fewer things in education. Our default approach is to do more at this stage with our overloaded agendas and our exhausted staff. I think it’s at least worth the possibility of asking, what if the answer was less?

Well, thanks for joining me. I hope you’re getting a huge amount of value out of these ideas. One last request before you go. I genuinely appreciate it if you could subscribe, rate, and review this show. It’s one of the easiest ways for us to get these ideas into the hands of even more educational leaders.


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