Create an environment that invites new solutions to surface and provides the infrastructure necessary for such ventures to succeed.
Greenfielders trust in the ingenuity of talented, motivated individuals—if, and only if, those individuals are in an environment conducive to success, are responsible for the quality of their work, and are able to tap into crucial capital, talent, and support.
Most Fortune 500 companies erected before 1950 are no longer with us. Meanwhile, almost every school system in the United States already existed in 1950, and most are the direct descendants of organizations that took shape more than a century ago.
Despite the passion, money, and expertise thrown into organizational change, most turnaround initiatives fail to deliver.
A greenfielder does not presume that we know how to meet any of our pressing educational challenges— only that we should be skeptical of silver bullets and best practices, strip away formal and informal barriers that impede entrepreneurs, devise quality control and accountability systems, and find ways to provide the talent and resources that new ventures require.
It requires not that every entrepreneur devise a better schoolhouse—a new, miracle lab school—but a solution that can solve one substantial problem for students, teachers, or schools.
The task for greenfield reformers is to create supportive, dynamic environments. In doing so, four tasks are crucial: removing obstacles, ensuring quality, and supplying both talent and financial resources.
In a 2007 Teachers College Record study, Andrew Kelly and I examined more than 200 syllabi from a national sample of principal preparation programs and found little or no attention given to issues like eliminating ineffective programs, removing mediocre employees, using data to overhaul operations, or devising ways to use staff and services more productively.49