14 June 2009

Just Wondering

I was reading Batman Villains and Cooperation: A Utility Analysis and this idea stuck out at me:
The theory is that as you add villains, working together will prove more difficult and planning more arduous. Therefore, the probability of getting Batman will increase, but by a marginally smaller amount with each villain added.
I had to stop at this point and wonder if this unusual application of economics might also apply to schools. Suppose we made a couple of substitutions:
The theory is that as you add [teachers], working together will prove more difficult and planning more arduous. Therefore, the probability of getting [student achievement] will increase, but by a marginally smaller amount with each [teacher] added.
or
The theory is that as you add [students], working together will prove more difficult and planning more arduous. Therefore, the probability of getting [group project completed] will increase, but by a marginally smaller amount with each [student] added.
Does the Law of Diminishing Returns have application to workplace dynamics? In this age where collaboration and shared decision-making are valued above individual work ethic---are we better off with a "divide and conquer" strategy for moving initiatives forward? One could argue that since education is not producing widgets, that the Law shouldn't apply where schools are concerned.

And yet, I can't help but think about whether the end product matters where diminishing returns are concerned. I remember a quote from the Seattle news coverage of schools that "Kumbaya consensus isn't leadership at all -- it's death by a gazillion selfish interests." Are those selfish interests any different (or more real) than expecting the Joker and Penguin to work in concert to off Batman?

For every cook we allow to stir the pot of student achievement, we gain communal support and buy-in to a common goal. These are worthwhile ends---but now, I am just wondering about what may be lost in the process.

1 comment:

Hugh O'Donnell said...

You ask good questions, SG.

Trying to move sound grading practices forward in the Hillsboro School District via "Kumbaya consensus" hasn't gotten us very far (first mentioned in 2000-2005 Strategic Plan, then in 2006-20011 SP), and I'm afraid that by the time we're ready to move forward quickly, the school board membership will have changed over to folks who haven't been to the Sound Grading Practices conference.

There comes a point where touchy-feely persuasion is terminally overwhelmed by ignorant opposition, and the opportunity to kick a little booty gets lost.

Right now, I'm ready to conference with naysayers behind the schoolhouse inside a ten-foot ring. Can you dig it?

Don't get me wrong...I never give up (Churchill), but I do lose some patience. Grrrr.