Many of the struggles for school leaders are nothing new outside of the education world. They’re the most universal questions faced by other industries – banking, healthcare, retailers, law enforcement, and business – how can you meet the rapidly-changing demands of the people you serve? How do you create a balance of quality and efficiency? What role can technology serve to improve how you work? There are a few important lessons that education could borrow from other industries that have faced similar barriers to change. In this post, we take a look at some of the ideas and practices that could be beneficial for K-12 and higher-ed environments.

Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing
There is a great need for transparency in education, which is shared in other workforces. Consider some of the best practices being used at large corporations and nonprofits, who have hundreds or thousands of staff to keep engaged in their mission. Developing a culture of regular idea sharing and collaboration could eliminate the silos that exist in educational environments among different departments. It’s a frequent practice for the healthcare profession, for example, to facilitate thinking between doctors and nurses. Nursing and medicine reflect two different cultures with different practice visions, and bringing the two together is necessary to examine an issue from multiple perspectives. While it can take an investment in time and developing the skills to resolve conflicts, this approach enables collaboration to become an integrated and productive part of any work culture.

The practice of using focus groups is often a marketing research tool for understanding customer opinions about a company or product. However, focus groups are trending among HR leaders at large companies, who seek to facilitate an open discussion and gather meaningful insights from several different members. It is also an important method for removing barriers to information flow on every level. Large organizations that are successfully collaborative find ways to eliminate the hierarchical view that restricts communication. Recommended Reading: 12 Habits of Highly Collaborative Organizations

Technology Is a Necessary Investment
Healthcare has been historically characterized as one of the most inefficient sectors, making it an interesting example from which to learn. The estimated waste from inefficiency in the U.S. healthcare system was between 20-50 percent, an estimated $765 billion (The Institute of Medicine, 2015). Economists have already been borrowing ideas from retail and hospitality models in order to simultaneously serve the demand for personalization with the necessity for doing more with fewer resources in healthcare. Technological reform is a significant push that has helped reduce waste from their system, by enabling a real-time exchange of clinical information and collaboration between care providers. The goal to minimize the disconnect in data and be able to see the patient in a more complete way – is the same path that education finds itself in today.

Mentoring Is Key to Supporting Diversity
Many sectors face a problem with the slow-moving progress in improving diversity; in recent years, there’s been a spotlight on the lack of diversity in highly sought-after tech positions in Silicon Valley. Mentorship has grown in application in businesses, especially as a way to interact with individuals from a variety of backgrounds and to recognize talents. Effective models include peer-to-peer mentoring, as well as group and training-based mentoring to bring diversity and equity into a daily or weekly setting. In education, the challenge in supporting diverse students is the lack of diversity in a school’s teaching workforce and leadership. As other industries have embraced it, professional learning through mentoring can help schools in more ways than one – to diversify the hiring of new educators, provide the support to encourage them to succeed and stay, and have a more positive impact on their diverse students. It is more common to find such mentoring programs on college campuses, where there is a strong diversity mission (and a dedicated director to make it a priority).

Programs Designed to Groom Future Leaders
There’s a need for identifying and supporting the next generation of leadership, and for years, educators and staff have reported how challenging it is to aspire to senior management or executive roles in schools. In many cases, they aren’t offered enough professional development or training to grow in their jobs. The business concept of the “growth mindset” is becoming more commonly used, which is the belief that intelligence is developed over time with hard work, and can shape an organization’s approach to recruiting talent and management practices. It’s no surprise women make up half of the workforce, but still too few of them have been filling the top leadership positions. This makes leadership programs imperative for businesses, so women and minorities are given the much-needed opportunities to establish relationships and build the critical skills they need to be successful.