Too often, leaders accept defeat when challenges seem insurmountable. They concede quickly, bowing to the pressures of the day. If others in similar situations can’t overcome certain obstacles, it is easy to rationalize that nothing can be done.
While some shrug their shoulders and accept the unacceptable, others are busy getting creative and generating meaningful results. They develop a new ingredient – a twist – that becomes the difference maker. When you study the many incredible stories of against-all-odds success, the leaders who breakthrough the barriers don’t relent. Instead, they look for fresh approaches to tackling the most difficult hurdles.
To see this in action, let’s look at one of the toughest problems of all: education in the city of Detroit.
Like most urban areas, Detroit schools are facing serious challenges. Lack of funding, community apathy, and school violence are just a few of the issues plaguing teachers and administrators. The results, a mere 32% high school graduation rate, incite outrage and disbelief. With such an uphill battle, could creative twists really make an impact?
Twist 1: Beyond Basics, a non-profit organization dedicated to “changing destiny through education,” attacks the problem at its root. Going into the most troubled schools and working with the highest risk kids, they offer intensive one-on-one literacy coaching combined with positive energy and respect. The result? Nearly all students reach grade-level literacy skills within a six-week effort, even those that were years behind. This program is breaking the cycle and has helped thousands of kids over the last ten years.
Twist 2: The Sphinx Orchestra works with kids in Detroit schools and offers classical music programs for minority students. Kids learn discipline, creativity, and teamwork under the direction of the inspirational Aaron Dworkin. Besides delivering some amazing concerts, Dworkin’s program delivers something even more special: Kids who participate enjoy a 100% high-school graduation rate. No, that was not a typo.
Twist 3: Detroit’s new Cristo Rey High School. Their twist comes from the idea that college kids can put themselves through school, so why not high school kids? The program includes corporate mentors who hire students to work one day per week. The pay that’s earned goes back to the school to help fund better programming and staff. Kids get real world experience, connect with role models, and develop a strong work ethic. As a result, 100% of their first graduating class was accepted to college. Again, not a typo.
If creative twists can deliver such dramatic results in the highly challenged Detroit schools, think what they can do in your own organization. Stop tacking the problem in the same way everyone else does. Instead, stick your finger in the eye of conventional wisdom and look for an entirely new approach. It will liberate your company and allow you to drive unimaginable results.
C’mon y’all. Let’s do the twist.