Thoughts on ‘The Thought Luck’

By John Alberts

Austin Public Schools

There really is nothing more quintessentially Minnesotan than the pot luck. The power of the gathering in the variety of items that are brought to share, from the hot dishes to the Jello mold. It is in this same spirit that Austin Public Schools is launching its latest innovation effort — The Thought Luck.

John Alberts

The Thought Luck has come about through Austin’s participation in a cohort of seven other Minnesota school districts along with a corporate sponsor, Ignite! from Optum Health. This innovation effort is crowd-sourced innovation in which all Austin Public School staff are invited to participate.

The first phase is one in which staff members are invited to submit their ideas. This is done through a software solution called Spigit. Staff are also invited to view the ideas of others and offer comments and suggestions. Ideas are categorized as small, medium, or large based upon the anticipated cost of implementation.

The second phase is where staff are invited to vote on ideas through a pairwise voting method. During this stage, staff are presented with a pair of ideas that have been submitted and asked of the two, which they prefer. This is done with all the ideas submitted.

Finally, the top vote-getting ideas will be invited to a workshop phase. During this phase, the top vote-getting ideas will be invited to workshop their idea through an empathy-based, design-thinking model. In this stage, the ideas are refined to best match the problem identified. Ultimately, the ideas will be micro-tested to determine effectiveness. Ideas with proven effectiveness can then be considered for broader implementation.

It is the hope that this will become an annual event, where Austin Public Schools can solicit the ideas from our incredible staff as we know this is where the best ideas for improvement reside.

In the end, we hope that the ideas submitted will help us improve the learning of students throughout the district. So just as with the midwestern pot luck, our goal for the Thought Luck is that the employees of Austin Public Schools will think it, bring it, and share it.

John Alberts is the executive director of educational services for Austin Public Schools.

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