“There is no such thing as failure” said The Donald. Perhaps he read Week Four of this column where we discussed failing forward. Failure is tied to powerful emotions. That combination of learning plus emotion (either positive or negative) results in true knowledge. Tana and Angie provided excellent examples of both ends of the spectrum as they participated in this week’s high stakes test.
Teams were required to design useful and trendy clothes for American Eagle Outfitters. The clothes would incorporate places for holding portable technology. Alex and Tana stepped up as project managers. Net Worth, led by Alex, delegated a major task to each of the three team members. The four members of Magna, led by Tana, worked together. Who received the “A?”
Magna repeated their proven strategy of asking the customer what they wanted. Conducting interviews at an American Eagle store, they learned that number one tech item is a cell phone. They also learned how the customer would like to see them incorporated into the clothing. This strategy was largely responsible for Magna winning the graffiti task. Magna embraced this as a Best Practice, Net Worth must have been absent the day we learned this important strategy.
“Some people just have to learn the hard way.” How many times have we heard that old adage? As a society, we have the luxury of documentation. Both children and adults are provided written and visual documentation of major failures and successes from which we can cull Best Practices. Why then, do some people seem to always succeed while others stumble? According to Richard Flint in his book Breaking Free, “A positive emotion and negative emotion cannot coexist!”
Chris has struggled throughout the entire series and he continues to stumble. He is angry, addicted to nicotine and not focused. This week, Alex asked him to purchase technology and manage the budget. That should have made him available to pinch hit as needed. Instead, he lost the credit card and spent hours retrieving it. There are students like Chris in the classroom and they are obviously disruptive. The common reaction is to ignore, threaten, punish or remove them from the classroom. These are all reactive behaviors. Successful teachers like Mrs. Dickey at Gibson City Elementary School, are pro-active. They assign students specific tasks which actually encourages them to succeed as a team member. By replacing the negative emotion with a positive one, behavioral changes can occur.
Alex didn’t address Chris’ fears and the team struggled. Magna didn’t sail through this week’s task either but there was a profound difference in how they dealt with the problems. After working throughout the night on their garments, Magna took them to have the Wearable Tech logo applied. The silkscreen business seemed more interested in Bob Marley than in their job. Bren and Craig went ahead and had the work done only to find there instincts were correct. Most of the work was botched. Tana knew she could either “cry or move ahead;” she chose to move ahead.
Back at Net Worth things were going from bad to worse. The models were late and the team was sitting in a cab at the time they were due to make their presentation. Realizing they were late, Angie thought she might get sick. When they arrived, they realized they’d left one of their garments at the studio. Angie crumbled and her presentation was poor.
What Are We Testing?
The Apprentice’s tasks are each designed as a test. The first thing we must identify is what’s being tested. The Donald is not looking for the best graffiti artist or the clothing designer, he’s looking for the best leader. The same is true of tests. They can be viewed as a tool for the student to simply see where they are in their educational journey. Rather than trying to cram a lot of new information into their short term memory, preparing for tests should be a review.
Live To Test Another Day
One test does not make or break a career. I’ve talked to so many parents whose children were having trouble sleeping because they were worried about one of the comprehensive tests. Paradoxically, these were not the children who had anything to worry about. In their case, the pressures of the system was replacing their positive emotion about learning with a negative emotion about testing. They will do better on their test if they view test day as a celebration. Parents might consider doing something special with their children the day before the test.
When the test results are available, they should be reviewed to see what areas need help and what areas are strong. A good review of the results will include a discussion with the child to see if they think the results are accurate, questions on both the strong and weak areas to check the accuracy of the results and a plan to provide help where needed. By viewing the test as a simple measuring tool, students can overcome their fear of tests.
In the boardroom, the ultimate test was about to take place. The three team members pointed fingers at each other. A comparison of the two teams would have shown that Tana was a great team leader and Alex had done a poor job. The Donald acknowledged this in part but blamed the association with “losers” Angie and Chris. The Donald reinforced our fears of tests and public speaking by firing Angie. Chris and Alex will live to test another day.