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December 10, 2016

2 min

Mark Holley

Change is Shorthand for Opportunity in Education (Repost)

“Change is shorthand for opportunity. You’ll get extinguished if you think you will not have to change.”

This quote is one of my favorites. In fact, for many years I had it on my office wall. It's attributed to Fred Smith, who founded Federal Express (now FedEx for you younger ones) in 1971 after having a crazy idea to change the package delivery industry while he was in college. At Yale, Smith thought that people, and companies, might want to ship things overnight, by plane. His professor, and likely most others, didn't think his plan was feasbile. But Smith defintely knew something then that it took the rest of the world many more years to find out. He was open to change, embraced it, and exploited it as an opportunity.

As Smith knew, and as I've personally learned, starting new things isn't easy. Two years after founding FedEx, the company was struggling to pay the bills. In a desperate move, Smith played Blackjack in Las Vegas and won. All the winnings – reported to be in the $27,000 range – were wired back to FedEx in Memphis to pay outstanding bills. While this isn't recommended as a business strategy for companies, schools, or people, it illustrates just how tenuous things were for FedEx during the early days. I think after the past two years I have a little more insight into what Smith must have been going through, although obviously on a smaller scale.

Today, FedEx is a well-known worldwide shipping giant worth more than $43 billion (market cap, as of October 7, 2015), with $47 million in annual revenues (2014) and more than 90,000 vehicles and over 600 planes. That’s quite a return on investment (has anyone ever parlayed winnings into such a remarkable ROI?), although of course it didn’t happen overnight. It took substantial, and I’m sure painful, lessons on work, dedication, and change acceptance/embracing. The company has diversified beyond package delivery alone, but is perhaps best known for its ability to reliably move goods from one place to another overnight.

While there won’t ever come a day when a school has a financial return on investment like the one outlined above, schools are faced with substantial opportunities to change. Charter schools are at the forefront of change in education, but traditional public schools are doing amazing things too. Even so, more needs to happen. So here are some questions I'd like to ask. What are we willing to change to ensure children get more opportunities? What crazy ideas are out there that need to be given a test drive? What is happening in schools that shouldn't?

There are so many questions that we need answers to, and so many changes (opportunities) just waiting to be explored. At Method Schools, this is what keeps us going. Change really is shorthand for opportunity.


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