change-begins-hereAccording to McKinsey & Company, Harvard Business Review, IBM, Connor Partners and Forbes, 70% of organizational change efforts fail. Whether it’s personal, organizational, or social, change is a complex and tricky endeavor. Coupled with the fact that we are more likely to remember, discuss, read about failures instead of successes, we can be left wondering, “does anything really change?”

In a recent email conversation with Bob McGrath, Professor, School of Psychology, Fairleigh Dickinson University, I am happy to share that he quickly (within 5 minutes) came up with the following, and several more, examples of significant change.

  1. Brown vs. Board of Education: The Supreme Court struck down separate but equal education for African Americans in the United States based on results from research of Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark on what was known as the doll test research, which demonstrated feelings of inferiority about race in African American children.

  2. Research on domestic violence rates has completely changed the treatment of such issues by law enforcement and social service agencies. It is amazing to me that when I was a child, rape of a woman by her husband was generally legal.

  3. Parenting has been revolutionized by social science research. In particular, research on the limitations of punishment, on the negative sequelae of corporal punishment, and on attachment have completely revolutionized childrearing recommendations from the medical community and changed childrearing practices in the last 60 years.

  4. A more recent example is optimal defaults. This has led some countries, for example, to implement opt-out rather than opt-in for organ donation, increasing rates of participation tremendously.

What was common to all of these successful change efforts? Convincing research was the lever that moved the practice. 

Although education research is commonly maligned for its flaws, education, too, can use research to change, and change dramatically. There is a new science of Positive Education emerging that integrates the best in character science and social, emotional learning research to create environments in which students thrive in every way. Researchers around the globe are gaining new insights into individual potential and the implication for learning environments and systems on a regular basis.

As we join with luminaries in this emerging field, ultimately creating a summit for positive education, we are energized by the potential to use this exciting research as the lever to create systemic change. We believe this represents a watershed moment for education to live up to the promise of educere, “drawing out” the best in every individual. We hope you will, too, and would love to hear your stories of change.