“Passionate people share their creations widely, leaving tracks for others to find them.” –Peter Diamandis
I have often held on tight to innovative ideas. Pride of ownership and fear of missing a big opportunity were my primary rationales. In school I was taught to learn on my own, to not look off another student’s work, and most importantly, not to fail. In fact, failure was punished with poor grades and lectures on the need to work harder.
If we flip the definition of failure from the traditional “lack of success” to a more productive view as “a way to learn,” we immediately see more value in loosening our grip and sharing our bold visions. And what if we dared to redefine our competitors as future collaborators? Is there power and potential in working together to solve daunting challenges we face innovating the future?
I am in my second year as the Executive Director of the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), a program that immerses high school students in a professional culture. The purpose of our work is to align students to their passion through real-time and relevant profession-based learning. Now in year seven, the Blue Valley CAPS model has drawn interest from hundreds of school districts across the country. In the wake of all this interest, many questions surfaced last year regarding how we handle engaging with others. Do we license our model as a franchise and profit from what we initially developed, and run the risk of limiting our collaborations and number of partners? Do we completely open our doors to anyone to engage “hub-to-spoke,” risking being overrun by a flood of customers, some of which may not be fully aligned to our purpose and core values? This was a conundrum.
In the presence of all this confusion, the idea of the CAPS Network was born. Instead of holding tight to all our big ideas, we created a framework for engaging with a full set of partners who shared purpose. We committed ourselves to build infrastructure to connect our CAPS program partners, exponentially increasing the number of touch points and experiments between CAPS stakeholders. In this model, failure is not only a learning opportunity for the risk-taker, but the knowledge transfers to all others in the network. No one partner bears all the risk, yet each partner learns from each experiment.
Over the course of one year, the number of CAPS partner programs has grown from six to 18, a 300% increase. Partners are willing to share their ideas without fear of missing out. Often times they receive positive feedback that not only improves upon their concepts, but leads to concept replication which helps spread the positive impact across the country. Universities are beginning to offer scholarships to CAPS Network members, and more and more national and international professional partners are stepping forward to support students. Students are excited at the prospect of developing an alumni network across programs. All of this is possible because we are united as a network around a common purpose. The future looks bright!
Corey Mohn, Executive Director, Blue Valley CAPS