Nintendo is one of the most iconic and successful video game companies in the world. They have produced some of the most memorable characters and franchises in video game history, including Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. But did you know that Nintendo’s journey to becoming a video game giant started with selling playing cards?
Back in 1889, the company Nintendo Koppai was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi. He decided to sell a type of playing cards called Hanafuda cards. Nintendo’s cards quickly gained popularity in Japan. Two decades later, the company started creating and selling Western-style playing cards—a pivot that paid similar dividends and positioned Nintendo as the top-selling card company in Japan.
But, in the 1970s, something changed. The popularity of the playing cards Nintendo produced were steadily falling out of favor, and attempts to diversify the business, such as ill-fated forays into taxis and hospitality, had struggled to gain traction. Yamauchi’s great-grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, who was now the company’s CEO, was searching for a loonshot—the kind of visionary idea that would help Nintendo to recapture its now-past success and evolve and cement its brand status for the future.
Visiting one of Nintendo’s assembly lines, Hiroshi noticed one of its employees, Gunpei Yokoi, playing with an expanding toy arm he’d engineered. Hiroshi hired Yokoi on the spot to be part of the games department. Yokoi began steering the company toward manufacturing electronic games, and the rest is history.
Throughout the 1970s, Nintendo navigated a tumultuous landscape brimming with obstacles and cultural changes. Today, educational institutions face a similar struggle as they endeavor to meet the evolving needs of their students, communities, and the larger world. However, beneath the challenges lie tremendous potential for transformation. Nintendo’s successful adaptation to their surroundings can serve as a blueprint for educators to follow. By taking a proactive approach and implementing innovative strategies, leaders in education can not only keep pace with the times but also create a culture of learning and experimentation that propels growth.
Enter GPT—a tool that, for some, represents a Faustian bargain, trading values and principles for progress. But the reality is far from that. For educators, GPT can be a lifeline—a means of catalyzing the long-overdue change that has been discussed for decades. Just imagine the ability to create highly personalized learning experiences, remarkably accurate grading and assessment, and even accurate predictions of student performance.
However, as with any great stride forward, the journey towards integrating GPT in education won’t be without its bumps in the road. There are challenges to navigate, questions to answer, and ethical considerations to address. But, the predominant challenge of implementation doesn’t rest with the technology itself; rather, it’s with the attitudes and beliefs of educators.
And, change is not simple. Change can be a complex and potentially intimidating process, particularly when it occurs in the realm of existential uncertainty, threatening the very core of educational practices.
As Lew Smith astutely observed, “The professional lives of educators are, for the most part, predicated on predictability. Consequently, changes that deviate from that predictability are hard to acknowledge, accept, or appreciate.” The unpredictability of the changes associated with GPT have the potential to disrupt the familiar routines and practices that many educators have come to rely on. From grading to assessment to feedback, the advent of GPT promises a swifter and more dramatic pivot than anything that has preceded it in the field of education.
In fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania found that GPT technology has the potential to replace 10% of nearly all jobs across all industries. This statistic may seem alarming at first, but, for educators, this 10% represents an opportunity to shift our focus away from administrative tasks and towards more meaningful activities.
However, this transformational change cannot occur unless educators are positioned to embrace this technology, and doing so starts with the culture that school leaders create in their buildings, where technology is seen not as a threat but rather as a possible and positive panacea.
As school leaders, we play a critical role in nurturing a culture that embraces change and encourages our teachers to explore innovative ways to leverage GPT technology to improve their instructional practices. So, how can we effectively lead our faculty during a time of such profound change?
Leading with humility: In The Ten Faces of Innovation, IDEO’s Tom Kelley introduces the idea of an “attitude of wisdom.” According to Kelley, an attitude of wisdom is “having enough knowledge to sense when you’re on course, but enough humility to know when you need help navigating or when someone else has a good idea.” As we look ahead to the rapidly evolving landscape of education and the emergence of technologies like GPT-4, it’s essential to remember that no amount of prior experience or training can fully prepare us for the challenges ahead. Instead, we must adopt an attitude of wisdom by acknowledging that although we may possess a vision, we do not necessarily have all the answers, and thus, we need to rely on our teachers to guide us in finding optimal solutions. Our teachers have a unique understanding of the day-to-day realities of their students’ needs and can provide valuable insights into how GPT can and should be used in our schools. As school leaders, it’s essential to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers and that it’s okay to rely on the growing expertise, experience, and input of our teachers.
Leading with enthusiasm: As Winston Churchill famously said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” When our faculty members take a risk and experiment with new and unfamiliar technologies like GPT, the margin of error can be exceptionally high. With this in mind, our role as school leaders becomes creating a culture of exploration and innovation that is unconditionally enthusiastic. Criticism, in this case, can quickly cause retreat and a suppression of future creativity and experimentation. However, when teachers feel that administrators understand that their successes are predicated on previous failures, they are more likely to be innovative and push the boundaries of the teaching profession. As school leaders, it is our responsibility to help dispel fears. And enthusiasm is our greatest tool to do so. Enthusiasm can help teachers feel invigorated, motivated, and inspired to take risks and experiment with technologies to create the most effective and efficient learning experiences for their students. The power of the high-five should not be overlooked!
Leading with curiosity: As George Couros says, “Schools should be learning organizations that promote innovation and are constantly focused on improving practice, which means we will never be done innovating, growing, and learning.” This is why a culture of curiosity matters. When we lead with curiosity, we accept that it’s only natural for things to get more confusing before they get clearer, just as astronomers’ understanding of the university got murkier when they discovered inconsistencies in Aristotelian theory or how when we renovate our kitchen things look messier before they look nicer. School leaders who can approach GPT with curiosity are better equipped to spark enthusiasm, creativity, and a sense of trust amongst their teachers. They recognize that more questions are going to arise before answers emerge and that this is part of the experimentation and learning process. If we want our teachers to be invested in that process, school leaders must remain committed to championing their curiosity, recognizing that the fluidity and complexity of the journey is an indication that learning is taking place.