A Case of Excellent Execution: The Importance of Perseverance
When a commitment to hard work leads to successful collaboration
There are numerous factors which influence the prosperity of collaborative efforts, including thorough planning, a clear mission, and an authoritative leader, but without sufficient follow-through, such a complex undertaking has little hope of sustainability. As is true of most endeavors, in order for a collaboration to be truly successful, all participants need to be steadfast in their dedication to hard work. A collaboration will only survive if everyone involved is willing to invest their “blood, sweat, and tears.”
A children’s museum in a small urban area of the northeastern United States was eagerly anticipating the launch of its new, innovative exhibit on the ‘Science of Technology.’ Thanks to consultations with leading academics in the fields of science and technology, as well as generous donations from area firms and laboratories, this modest museum was going to be able to boast an unprecedented level of interactivity and innovation. The new exhibit would offer such exceptional features as a ‘Make Your Own App’ station and a ‘Codebreakers’ demonstration.
Due to an insufficient allotment of funds for advertising and publicity, however, attendance following the launch was low, much to the disappointment of everyone involved. This exhibit presented a unique opportunity for the museum and no one involved wanted that opportunity to be squandered. As such, Leslie, the museum’s Public Programs Coordinator, decided to take the initiative.
With permission from the museum’s board, Leslie reached out to area elementary and secondary schools. In candid discussions with various principals and other school leaders, Leslie expressed her concern that the area’s youth were not aware of the new exhibit. Much to her chagrin, many of the initial responses she received were, “I didn’t know about the exhibit either!” Fortuitously, through these conversations, Leslie discerned that one of the most pressing missions of the school district at that time was to promote learning in the STEM fields.
Consequently, Leslie sought to establish a collaboration between museum leaders (the director, the curator, the museum educator, etc.) and area school leaders (principals, department heads, school board members, etc.). Her goal was to increase attendance at the exhibit while simultaneously promoting learning in the STEM fields. After this new partnership had been proposed to the various constituencies, there was an overwhelming amount of enthusiasm and support. Not long after pitching the idea, the museum hosted a dinner for the new collaboration team, with representatives from each of the various interested parties. After introductions, a delicious meal, and lively discussions, the curator led a private, behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibit.
The school leaders were blown away.
Leslie, in turn, was determined to use this positive energy to fuel actual change. She didn’t want the collaboration to be “all talk.” Instead of merely hosting a series of fun, but insufficiently productive, gatherings, Leslie was committed to establishing a successful, fruitful collaboration. As such, at the end of the tour, Leslie had all interested parties complete a thorough survey, which covered the waterfront from when and where the participants would like to meet, to their goals for this partnership and which aspects of the exhibit they thought would be most beneficial for students’ learning.
Upon analyzing the results of the survey, Leslie discovered a common trend, even across constituencies. Initially, almost everyone suggested that the schools simply plan fieldtrips to the museum, but both the museum leaders and the school leaders unanimously expressed concern that that the students wouldn’t reap the full benefits of the exhibit during the time allotted for a single fieldtrip. Moving forward, Leslie saw this as a productive topic for future discussion. And so, in the subsequent meeting, again hosted at the museum, Leslie broke the team into small groups and posed the following question: “How can we effectively, reasonably, and sustainably increase students’ attendance and exposure to the exhibit?”
Unsurprisingly, this prompt yielded heated discussions, and ultimately, a plethora of possible solutions. Each group shared their ideas with the collaboration team as a whole. One of the groups proposed a plan which was of particular interest to everyone involved. Members suggested that over the course of a month, the students participate in a series of 4 day-long fieldtrips, one each week. Each visit would have a specific theme, with respect to which students would receive background information in their math and science classrooms; they would further explore this mission at the exhibit. The collaboration would culminate in a final group project (adapted according to grade-level), which would provide students the opportunity to work hands-on with the technology available at the museum.
The program was a rousing success.
Math and science teachers at each grade level, conferring with museum staff, created a month-long ‘Science of Technology’ curriculum. School administrators, in turn, drafted fieldtrip schedules, ensuring museum staff were never inundated with too many students. Enthusiastic parents volunteered in droves. Moreover, Leslie worked tirelessly to guarantee the program ran smoothly by confirming constant, open communication between the various parties; any issues which arose were handled immediately.
Ultimately, the students garnered a much deeper understanding and appreciation for science and technology, with many voicing requests for similar programs in the future. The program was such a success that it was even featured by several local media outlets, resulting in a significant increase in attendance. All members of the collaboration were pleased with the outcome. Echoing the students, numerous museum leaders and school leaders campaigned for the continuation of the collaboration, envisioning similar programs in the future.
Without a commitment to excellence, there is little hope for a collaboration to achieve tangible results. All members of the team, including Leslie, worked extremely hard, throughout the collaboration process, to ensure the success of the program. Nothing was done haphazardly, or left to chance. As a direct result of this dedication and perseverance, the collaboration worked. Both goals were achieved: the students strengthened their STEM-related skills and the museum increased attendance at the exhibit. In the end, the hard work paid off.