A New Focus
Perspective and some changes to our communications
When something isn’t quite working, it’s important to iterate. The faster the better.
Last year, we did the opposite. Our attempt at a new mission and its supporting narratives weren’t quite resonating. And our latest new product initiatives had received a modest response. We let that all slow us down, including our posts here.
The good news is that we are getting unstuck and iterating. And time has given us some fresh perspective on what wasn’t working. This perspective is what we’ll address today along with some changes we’ll be making in how we communicate our ideas moving forward.
What hasn’t changed is our focus on the impacts of pervasive, attention-optimizing technology (what we called AOAI’s). And we still believe ensuring relationships remain the foundation of education is an answer.
But perspective has led us to ask, is that enough of an answer? Can relationships on their own address this challenge? We arrived at our current focus of relationships after an earlier attempt using the word coaching failed to capture the essence of our direction.
Certainly, relationships are directionally correct towards addressing the problem and our work to promote them in education matters deeply. But the more we’ve seen our teacher users struggle with prioritizing more conversations towards the general goal of building relationships, the more we’ve asked ourselves this question.
Something about our last post here also didn’t sit right with us as time progressed. The part about brain reward system imbalances is still on point. But instead of trying to address this problem head on, we focused on the side effects of emotional dysregulation and changed values. We did this because a straightforward answer wasn’t obvious at the time.
Our stated goal within that post was optimism. What didn’t sit right with us was the feeling we hadn’t embodied that goal. Optimism, at least of the rational kind, is a deceptively tricky concept in practice we are finding. Among other things, it requires believing in solutions to problems even if they aren’t completely obvious. It requires a relentless focus on problem solving, without getting bogged down with fixed thinking or negativity. We were failing on both these points in this piece.
The final thing that had clearly not been working is our chosen outcome of relationships —emotional maturity. Despite the applicability of this concept to the problem at hand—from the time we revealed this idea, it wasn’t received well. But what wasn’t clear was what to do about it. We didn’t know how to adapt it without losing something important. So we were unable to move forward for most of 2021.
What finally got us unstuck was research into neuroscience. Specifically, research on how behaviors can have an effect on brain rewards—including mindfulness, mindsets, productivity hacking, the concept of flow, exercise, and even our nemesis again, video games.
We found you can indeed rebalance your brain rewards through mindsets and behaviors. And even better, you can nurture positive brain reward experiences, like flow, without the dopamine deficits caused by attention-optimizing technology.
And while relationships in education need to be an integral part of the solution, the answer became clear that a technology-enabled experience is needed. Technology with better goals than attention (or even just more conversations). We need to create new learning routines, with behavioral habits proven to adjust your neurochemistry built-in—along with more conversations, more deeply embedded into the act of learning than ever before.
Armed with these findings, we refocused our new product initiatives and are closing in on the release of a compelling new solution this spring.
In support of this new direction, we’ll be shutting down this channel of communication and switching to a new one. Being Coachable was meant to capture the ideas moving our company forward. But instead of being idea-led as a company, we are returning to a more proven community and product-led approach. The ideas we plan on covering will move us past these ideas that haven’t worked, leverage far more of the neuroscience foundations we’ve researched, and aim to embody as much optimism as we can muster.
Appropriately, the new channel is a newsletter called The Optimalist. The first issue is out. We cover what it means to be an Optimalist and kick-off some community initiatives that have been well received already.
You can subscribe to it here.
If there is one parting thought to leave you with, it is to expect more iteration ahead. Both faster and better.