The power of “swarm intelligence”

Since the start of the 2020 academic year, schools around the world have faced daunting challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a few months, the schooling playbook (how we do school) has drastically been altered, probably for ever. While there are many silver linings educational leaders have leveraged in our never ending quest to change and improve education for the better, we must do so in the midst of serious medical risks, school closures, mask wearing, social distancing, hybrid and distance learning. The lessons learned and how schools will look in the future is an evolving and developing story.

In these times of heightened crisis management challenges facing school leaders, a timely New Yorker article entitled What should crisis leadership look like? reveals lessons learned from a HarvardNPLI study, Meta-leadership Lessons from the Boston Marathon Bombings Response: The Ingenuity of Swarm Intelligence.

Decades of research have shown that people’s initial responses to disaster are almost always altruistic.Illustration by Grace J. Kim
-The New Yorker

The study examines crisis leadership and the power of “swarm intelligence,” surfacing five consistent, essential characteristics that leaders exhibit and employ during a crisis

1. Unity of mission: Clarity and focus on your overriding purpose.

2. Generosity of spirit and action: An extraordinary level of cooperation “Whaddya got? Whaddaya need?”

3. Stay in your lane: A respect for the authority, responsibility and bounds of each other’s role.

4. No ego, no blame: Sharing Credit and Accountability or no one grabs credit; no one shoots blame.

5. Trust: Leveraging strong inter-personal relationships, trust, respect, and camaraderie in a spirit of true collaboration.

Like our fellow schools from around the world, the International School of Prague is doing more than learning to live with this crisis. As we overcome each challenge and obstacle with flexibility and agility, our focus is always mission driven. Each day provides a new opportunity to learn about learning during this crisis, and we add new ISP Learning Stories from the day to day experiences of our students, teachers and community.

This slideshow celebrates a great start to the year at the International School of Prague under challenging circumstances!

The conclusions of the Harvard study provide school leaders with timely food for thought, as each of us, individually, and more importantly together, face the challenges of our times. School leaders are in a unique position to not only apply the concept of swarm intelligence within our teams and communities, but also to find ways to leverage our collective intelligence among educational communities across the globe.

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