The DeHavilland Blog

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Launching a new business

DeHavilland Associates, my new consulting firm, opens its doors on September 16, 2005. I thought I’d start this blog by answering a variation on a question I sometimes ask my son: What do I want this company to be when it grows up? (Hopefully my answer won’t change as frequently as that of a three year old.)

Let me start with some background. I believe (as do many others) that there is a crisis in K-12 education today. We are in the midst of a fundamental societal shift from a manufacturing age to an information age, and our public education system has not changed at the speed required to accommodate the needs of today’s students.
Paul Houston (Executive Director of the American Association of School Administrators) said at an EdPress conference a few years ago: “Our schools continue to make incremental improvements in a time of quantum change.” We’re still focused on doing the best job we can, but the definition of “best” has changed without our fully realizing and responding to it.

We need to remember the overarching goal of education: to help kids build the skills and obtain the knowledge needed to become good citizens and workers in contemporary society. (It’s not an official definition, but I think it’s a reasonable approximation.) With that as our target, we can put into place the practices needed to accomplish that goal, making sure that we don’t allow existing practices to stand if they‘re no longer relevant just because “we’ve always done it that way.”

Seems pretty simple in theory. So what’s holding us back?

I believe that, at its heart, the problem with education today is a communications problem. Because the education system has not made proactive, substantive stakeholder communications a priority, its stakeholders do not understand public education, do not feel a part of the system, and do not see how they can support education in ways that relate to their respective short-term and long-term self-interest.

Further, just as these stakeholders are not able to receive vital information from the education system, the education system is not receiving guidance from these stakeholders: the people who fund education and have a vital interest in education’s end product. For the education system to succeed, it must put out a product that its customers desire. To do that, it must be told what its customers want, and it must listen and respond accordingly.


DeHavilland Associates pursues a great goal: clear away the communications fog between education and its stakeholders, allowing participation and support to increase, and allowing education to respond and adapt to the clearly stated needs of those stakeholders. In a word, DeHavilland strives for clarity, to the benefit of all stakeholders in this critically important market.

I want DeHavilland to make a positive impact on the quality of education – and ultimately, the quality of life – for children in our schools. Where I believe DeHavilland Associates can make a difference is in the relationship between society and education – opening the lines of communication between the two, so that education can clearly hear what it is that society wants and needs, and society can learn what education needs and how to provide it.

“Society” is a pretty tall order right off the bat – as DeHavilland gets moving, I’ll focus initially on one segment of society, specifically the business community. Why business? Because that’s the segment that can move the quickest and, given the resources they can bring to the table, it is the group that can make the biggest impact when those resources are intelligently applied. After all, if education hears the right voices and receives targeted resources, it can move that much more quickly towards producing the engaged, rounded thinkers that we all would like to see coming out of our public schools.

DHA will start with direct counseling to businesses interested in education outreach: helping them identify the right opportunities for them and developing strategies to help them leverage their resources for maximum reach and effectiveness (and return on investment, if you consider things like community relations and employee morale to name a few). Once we have traction there, we’ll start to look for other ways to open the lines of communication: sharing results of surveys and research, highlighting best practices, hosting conferences and roundtables, and building various communities as needs and opportunities for information-sharing are identified.


Beyond business, there are clear needs for schools to begin communicating with other stakeholders: parents, communities, local/state/federal government…..there’s no shortage of need out there, and DeHavilland will continually work to help education establish a dialogue with all its stakeholders.

So that’s the plan. For anyone reading this blog, please a) wish me luck, and b)
visit the site to learn more about the intersection between business and education through the links and the resources I’ll be publishing as time goes by. And please do comment here or drop me an email – reinforcement, disagreement, and any and all perspectives will always be welcome.

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