Survival Of The Fittest

Sir Christopher Stone, Global Chief Education Officer, GEMS Education, shares his thoughts on living in a time of rapid change and how it is imperative we adapt in order to keep up.

Dear Colleagues,

I wanted to write to you all as we move into another new term and another era for GEMS Education.

This note involves mixing three basic ingredients: your own values; how you think the world is shaping events and finally what you have learnt about people and culture. In truth, it is OK to change your mind about things: that is how we learn. What is unacceptable is to have no mind, to stand for nothing and to stand up for nothing! We should remember the saying ”what comes from the heart enters the heart!“ This blends well with the Chairman’s view of passion. Essentially, ”what doesn’t come from the heart will never enter anyone else’s heart.“ Caring for others and empathy are at the very core of the world’s best school leaders.

As I reach 61 years of age it is not acceptable for me to say that ‘when I was young, like a young tree, I could bend with the wind but now that I am old if I bend that far I will break!’ Instead I must continue to bend, to adapt, to flex and to learn. The technology platforms for society now evolve every five to seven years. This is a challenge for many people, as it often takes us a generation to fully understand and accept change. Previously you could patent your idea. These days, the idea is obsolete before the patent comes through, thus making patents increasingly irrelevant in the field of technology.

Just think what this means for us in teaching. The only ever-present constant is change and we, GEMS Education, must always fully embrace change. Enhancing our students’ adaptability is about applying the features that drive technological innovation into our culture and social structures. We have to be more agile in schools and in the School Support Centre. The new kind of ‘normal’ is dynamic stability. The more we move forward the more stable we are. We can find calmness in dynamic stability. We will not find calmness in hoping that change will slow down or stop.

So, will this all slow down? Much as we sometimes hope so the answer is no. We have no choice but to learn to adapt to the new pace of change. It will be harder and will require more self-motivation – we see that in the USA and Europe. There is a widening gap between the pace of technological change, globalisation and environmental stresses (the recent Attenborough series has highlighted this) and the ability of people to adapt and manage these.

At GEMS we must learn quickly and adapt quicker. Being part of the changes and embracing them will give you more control and allow for more navigation through the changes. We have to paddle our canoe faster than the water we find ourselves in. The only way to steer is to ‘paddle’ as fast, or faster, than the rate of change in technology, globalisation and the environment.

The only way to thrive is by maintaining dynamic stability by cycling faster not slower. For that to happen effectively, faster is not enough on its own – we must reorganise and redesign the way our schools operate and feel. We have to enable more leaders, parents and children, on more days in more ways, to keep pace with the changes in education, in the market and in the countries we operate in. It will take moral innovation to re-imagine how we scale sustainable values to everyone we possibly can, harnessing the power of one as well as the power on the entire GEMS Education group.

Things have changed. They will not change back. The last 25 years have been about who could make things cheapest. The next 25 years will be about who can make things smartest. GEMS Education will need smart children emerging from smart schools if we are to still be a world leader during the next 25 years. Let us see where we can take our company to – together.

Yours sincerely,
Sir Christopher Stone
Global Chief Education Officer