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The Importance of Adaptivity, “Benevolent Friction,” and Finding Everyone’s Spark

Developing ideas and people into the best possible versions of themselves

Today marks the last day of Women’s History Month. It has been a great month for everyone to come together to celebrate the achievements of women across all areas and industries. On the blog, we’ve enjoyed profiling topics ranging from “Celebrating the real-life ladies of STEM” to “Three ways parents can help eliminate the educational divide.” My personal hope, of course, is that we can—and should—continue to celebrate the achievements of women beyond this month.

We are also particularly honored today to have our president and CEO, Jessie Woolley-Wilson, profiled as a leader in the “Corner Office” column of The New York Times. In addition to delving into Jessie’s early years and influences on her leadership style, this piece explores many ideas and values key to DreamBox Learning as both a company and a platform that I thought worthy of sharing.

The importance of being adaptive

DreamBox Learning is an adaptive platform that responds to learners’ actions and decisions. It provides students with the right next lesson at the right level of difficulty, raising student achievement while helping them think through new strategies to ensure deep understanding of key concepts, develop fluency with important skills, and cultivate critical thinking. But adaptive learning is also a mindset, one that permeates the way we at DreamBox respond positively to change, and make adjustments to help us grow as we continue to strive to meet the needs of all learners with everything we do.

Embracing “benevolent friction”

One of the core values at DreamBox is that of “benevolent friction” – being hard on ideas and soft on people. The goal here is to view friction not as a negative thing, but as an opportunity to develop ideas into the best possible versions of themselves. As Jessie mentions in The New York Times, “… if you don’t have pressure on the carbon, you never get to the diamond. You can still be very respectful, and assume everybody has a spark, but we have to subject our ideas to the toughest scrutiny because our work is important.”

Discovering the “spark” in everyone

At DreamBox, our mission is to radically transform the way the world learns. And at the heart of this mission are our people and our company culture. Building the right team has a lot to do with finding that “spark” in people. As Jessie mentions in the article, “You learn a lot when people tell you their story—what they care about, their integrity, their passions, and the choices and sacrifices that they make. When you overlay the technical capabilities on top of that, you have a pretty good sense of someone.”

DreamBox is growing, and we will continue to build a platform—and a company culture—that supports our desire to drive student achievement and educator empowerment. And, we’re always looking for more great people. What’s your spark?

Jennifer Agustin