Posted by: Floyd Braid | May 10, 2012

Why I Hate This TED Video!

I know, I know everyone loves this video. What is not to love? A crazy guy (probably drunk) with no shirt decides to ignore everyone and do what he wants to do, dance. After a few minutes someone joins him and then another until the drunk shirtless guy can’t even been seen. This video is part of a Derek Sivers TED Talk and he uses it as an illustration of what good leadership looks like. I’m sure if given more time Sivers would expand on his thoughts regarding leadership and the “pied piper” scenario depicted in the video. I hope.

The reason I “hate” this video is that I have seen it 1000 times. OK, too much drama. I have seen this video a lot. On Facebook pages, Tweets and in seminars and workshops on “leadership.” I believe Sivers calls this “How to Start a Movement” and not “How to Lead” although he does say that the “biggest lesson” is that leadership is “over glorified” and that it was the first follower that transformed, that’s right, “TRANSFORMED” the shirtless dancing guy into a “LEADER.” That folks, is why I hate this video. This is exactly the type of message K-12 leaders can do without.

This is not leadership. This is a movement, which may have lasted all of 5 minutes. Nobody followed him down the hill, showed up in the same place the next day and started to dance or moved to the next town and recruited new dancers. What good is a 5 minute movement…(lots of room for a good middle school joke) I say it was not even a movement, but, just a moment. It is funny and I even enjoyed it the first couple times I saw it but we are faced with too many “real” challenges regarding leadership in our k12 schools today. I believe we are at the beginning of the most transformative time in the history of education. We see and use new innovative tools that will fuel amazing shifts in how teachers teach and students learn. With this pending shift, we need serious discussions about CHANGE on many levels;

  • Change- Are we artist, craftspeople or both?
  • Change- Are we transitioning or transforming
  • Change- “the habit cycle” and its impact on instructional practice
  • Change- movement away from the herd mentality and leveraging new tools and data to individualize a path for each student

Most of the people that got up and danced were pressured mostly by fear and guilt for not being a member of the group. They brought very little to the table and in the process of “following” they lost their individuality and creativity. I organize change into 2 categories “transitional” and “transformative.” Transitional change can happen by following the crowd. However, it will most likely result out of fear or guilt and you can forget about creativity as well as sustainability. Transformational change is much harder. One must be willing to accept the idea that everything we know or how we do something  something may be completely wrong. It is only from this stripped down state can we fully engage the process of transformation.  Then, with strong leadership, allow ourselves to leverage the creativity and resources of the group to re-imagine a better way by leveraging new information and tools to create a superior model.

This video unfortunately represents the type of change that we have seen in k12 education for as long as I can remember. We see someone or something that looks interesting or successful so we jump right in for fear of being the only one left standing apart, from the now large dancing group. However, the video only represents a fraction of the scene. If we were able to allow the dance to continue eventually we would soon see the disappearance of the “leader” and then not long after the leader is gone some of our dancers would start to move away from the group and modify their dance just a bit. Some would stick with it and keep dancing but most would slowly dance closer and closer to where they were sitting before they started dancing and eventually sit back down only to twitch every so often with very little resemblance of the dance. We seem to be stuck in this “paradoxical dilemma” where we know the process is broken and does not work but we can’t seem to be able to break out of the cycle of doing it. Transformational change allows us to throw all that away and start from scratch. It can provide the mechanism for interrupting the habitual process we seem to be stuck in and truly focus on meaningful and lasting change. Then we can all dance.



  1. Floyd, as usual, you’ve captured this! If education reform were as easy as following some shirtless dude, it would have been done long ago. It is hard work, and it requires years of effort, not moments. I like the book Disrupting Class, because of the concept of logarithmic scale graphing as it applies to change. You can linearize exponential functions by using logarithmic scale graph paper. I’ve found that not many people truly understand how long exponential change takes before you get the explosive upward movement – it’s similar to how some musical “overnight sensations” feel about the years that they put in on the road before they catch a break…

    Nice job – but keep your shirt on, my friend!

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