ACT Leadership Cohort Trip 3 (Iowa City, Iowa)

This third leadership cohort trip was the best professional learning experience I have ever had. Considering I was in education for 9 years and have been leading learning experiences as well as attending conferences for the last three years at least, that’s a tall statement!

It wasn’t just the way the content was presented (a mix of discussion, lecture, panel, experiential, small group, active movements), but the content itself was deep, organized and immediately able to be applied to my day to day work as well as a resource for the future.

A day by day summary would be boring to read, but what I got out of it most was the focus on product development. Coming from education I have realized I am sorely lacking in many concepts of business and as I came to OpenEd later, much of the planning and conceptual thinking behind the product had either already been done, or as Content I wasn’t privy too the leadership brainstorming.


This graphic in particular(source unknown) was encouraging to see! As I’ve worked on OpenSALT it’s been eye-opening to see how much leadership thinks something will take when in reality it may take a lot longer (or shorter!).


The best part though by far was hearing about how ACT’s “horizon 3” division thinks up ideas and how to make them into actual products. The process is rigorous but designed to allow for numerous failures. Since this is a public blog I shouldn’t reveal the details, but let’s just say a lot of ideas come up and most of them don’t make it past stage 1. The ones that do go to another team for review and eventually they are turned into actual products. We had a chance to take ideas of our own and go through the same process in one day (normally the initial idea staging takes three days, as the presenters were keen to mention…). It was intense and full of great debate back and forth, but eventually we came up with a product that we think would serve a need based on market research. The next time we meet in October we’ll dive deeper into the product and see if it will actually be turned into something that the market needs and ACT and provide.

In my own career, I’ve gone from being a teacher and not thinking about products or the implications thereof to being deeply involved in making OpenEd a successful product that helps students and teachers around the glove -over half a million teachers and students have signed up and used the site over the years… and that number is only going to grow as we become the official remediation site of the ACT test.

I was immediately take away some of these ideas and use them with developing OpenSALT.

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