Restoring Joy and Meaning to Learning

Guest post by John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability

David Langford has taken his experience with applying Deming’s ideas to education to his position as the Superintendent of Ingenium schools in Los Angeles, California.

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The focus of Ingenium is “restoring joy and meaning to learning.” David talks about how Ingenium schools are putting that concept into practice on the Deming Podcast.

David discusses how they use data to understand what is working and what needs improvement with an understanding of variation. One of the tricky aspects of using data is how easy it is to be misled and jump to conclusions that are not justified. It is easy, when an understanding of variation is missing, to see the natural variation in data and jump to beliefs about success or failure when that is not a justified conclusion based on the data.

That challenge doesn’t mean that we should avoid using data. But it does mean that while data is important it is critical is to know what conclusions can and cannot be justified with the available data. It is critical to examine data with an understanding of variation.

99% of behavior is coming from the system itself. So until you are analyzing what are we doing in the system that is causing kids to have bad behavior you are never going to get anywhere.

This idea ties together psychology (neuroscience) and systems thinking to help Ingenium school to seek systemic fixes that create systems that allow students to regain the joy and meaning in learning that so many schools do not support today. Instead of trying to force compliance from kids they seek to understand the underlying conditions that lead to behavior that is not effective and change the system to allow kids to do what they naturally do: learn.

Over the 6 years I have been writing posts for this blog one of the consistent joys is learning about the efforts of schools David has helped apply Deming’s ideas to improve the education system. It is wonderful to listen to the efforts at Ingenium schools to create systems that help kids learn.

Related: David Langford Presentation on Motivation and System ImprovementTransforming the Organization, Deming Podcast with David LangfordChange has to Start from the TopThe Neuroscience of Deming by JW Wilson

For more information about David’s current work, with Ingenium Schools, please visit

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