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From the Headmaster

Blockbuster.  No, not Blockbusters, the game show hosted by Bob Holness (I cannot help but add, as everyone does, the second man to play James Bond), but the video rental shop.  Today’s boys are unlikely to experience the excitement of browsing rows of videos before negotiating an agreeable title with friends, for there is only one Blockbuster left in the world, in Oregon, USA.  This is the Netflix age.  And yet there was a time, in 2008, when Blockbuster turned down the chance to buy Netflix, then a DVD mailing service, for (in retrospect) a bargain $50 million. Netflix is now worth $150 billion. 

Blockbuster was not alone in missing a big opportunity to change.  Yahoo didn’t buy PageRank in 1998, not imagining, of course, that $1 million PageRank would evolve into $986 billion Google.  Xerox surely regrets letting Steve Jobs look at its Alto computer in 1979.  Kodak should have gone digital. Hindsight is 20/20. 

Change is essential in the business world, just as adaptation is vital in the animal kingdom.  And yet not all transformation is good.  New Coke – a 1985 change to the recipe – is usually presented as the mistake by which others are judged.  Remember the Segway?  Shudder at the memory of Office Assistant Clippy? (and while online, Google Colgate Kitchen Entrees…).

You see the danger.  The world has to change; but change sometimes does not work out, and that is why people tend to be cautious and favour slow decline – think British shipbuilding – rather than potentially painful or embarrassing risk.

What about change in the world of Pilgrims’? Removing the newsletters last term arose from excitement with the possibilities of the new, successful website.  There was a vision of regular engagement with whole-school web-based news and a separate notices feed.  We persisted and adapted.  Should we have tried a new system?  Yes – we are not afraid of change! 

Should Pilgrims’ plough on when something hasn’t worked?  No.  With apologies for the analogy: just as we drink Coca-Cola rather than New Coke, from next week there will be a Pilgrims’ Way, a (separate) Pre-Prep Post, and a Pilgrims’ Pitches.  The layout will be different: there will be a standard structure and it will appear in both PDF and scrollable phone-friendly format, but this is essentially a move back to the classic.

2020, and the decade that will take its name, will see many innovations and initiatives, some of which will last.  Some will not.  We should not be cavalier with change, and the management and study of change is an important pursuit, but I hope that experiment and exploration will continue to happen at Pilgrims’, even with the occasional back-pedal.  Just as the failed search for a strong adhesive produced the Post-It note, we do not know where change will lead us, though, usually, eventually, it is upwards.

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