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Desert Highway
Thoughtful writing authored and shared by members of of the Thinking Collaborative community to support others on the journey.

Sustaining the Journey

Decisional Capital

Authored By:

Thinking Collaborative


July 25, 2016

Two parallel dimensions are related to professional capital and are complements to social capital and its effects on maximizing collective potential: decisional capital and cognitive capital.

Decisional capital rises from participation in decision-making about issues close and relevant to educators’ work. Asking educators to participate frequently in making decisions in complex situations about their work increases their efficacy and value in the system because they are treated as professionals. They become a part of the solution and are not viewed as part of the problem. Their status is elevated to valuable resources rather than being treated as workers who need to be told what and how to teach.

Adaptive Schools teaches a variety of structures and protocols to support decision-making. The Criterion Matrix, Spend a Buck, Focusing Four, The Slip Method, Consesus Graph, Six Position Straw Pull, and Forced Choice Stickers are among the many ways that a facilitator can enhance and expedite decisional capital. In addition, Decide on Decision-Making with its important questions can help to insure that people understand their roles in the process.

• What topics are ours?

• Who decides?

• Who are we in the decision-making process?

• What decision making process will be used?

• When and how will the decision be communicated?

By asking these questions, group members will have an understanding if they will be informing, recommending, or deciding. They will understand the process that will be utilized. They will be guided by the Norms of Collaboration. They will know how to refocus the energy in the room should affective conflict arise. Decisional capital is enhanced through Adaptive Schools training.

Finally, Cognitive capital refers to the collective mental resources available in an organization. Cognitive capital includes the cognitive skills, knowledge, and information that individuals bring as talents to their organization; it is the organizational intelligence, or the collective mental resources in any system. Costa, Garmston and Zimmerman write “teachers, like all humans, have intellectual capacities that can be grown, transformed, and refined throughout a lifetime. Such intellectual capacities are often hidden, sometimes repressed, and never fully developed. Under certain conditions teachers function with diminished capacity because of stress, mistrust, fatigue, or other emotional factors related to school culture and organizational procedures” (Cognitive Capital: Investing in Teacher Quality, 2014 Teachers College Press).

Through Cognitive Coachingsm and Adaptive Schools, system capacity will be expanded and leadership skills will be enhanced thus ameliorating the negative workplace environments and leading to increased teacher satisfaction in profession and position.

Capital type Definition Example

Human Capital Raw talent and experience; the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population, viewed in terms of their value or cost to an organization or country.

Being committed, passionate, prepared, metacognitive, talented, reflective

How smart am I on my own?

Individuals bring their strengths, vision, skills, and attitudes to their work. It is the capital of individuals, like the “stars” on a team.

Human capital needs to be complemented by social capital so there is coherence and shared vision.

Cognitive Capital Collective mental resources in an organization How smart are we together?

How many “star athletes” do we have on the team? What is the collective raw potential of the talent?

This concept is regarding cognitive skills, knowledge, and information. Cognitive capital is now recognized as a key asset of institutions and economic organizations

Social Capital This is about individuals working collaboratively and with shared vision to reach system goals and increased performance. It is about enhancing the relationships among people who live and work in a system. The collaborative group shares values, norms, vision, and goals that promote cooperation. It is cooperative resource building.

How effectively are we working together?

How well are the athletes playing together? Passing the ball? Executing the plays? Staying in position?

Ways to increase social capital is by investing in teacher practice, shared professional development/experiences, collective collegial interactions, coaching conversations, trust building and increasing. It is about promoting benevolence, cooperation, and goodwill .

Decisional Capital Participation in decision making about issues close and relevant to the work at hand. Being valued as a decision maker; a mover and a shaker in a system. Staff members feel valued and professional when they are invited to participate in decision-making and goal setting. They become part of the solution – not the problem. How efficiently and effectively are we deciding together?

How are the team members making decisions together? How can they improvise?

Being tapped on as a resource to make decisions “in complex situations on innumerable occasions with different problems and cases. It is what professionalism is all about, especially when well-qualified professionals do this together” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 2012)


Capital A combination of Human, Cognitive, Social, and Decisional

Published Online: June 5, 2012

Published in Print: June 6, 2012, as Reviving Teaching With 'Professional Capital'


Reviving Teaching With 'Professional Capital'

By Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves

Capital in any form is an asset that has to be invested, accumulated, and circulated to yield continuous growth and strong returns. (Fullan and Hargreaves, 2012)

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