Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Learning and innovation: 3 quotations

In Chapter 1 of The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros there is a section entitled New Opportunities which starts with the following quotation from William Pollard:
Learning and innovation go hand in hand.  The arrogance of success is to think what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.
This struck a chord with me because I've been asking myself for some time now whether we are looking backwards or looking forwards.  It also reminded me of our Visioning Task Force, where several members of my group expressed some anxiety about changes that might be coming to education in the future.  It also reminded me about the need for constantly moving forward, not resting on our laurels and thinking "we're a good school" and so continuing to do what worked in the past.  Times are changing, and in a big city such as Mumbai, change also means competition from other schools that are opening huge campuses.  And while it's very flattering that some of these schools appear to be copying our approach to designing spaces, curriculum and so on, my question is do we now need a new approach that will take us towards the future?  When we talk about innovation, we need to be clear what this means - and it doesn't just mean doing things differently from others!  It also means building a culture when innovation is seen as being normal - what we would call at ASB "part of our DNA".  For many years teachers on our R&D core team have been innovative and trying out new things - but how far did this permeate across the whole school?  More and more I've come to see that anyone can be innovative given the right environment - one where it is not seen as a problem to try something that maybe ends up not working that well (because that is a learning experience).  We need to move away from compliance, the cookie cutter approach, where everyone is doing the same thing at the same time!

Just as Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as "the process of having original ideas that have value" - and which includes both imagination and innovation, George Couros defines innovation as "a way of thinking that creates something new and better"  This can also include iteration, which means changing something that already exists.  However it goes further than just having a new idea: Sir Ken writes "innovation is putting new ideas into practice."  And let's be clear about this, as George points out, "it is a way of considering concepts, processes and potential outcomes; it is not a thing, task fo even technology".  And this brings me back to my previous post - should schools be employing tech directors, or has the time for this now passed - should they be employing directors of innovation?  Of course technology can have a role to play, but clearly innovation is not about the what, it's about the how - and the how is all about empowerment.

In the past I worked at a school where questioning was not seen as critical thinking but as criticism.  Since that time I've always argued that questioning what we are doing and why is essential for moving forward and growing.  Another quotation that jumped of the page at me was this one by John Maxwell:
Change is inevitable.  Growth is optional
But should it be optional?  If we know what the trends are for the future (and at my school we have spent a long time exploring these trends) then can we make a choice NOT to grow?  Certainly this does not seem a responsible choice to make when we consider our students' futures.   And I really disagree with my colleagues that change can be scary and unsettling - in my opinion NOT changing is even scarier.  Change should not be left to chance!

Here's the final quote from this post - again from Chapter 1 of The Innovator's Mindset - this one is by Seth Godin:
Change almost never fails because it is too early.  It almost always fails because it's too late. 
As an educator in a school that has always been seen as "cutting edge", I'm hoping that we are not already too late.

Photo Credit: Wiertz S├ębastien Flickr via Compfight cc

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