Thursday, October 26, 2017

George Couros's 8 characteristics of the innovator's mindset

Here are some of my highlights based on reading George Couros's book The Innovator's Mindset, along with some of my own thoughts.  As more tech positions in schools are morphing into innovation and coaching positions, I'm interested to see how much of what George identifies is applicable to myself and my own future in education.

  • Empathetic:  empathetic teachers think about the classroom environment and learning opportunities from the point of view of the student, not the teacher.  George's question is, "Would you want to be a learner in your own classroom?"
  • Problem finders/solvers: traditional schools pose questions/problems to students but in real life there is often no step by step way of finding the answer.  George writes "Sometimes it takes several attempts and iterations to solve real-life problems, and, sometimes, there are several correct answers ... Ewan McIntosh notes that finding the problem is an essential part of learning - one that students miss out on when we pose the problems to them first ... Sometimes teachers need to lead from the front.  Other times, our students' learning experiences are improved when we move alongside them or simply get out of the way."
  • Risk takers: as teachers we know that not everything we try will work with every learner, yet George writes, "Risk is necessary to ensure that we are meeting the needs of each unique student.  Some respond well to one way of learning, while others need a different method or format.  Not taking the risk to find the best approach for each student might seem less daunting than trying new things, but maintaining the status quo may have dire consequences for our students."
  • Networked: for years bloggers such as George have argued that being in spaces where people actively share ideas makes us smarter - and social media provides the place for ideas to spread.
  • Observant: this ties in with the last point as George writes that "sometimes the most valuable thing you get from the network isn't an idea, but the inspiration or courage to try something new."
  • Creators: anyone can consume information but that doesn't equate to learning - learning is creation not consumption ... knowledge is something a learner creates.
  • Resilient: for me this is a really important one - certainly in my time in tech I've noticed that anything new and different can see threatening.  George writes, "for those with an innovator's mindset, the reality is that their work will constantly be questions simply because it is something new ... innovators must be prepared to move forward, even when the risk of rejection is involved."
  • Reflective: we need to be asking ourselves what worked and what didn't, what we would change and what questions we have as we continue to move forward.
So here is the crux of the matter:  as leaders we cannot tell others they should be innovative while we continue to do the same thing.  As I reflect on the 8 characteristics outlined by George, there are some I know I'm strong at (being networked, risk-taking, resilient and reflective) and others that I could do with more work on (creating, being observant, empathetic - actually I think I am empathetic to students, what I need is to become more empathetic to the challenges my colleagues are facing - and being a problem-finder).  

I'm at the end of Part I of the book.  It's been really useful to me to reflect on some of the questions that have been posed and to think about where I am today.  Now it's time for Part II which focuses on creating the conditions that empower a culture of learning and innovation.

If you want to purchase The Innovator's Mindset you can find it on Amazon.

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