The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower learning, unleash talent, and lead a culture of creativity.

This book gave me goosebumps! So much of what George Couros writes resonated with me and what I believe education should be. He uses quotes and tweets throughout to emphasise and back up what he says. Many of these would be great for creating discussion at staff meetings.

So to begin, let’s define innovation as per the authors viewpoint.

“Innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better”

It can come from something totally new “invention” or by changing something that already exists “iteration”, but if it does not meet both “new and better”, it is not innovative. So, change for the sake of change isn’t good enough.

Innovation must be “new and better”

The job of today’s leaders is to develop and sustain systems that support “optimal learning experiences” in order to create an innovative culture. Leaders who value the process of creating and refining ideas.

As I read this section, I reflected on exactly how do schools do that – set up a system and culture where all staff are involved in creating and refining? It would be a challenge given that leaders are trying to engage teachers who are on a range of continuum around expertise, experience, attitude, openness, reflective ability, and passion and energy towards teaching. “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” John Maxwell.

Is this the same as ‘lead the horse to water…” mentality? How many teachers are using devices in exactly the same way as paper? Or teaching ‘traditionally’ in an ILE?

“Change is an opportunity to do something amazing. Perhaps the amazing thing we can do is make growth mandatory – for ourselves as educators, as well as for our students.”

Is it really change if it doesn’t change practice, isn’t embedded, and is pushed out by the latest thing? Hmmmm – more on this another day.

Making growth mandatory would require creating a culture to support that. One where relationship development is part of every meeting, teacher competency and growth is a core value, accountability, support, safety, respect and appreciation are prevalent.

Questioning what we do and why we do it is essential for innovation. Coupled with that is the ‘how’ we do it. Is there a new and better way?

“When we think differently about the things that we are used to seeing daily, we can create innovative learning opportunities.”

Different for the sake of different is not the way to go, and can be a waste of time and leave things worse than when what was there before.

The question that must be asked every day is “What is best for this learner?” 

If we think about “21st Century learning”, what skills do students need? Is it skills, or skill sets or should we be talking about mindsets?

Many schools have already been teaching their staff and students about a growth mindset versus fixed mindset, but now there’s the innovators mindset!

In a fixed mindset, learners believe their abilities etc are fixed traits. In a growth mindset they understand that their abilities etc can be developed through effort, teaching and practice. The ability to innovate is what organisations are looking for today.

“The innovator’s mindset takes the growth mindset a step further…can be defined as the belief that the abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.”

For example, with a fixed mindset a learner doesn’t believe they can learn to play the piano, whereas with a growth mindset, the learner knows that with hard work and practice, they will accomplish their goal of learning to play the piano – try and grow. An innovator’s mindset is such that they learn to play the piano so they can create music!

Our job as educators is to help learners “focus on creating something with the knowledge that’s been acquired.”

I’ll end this piece with this quote alluding to trying to get a job at Google:

“The world only cares about – and pays off on – what you can do with what you know (it doesn’t care how you learned it)” Thomas Friedman, New York Times.

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