Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Innovation-Isms, Andrew Style

On Friday, January 29th, three of us had the privilege of being invited to attend Quicken Loan's onboarding of new employees, known as "Isms in Action Day". With approximately 1,100 people in a beautiful riverfront room in Cobo Center, we experienced founder and chairman Dan Gilbert's day-long messaging of culture, expectations, and innovation through the use of 19 short anchor phrases.

[For more directly on the "isms," click here]
It was interesting to use our educational lens around those concepts and notice applicability to our work. For example, one of the isms is "Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses." This one was easy for us -- if we insert "student" or "learner" for client, it fits perfectly. Just as Quicken Loans does not rest on its 90% client satisfaction rating, we cannot rest on a high level of proficiency for most of our students -- every means every, and all means all.

What much of this spurred me to ultimately think about is that I have been living with an educational innovation guru for almost 20 years, and I only just realized it. Don't get me wrong. I always knew he was special, but his innovation genius? That is a revelation to me.

Meet my son, Andrew. He is a master Lego builder, a proud student at Grand Rapids Community College, and in the beginning stages of learning how to drive. Andrew also has autism, a neurodevelopment disorder. It does not define who Andrew is, but it does impact his social communication and interaction.One of the things we have discovered is Andrew's text messages and conversations tend to be a bit deeper and last longer than verbal ones.
[For more on autism spectrum disorders, click here]

It struck me this morning that just like Dan Gilbert, Andrew has given me a set of innovation-isms. And, because they are in text messages, I have a record of them. Take a look, side-by-side with Dan Gilbert:

“Ignore the noise.”
Don’t allow naysayers or a setback to stop you from pressing forward and winning.
“Quick, we'll need sombrero hats and rattles for our spring break trip.” Followed by “We’ll be wearing sombreros when we check-in.”
Do not worry about the opinions of others. If you believe in it, do it. Who cares what it looks like, especially if it’s fun.

“Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play.”
Urgency is your inner compulsion and drive to get things done in a timely, yet thoughtful, manner. Take care of things NOW.
“News Flash: Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker is available now.
We have to stay on top of new research and developments in education, and we have to be able to separate the merely shiny objects from the meaningful ones.
“It’s not about WHO is right; it’s about WHAT is right.”
There is no place for arrogance. Who is right or who is wrong means nothing. What is the right decision or best outcome for the issue at hand?
"Don't thank me. I'm good to be appreciated."
Every choice, every decision, every innovation has to be about what is best to enhance learning for our kids. It is not about us.
“We’ll figure it out.”
“You have to take the roast out of the oven.”
Creating something new is messy, and that’s an advantage. Trust the process and the people.
“Don't worry, I'm really sure everything's under control now."
Even if you can’t see every detail, start. Start small if you have to, but start. Learning is messy and exhilarating.

I could go on, but you get the idea. As we continue to build our culture to support innovation that enhances student learning, I'm going to keep both the Quicken-isms and the Andrew-isms in mind. I will also keep this picture in the forefront:

It gives all of us permission to innovate. Who knew Star Wars went so well with some of the greatest architectural wonders on earth? As Andrew would tell you, "you have to think outside of the book."

Join the conversation...
What "isms" guide your innovative thinking and action?

Thanks for reading,

P.S. Life is short. Always wear the sombrero.


  1. My favorite "ism" is "Progress, not perfection."
    PS I love your Andrew stories. He's a cool kid!

  2. I love this! Thanks for sharing - it gives me a lot to think about.

  3. "Judy, It's just a protein stain."... One of my favorite Andrew-ism! I think that could Definitely relate to education! Lol!

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  4. I agree with the ism "We'll figure it out". Trust the process and trust the people and great things are bound to happen! Great post, Judy.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I saw a great example of this yesterday in your work with the math group.

  5. Lots to consider! So much to learn from Andrew and ALL our kids! Thank-you for this
    great post, Judy!

    1. Thank YOU, Colleen. You;re right -- we have to listen to our kids.

  6. It was an honor to be there with you. My takeaway was that the leader of the organization felt so strongly about the culture that he spent the entire day leading it. Here is a man that is worth 4.5 billion and he is there all day! Talk about a powerful message.