Monday, February 29, 2016

There Is An "I" In "Innovator"

We all grew up hearing the adage "there is no 'I' in team" to promote the importance of collaboration and a collective mindset.  Now, with the proliferation of images on the internet, we can get images like this that are not only funny, but may cause us to reflect:




Without a doubt, there is an "I" in innovator, in more than just the obvious way.

George Couros has written many posts and articles about the traits of educators who desire to be innovators, and most recently, has published the book, The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. The use of the word "innovator" rather than "innovation" puts the focus on the people, not the products or processes. The traits Couros identifies for educators include empathetic, problem finders, risk-takers, networked, observant, creators, resilient, and reflective.

In the same vein, there is also a great article from 2009 in the Harvard Business Review: The Innovator's DNA.The authors (including Clayton Christensen, Mr. Disruptive Innovation) detail five "discovery skills" that each one of us can choose to cultivate: associating, questioning, observing, experimenting, and networking:


  • Associating
    • What: much like synthesizing, it is the ability to take seemingly unrelated ideas and make connections.
    • How: spend some time thinking about the common themes or patterns between school improvement, the instructional framework, professional learning communities, and a learning-for-all culture.
  • Questioning
    • What: asking "why?" "why not?" and "what if?" 
    • How: the HBR authors suggest spending 15 minutes or so each day writing down 10 new questions that challenge the status quo in your organization. What might that like look for you in your school or district?
  • Observing
  • Experimenting
    • What: intellectual or physical testing of hypotheses. 
    • How: make a small bet and try something new in your school or classroom for one day or one week.
  • Networking
    • What: a conscious effort to meet people with different ideas and perspectives. 
    • How: invite members of a different grade level or content area team to a "new idea lunch" and invite them to offer feedback on one idea.

Great news, right? You don't have to be born an innovator. You can choose to be an innovator through intentional cultivation of your mindset and skills. And then you can help cultivate them in students, too.

Join the conversation...
How do you put the "I" in innovator?

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