(Originally published on LinkedIn.)
I recently stumbled across this blog post: Does Innovation Have a DNA? — and I immediately started to connect this with the work that we do in education.
In the post, the author explains that prominent and influential business innovators (Jeff Bezos from Amazon, Steve Jobs from Apple, Marc Benioff from Salesforce.com) all share a common set of skills that enable them to create “disruptive innovations.” The author concludes that these skills are skills that anyone can develop within themselves:
…the five skills of disruptive innovators:
- Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities;
- Observing helps innovators detect small details—in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies—that suggest new ways of doing things;
- Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds;
- Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas;
- Associational thinking—drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields—is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas.
As I read through the list, I wondered about what happens not only in our classrooms, but also in professional learning. How are we cultivating these skills in our students? Our teachers? Our leaders? Ourselves?
If we are not cultivating the skills, what can we do in our work to not only nurture and guide the development of these skills, but to honor and value the existence of these skills in our students, our teachers, leaders, colleagues, and in other school stakeholders?
Let’s explore each of the 5 skills within the context of our work in more detail…
1. Questioning allows innovators to challenge the status quo and consider new possibilities.
- What kinds of questions are asked in the classrooms at your school?… Low-level, high-level, open-ended?
- Who is asking the questions? The teachers or the students?
- What kinds of questions do teachers ask about their own work?
- What kinds of questions do leaders ask?
- How often do any of these questions CHALLENGE the status quo or allow for the exploration of new/alternative possibilities?
2. Observing helps innovators detect small details—in the activities of customers, suppliers and other companies—that suggest new ways of doing things.
- When (how often) do you — or your students, teachers, colleagues, leaders — take time to observe (and listen) for the purpose of finding new ways of doing things?
3. Networking permits innovators to gain radically different perspectives from individuals with diverse backgrounds.
- How do you network with others in order to gain new and different perspectives on your work?
- How often do you network with individuals who have diverse backgrounds or differing viewpoints from your own?
- How do you create an environment within your school that allows all individuals — including students — to network with (and learn with/from) a variety of individuals and innovators?
- Does your networking (or that of your students and teachers) extend beyond the walls of your school into the larger community, other industries, the state, the country, and/or the world? If not, how might you expand the networking?
4. Experimenting prompts innovators to relentlessly try out new experiences, take things apart and test new ideas.
- In what way do you experiment in your own work?
- How do you enable others within your school (leaders, teachers, students) to experiment with new ways of working & learning… to experiment with new ideas for all aspects of the work on the campus?
- Does your school or district provide a safe space (climate & culture) where everyone feels comfortable and supported in failing as a process of learning during experimentation?
5. Associational thinking—drawing connections among questions, problems or ideas from unrelated fields—is triggered by questioning, observing, networking and experimenting and is the catalyst for creative ideas.
- How, when, and where do you explore ideas, questions, and problems from diverse and unrelated fields (business, medicine, the arts, entertainment, technology, science, etc.) to influence the questions, observations, networking, and experimenting within your own work?
If you have few or no answers to the questions posed above, explore how you might begin to do so some of these things in your work or within your classroom on a daily or even just a weekly basis.
How can the questions and skills above be used in instruction with students or in professional learning with educators as a way for developing these skills in all learners?