Creating Innovators

wagnerI’ve just started Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. It’s this year’s choice for the ISTE Administrators PLN book study. We’ll read a chapter or so a week and have some online discussion. If all goes as planned, the author himself will join us at the end for a little Q & A and conversation.

Each week, someone takes the role of discussion leader and prepares a prompt for us to respond to. The prompt for Chapter 1, “A Primer on Innovation,” asked: “What is your take, and what quotations did you find thought-provoking and why?” Here is how I replied.

First, here are some quotations that are salient for me.

Today, we need to create intellectual property in order to create wealth…The real value is now in the creation of ideas that are scalable, that don’t consume resources, that aren’t a zero-sum game.” (p. 6)

Innovation doesn’t have to be about creating the next iPad. It can be the way you treat a customer. (p. 9)

(of the Millennials) While some of them might not care to admit it, they also need us in order to succeed. They need our expertise, guidance, mentoring, and support, but we have to offer our help in a new way. (p. 22)

You cannot innovate from nothing. (p. 24)

Some thoughts related to those quotations:

In schools, we often have programs or approaches lauded that look great when they are shared in a conference breakout session or highlighted on the five o’clock news or Tweeted out by a proud principal or superintendent, but they are not scalable. I think scalable ideas are pretty rare. I’m not sure that should always be the test. Perhaps what is important is finding solutions to local problems that work locally, whether scalable or not.

I love the general idea of innovation being as much about how we behave as products we might make.

As a boomer, it’s nice to know I might be needed by a Millennial or two, but then the person making that claim is Tony Wagner, a boomer himself, I believe–so perhaps wishful thinking? That aside, it’ll be interesting to see what suggestions the book holds about new ways to offer our help.

I think some of us technology enthusiasts go overboard in our assumption that no one today needs to memorize facts or store knowledge because we can just google it as needed. I’m a big fan of the idea of adaptive expertise. Your ability to innovate depends on developing a base of “expertness.” No, being highly skilled or highly knowledgeable in a field is not sufficient to be an innovator, but it may well be a prerequisite.


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