Think Different and then some

Two posts ago I mentioned a Harvard Business Review article The Innovator’s DNA. The brief overview provided on Harvard’s site was sufficiently interesting that I wound up reading the entire article. (The article is available for purchase but educators can also fill out a form to request free access.) In the process I also found Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine by Bala Iyer and Thomas H. Davenport.

Although the Innovator’s DNA has an accompanying website that is definitely geared to businesses and entrepreneurship, there are a number of ideas in both HBR articles that can be applied to education. As you can see from the tag cloud on the right (you’ll probably have to scroll down a bit), I have written many posts on the topics of professional development and adult learning, creativity and imagination, and it’s probably no surprise that a post tagged with one is often tagged with at least one of the others. From my perspective, teaching, professional development, and innovation are all entwined.

The Innovator’s DNA, according to Jeffrey Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen, contains five actions that help individuals foster their creativity, and all of them can be improved upon by the simple act of practice. (The words in color are direct quotes from the full length article; I used bold to make the five actions stand out.)

  • Ask questions that both impose and eliminate constraints; this will help you see a problem or opportunity from a different angle. [It’s not just a matter of teachers asking students questions; it’s teachers asking themselves questions about their own practice and about their students’ learning.]
  • Sharpen your own observational skills…spend an entire day carefully observing… [Teachers need to go beyond their own classrooms and observe colleagues in the same building and at other schools.]
  • To strengthen experimentation…attend seminars or…education courses on topics outside your area of expertise [Multiple times I’ve written about the benefits of trying something new to stimulate your brain and maintain cognitive health.]
  • To improve your networking skills, contact the five most creative people you know and ask them to share what they do to stimulate creative thinking. [The education equivalent is building PLNs, Personal Learning Networks, which is a fancy way of saying get out there and talk with others to increase your own learning and understanding.]
  • Associating [which] is triggered by new knowledge that is acquired through questioning, observing, experimenting and networking. [Hmm, isn’t that what we, as teachers, hope for our students, to be able to make new associations based on active learning. We teachers should truly be modeling this for our students!]

Commentary on the Google article will comprise my next post.


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