Is innovation really that hard? Working with a group of teachers to articulate a pathway to be able to think and act innovatively (is that really a word?) proved to be an eye-opening experience for me. First, we ask teachers to do lots of really hard work, but give them very little time or guidance to "redesign and repurpose" (a characteristic of innovation offered by a participant). This is completely counter-productive to the collaboration and spirit of innovation. If all I'm able to do is what I know, how can I discuss, develop, and design? Where does the need for innovation come? Does the need come from within or from external forces? Probably as with most things, somewhere in-between.
External forces, changing markets or consumer desires, can impact what we make, think, and do. But do external forces really cause me to change how I choose to think? The impetus for understanding why and how the world could be different isn't imperative, unless I can see the need for myself. The imperative must come from a "passion" (another participant characteristic of innovation) for something to different or better. I'm really convinced we can't mandate "innovation" on a large scale.
Once it,"the new thing", comes to scale is it still innovative? What I think we can do is create a pathway to create a climate and culture of innovation. After watching Scott Heimendinger's story at BIF9, individual teachers and then teams of teachers articulated the environment that teachers as professionals need to be innovative and also how to nurture innovation in our students. The plans teams created included
1. Risk Tolerance (Perseverance in our students)
2. Work from Strengths, but Build on Weaknesses
3. Find and Refine a Passion
For Teachers that means - Content, Instructional Practice, and always - STUDENTS
4. It's a Journey
It's about doing work that we don't always know will make a difference
5. The Right Pond
Where can I do the work I want to do?
How can I make my classroom the "right pond" for students?
What was interesting and not all-together surprising was the hesitancy and resistance to this type of thinking. We have created a system of education that seems to stress one-day outcomes, but in reality, we own every day of student-teacher experience? What we do every one of those days should answer and nurture "what if?" not proliferate "We are because".