‘Analytical thinking and innovation’ is number one on the list of top 10 skills identified by the Future of Jobs Report 2020 from the World Economic Forum as workforce requirements by 2025.
Innovative is one of the core Learner Attributes at the heart of SOC2035. It is defined as “inventive, valuing originality and creativity in thinking and seeking opportunities to introduce ideas or ways of doing things.”
George Couros, innovative teaching, learning, and leadership consultant, speaker and author of the ‘Innovator’s Mindset’, has been exploring avenues for schools to develop a culture of innovation that supports the building of innovative mindsets for both students and their teachers. Couros looks at processes in fields where innovation excels, such as design thinking, strategic planning, business modelling and more, and identifies eight key characteristics that seem common across these fields and which can then be viewed from a school perspective.
Eight Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset
Empathetic – As educators, innovation starts with the question, “what is best for this student.” For us to create something better for our students, we have to understand their experiences and this is why it is imperative that we not only talk about new ways of learning, but immerse ourselves in these opportunities. This way we can understand what works and what does not work from the perspective of a learner, not a teacher. If anything, teachers need a deep understanding of learning before they can become effective in teaching. Teachers (and parents!) need to put ourselves in our student’s (children’s) shoes before we can continue to create better learning opportunities for them.
Problem-Finders – All innovation starts from a question, not an answer. Many capstone projects developed by students in their classrooms start with first finding and then solving problems both locally and globally.
Risk-Takers – Many would argue that “best-practice” is the enemy of innovation. To be truly innovative, we sometimes have to go off the beaten path. The reality of this is, that for some students, the “tried-and-true” methods will still work, but for others, they (and we) need to try something different. Is “best practice” truly “best”, or just “most well known”?
Networked – Innovation does not happen in isolation, as it is often ideas that are being shared amongst many that lead to new and better ideas being developed. The best learning environments have always created networks where learners learn from others as they create new and powerful ideas. Now many have taken the opportunity to take networks to a whole different level through the use of social media to share and develop new ideas. Isolation is the enemy of innovation. Networks are crucial if we are going to develop an “Innovator’s Mindset”.
Observant – A practice normal amongst those that would be considered “innovative” is that they constantly look around their world and create connections. It is normal to have a notebook or use their mobile device to record ideas or thoughts around them and link them to their own ideas. When researchers and organizations around the world share their practices and ideas, we have to tap into their diverse expertise and learn from them as well. Wisdom is all around us, we just have to look for it.
Creators – So many people have great ideas, yet they never come to fruition. Innovation is a combination of ideas and hard work. Conversation is crucial to the process of innovation, but without action, ideas simply fade away and/or die. What we create with what we have learned is imperative in this process.
Resilient – Things do not always work on the first try, so what are the tweaks or revamping that is needed? To simply try something and give up as soon as it fails never leads to innovation – only a definitive end. This is something that learners (all ages) need to be continually reminded of as well as see being modelled by the adults around them – turning good ideas into great ones.
Reflective – What worked? What didn’t? What could we do next time? If we started again, what would we do differently? What can we build upon? It is important that in cultivating innovative mindsets, we sit down and reflect on our process. Reflection is probably the most important part of education as the connections we make on our own are where deep learning happens – learning that goes well beyond the ‘surface level’ that is so often the focus when ‘we are trying to get through’ a curriculum.
Creating a culture where these characteristics are not only accepted but overtly encouraged, is imperative. They need to be embodied in daily learning practices for all age levels and at all levels of the organisation that is the school. To many, being “innovative” is no more than a buzzword, but if we truly want to have innovative students who are well-equipped to embrace their future, be this in work or other aspects of life, we need to embody an “Innovator’s Mindset” at all levels.