Innovation as Mindset

Being an innovator is hard.  

Being an innovator means that your expectations, behaviors and methodologies are potentially disruptive and most likely will challenge the normal, core practice of the institution you serve.

Being innovative begins with asking the question: How might we think differently about this?” 

That’s the first step, and it represents the essence of an innovative mindset.  Developing and possessing such a mindset means that you look at every opportunity as an opportunity to be innovative, and you ask that question.  It’s a lens to see the world through and enables those that possess it to traverse a pathway from opportunity to possibility to impact.

To extend that idea, the truly important question is how to develop an organizational mindset of innovative practice, and not just have individuals who are capable of being innovative. 

And that organizational mindset is exactly what is needed now in education.

To develop that requires negotiating the organizational inertia created by the following school constructs:

  1. The School Community:   Schools, and what happens in them, are reflections of their community values, wants and needs.  What are the expectations for the school experience held by the school community?  Are they traditional expectations or does the community value and encourage innovative thought, practice and learning experiences? 
  2. The School Culture:  Every school has an expectation for a core experience that has evolved over the life of the school, most likely measured in decades.  Moving away from “normal” to a “new normal” requires a shift in the perception of what the core experience means and is represented by.
  3. The School Climate:  The climate of the school represents the current and real day-to-day feel of the school.  Is the time right for innovative practice?  Or, are there other considerations that take precedent at this moment in time that might require the focus and energy of the school?
  4. The School Vision:  Has the school declared what the school’s invitation to learning is? What will students experience as the result of the realization of the vision over time?  Does the vision require an innovative culture to be actualized?  Does the vision declare that a culture of innovation is desired?
  5. The School Language:  How does the school talk about innovative thought and practice?  How does the school talk about new ideas?  Does the language of the school, and how it’s used by membership, support a dialogue that promotes innovative minds and actions?  Or does your cultural language create roadblocks to innovation?

Of course, the school’s leadership has a significant impact on all of this and that will be the focus of my next post here.

What factor would you add to the above list that must be negotiated to create an innovative culture?


David Jakes is a recognized leader in the educational technology field, David Jakes focuses on the increased need to develop agile, 21st Century, personalized, and digitally-enhanced learning environments.  Based in Chicago, David works with the architectural firm of CannonDesign where he is a Digital Designer and Strategist for The Third Teacher+ and Cannon’s K-12 education practice.  David’s thought leadership encompasses digital storytelling, cloud-based learning environments and their relationship to physical learning spaces, mobile learning, the use and impact of social media in education and how organizations engage in change and improvement.  Before his current position with Cannon, David spent almost three decades in education as a teacher, technologist, administrator, designer and storyteller.  David is a frequent presenter at national and international educational technology conferences where he speaks about the power and promise of a new expedition for learning, and the roles that all educators have in shaping that journey. 

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