Thinking Outside of the Box, v2.0

Is your organization innovative?

Certainly, innovation is contextual, and what represents innovative thought and practice for one organization might not necessarily be innovative for another.  Becoming more innovative means becoming intimately aware of the importance of your organizational culture and the context it creates for thinking in new ways.

It’s my belief that creating a new and innovative “something” requires stepping outside of the normal and expected context, suspending your biases associated with organizational cultural expectations and beliefs, and learning how to see and think without being unencumbered by your traditional and learned past.

That’s a provocative statement, since it suggests that being innovative means ignoring your own organizational perspectives, values, norms, and behaviors.  But setting those aside, at least temporarily, is critical when it comes to becoming more innovative, either as an individual within the organization, or as an organization itself.

That’s what it takes to develop a new lens to see the world through, and developing that lens is a starting condition for developing a new mindset that sees and thinks differently.

As you might expect, I closely watch online conversations about developing innovative practice and programs.  These conversations almost always use the same language and employ the same educational mindsets that are currently present in schools (such as the concept of “PD”). Of course, that’s expected as it’s comfortable, but can you be more innovative, and possibly contribute to the reinvention of education by using the same language, perspectives, values, norms and behaviors that have created the very conditions you are trying to rethink?

A New Starting Point

Education needs a new starting point for becoming more innovative.  One that does not start the conversation about being innovative by first looking backward towards the current, typical and accepted.  Education needs a new point to pivot from and a new direction that looks towards a different identity, functionality, and purpose.

Designing and thinking innovatively, or ultimately crafting an organizational disposition of innovation is what will change schools.  And the first step in developing an innovative mindset is to develop the capacity to dissociate temporarily from your organization's cultural context. By doing this, there is a real opportunity to develop new ideas, new directions, and new pathways for innovation and for change.  All of this should then be placed back within the context of the organization, to challenge, to push, to inoculate, and to remix. An organization that does this consciously promotes an expansion of its context, of what it can do, how it thinks and operates, and ultimately, how it behaves and supports children in the service of learning.


A recognized leader in the educational technology field, David Jakes focuses on using the design process to support the organizational growth, development and change required to create relevant and meaningful conditions for student learning in schools.  David’s thought leadership includes addressing the increased need to develop agile, connected, and personalized learning environments that support a contemporary education, and how the use of technology can be re-imagined to create boundless opportunities for learning.  Before his current position as an independent consultant and as the Director of Learning Spaces with the EdTechTeam, David spent almost three decades in education as a teacher, technologist, and administrator. David's design experience includes working as a Digital Designer and Strategist for CannonDesign and The Third Teacher+, a leading architecture firm and learning space consultancy.   David is a frequent presenter at national and international educational 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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