In his new book, The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity, George Couros explores the conditions and context required to provide an optimal learning environment for our students’ future needs. Couros approaches this idea in a simple and compelling manner, one that shows that innovation is not only within reach of all classrooms, but is what great teachers and schools naturally tend to strive for. When we think differently about the things that we are used to seeing daily, he suggests, we can create innovative learning opportunities. Yet this is much more about mindset than simply thinking differently.
The philosophy of Carol Dweck meets the thinking of Tony Wagner in some aspects here. The innovator’s mindset is based upon a belief that abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas. Since change is a constant in society and is not something we can ignore in the complex process of preparing our students for life beyond school, we are obligated, Couros believes, “to recognize and create new and better opportunities for our students”. This requires innovation.
The author’s most fundamental point is that schools, school leaders, and teachers are ultimately obliged to empower learners. “Our job as educators and leaders”, he writes, “is not to control others but to bring out the best in them”. This requires an inevitable move from a traditional culture of compliance in schools to the development and nurturing of a culture of empowerment among all stakeholders. It is hard to argue that the semantics of how we achieve this are of less importance than the actual achievement itself. Couros invites educators to consider three critical questions as a potential roadmap for moving forward:
- What is an example of a practice that you consider to be innovative? How is it new or better than what you had before?
- How can you create opportunities for innovation in your leadership? In your teaching? In your learning?
- What has changed in our world today that not only makes innovation easier to do, but is also necessary for our students?
This is, potentially, a template for planning school improvement, the power of which is perhaps best encapsulated by another question Couros challenges us to answer: “How do we take what we currently have to create a better education system for our entire community?”
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if we are talking about innovation, technology, or pedagogy, as long as we are determined to, “develop a culture that focuses on doing whatever it takes to ensure that we are successful in serving all of our students”. The key is derived from a strategic process of improving learning creatively. The Innovator’s Mindset offers an fascinating insight into how we can achieve this.