What is the definition of innovation? It turns out that most people can’t agree. I’m not surprised! It’s one of those words we use so much, but we rarely pause to think about what it really means. Now that I’ve read over 100 different definitions of “innovation,” I’m going to lean on this one:
Standing in line at Starbucks ready to order my Venti black coffee, I pull out my phone and tap on Twitter even though I just checked it one minute ago. It’s a bad habit that I have, mindlessly opening the app without thinking, and pulling down the page in hopes that it will refresh with new content. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is drink two glasses of water with fresh lemon juice, organic apple cider vinegar, or a pinch of Himalayan salt. I’ve been doing this for several years, after reading about the benefits of drinking water in the morning to start the day. At first, it was hard. I started with half a glass. Then moved to a full glass. I eventually added apple cider vinegar. And now I’m up to two glasses. These are examples of bad habits and good habits I reinforce every day.
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Every 4-5 years, I try to pick up a new activity and focus on it until I get to a level of intermediate competency. It started with scuba diving in 2003, snowboarding in 2008, swimming in 2013, and this year was surfing. I took a 3-day boot camp with a private instructor where it turns out I had a different instructor each of the 3 days. While the instruction was 1:1 and technically couldn’t be more personalized for me, I was surprised by how much each instructor met or didn’t meet my needs. So I wanted to break it down for you.
Everyone is an innovator Within the last two decades, the barrier to entry to be innovative has dramatically decreased. Today, people can have multiple careers and innovations within a lifetime. Innovation has become so frequent that it’s part of everyone’s vernacular and a topic in many industries including healthcare, auto manufacturing, and education. Who doesn’t want to be innovative? It’s cool to be considered innovative and disruptive. Clayton Christensen wrote several best selling books on innovation and Clayton and Michael Horn put out a seminal book which in many ways shaped changes we have seen in education, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns”. This book made innovation cool even in education. Inspired by the practices of responsive organizations in other industries, Alexis Gonzales-Black and I co-wrote the book, "The NEW School Rules: 6 Vital Practices for Thriving and Responsive Schools", to help schools and districts become more innovative and agile.
I have led several companies but the workplace and teams today are uniquely more interconnected than they were in past organizations. So three years ago I decided I needed a new approach to how I organized our team and approach at Education Elements, the education consulting company I founded in 2010.
I’ve mentioned to a few people that I’m having my education mid-life crisis. After almost 20 years in education, I’ve seen various initiatives, software solutions, and programs come and go. Hundreds of millions are spent each year trying to move the needle, yet we continue to get similar results. It isn’t without the sweat, blood, and tears of all the educators in the country that work so hard.