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The Decade for Innovation in Education

By: Anthony Kim on January 1st, 2020

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The Decade for Innovation in Education

Innovative Leadership  |  Teams & Culture

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: 

“Creativity is thinking of something new. Innovation is the implementation of something new.”

- Paul Sloane

Why did I decide to go with this definition? I like this concept of separating out thinking of an idea vs. implementing an idea. I’m going to go even further by saying that for me, an innovation is not an innovation if a) people don’t know about it, and b) it doesn’t change how people act or think. That’s right, you aren’t innovating if you just come up with an idea, you have to go about implementing it, and the innovation has to change the way others think or do things.

“Innovation = idea + implementation + change”

Innovations are all around us, changing our behaviors and the way we think. Voice assistants, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, social media, and life automation, all require us to develop new mental models. We have to utilize more sophisticated decision-making skills to keep up with the simple decisions already being made for us by these technologies. These innovations are shifting our own values and belief systems. Consider how our phones now need to tell us we are using them too much. What we are addicted to also agrees that it’s an addiction! So we have to come up with new lifestyles like “digital minimalism”.

I see changes in other industries and markets that will influence and change our students and our next generation of educators. We are approaching a critical chasm in education and we need to decide if we will go down the slope or build a bridge to cross it. This chasm is the gap between the rate of change in technology and the profile of future generations versus our current systems and procedures to transfer knowledge – otherwise defined as our education system. Either we need to better respond to the needs of our educators and students, or new systems will begin to displace the current system. By the time we recognize it, it will be too late. Like life-changing innovations in other sectors, the system of transferring knowledge needs to move from a lagging indicator to a leading one. 

Predictions and hopes for 2020

  1. YouTube will replace and disrupt conferences. Take a look at TED Talks. Less than 1,000 people attend the live TED Talk and less than 100 people attend each live TEDx. Yet, Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk has over 63,000,000 views and Brene Brown’s TEDxHouston Talk has over 45,000,000 views. With the consolidation of conferences, reduction of travel budgets, and access to quality content online, more people will rely on online experiences.
  2. Influenced by people, not brands. A trend in sports is the shift of fans following individual players versus teams. More fans are engaging with individual players due to their interactions with them on social media. Social media has changed how we relate to influence. In the past, brands marketed to us. Now individuals have a greater impact on brand credibility. We will see this trend in education as well.  George Couros has over 266,000 Twitter followers, compared to McGraw Hill which has 55,000 and Pearson PLC which has 13,000.
  3. Learning is about teams and so is teaching. One adult can’t keep up with 30 students – not at the rate things are changing, coupled with our unlimited access to information. In today’s world, learning accelerates in teams. I believe 30 people without experience, working together can problem-solve better than 1 experienced person working alone. So for us to create cultures for learning we have to shift toward team teaching.
  4. Innovative leaders will focus on how we work. Leaders with experience realize that we’ve tried so many things that supposedly work, but we continue to fail at getting the anticipated results. It’s really about evolving by learning from our mistakes. Innovative leaders realize that we can’t continue to do the same things and expect different results. In order to change the way we do things, we need to reflect on our mistakes.
  5. Shift from talking about goals to habits. Over the past few years, a number of books on habits came out, most becoming New York Times bestsellers. Many social media influencers providing self-improvement, tips on how to gain more followers, or coaching on how to realize your goals are talking about habits, not the goals. They all suggest being consistent, doing versus planning, learning quickly, and adjusting fast. I’d love to see strategic plans that focus on new habits an organization will build. It’s these habits that define the identity of the organization and help us achieve our goals.

In order for us to shift from idea to innovation and to change from lagging indicators to leading ones, it’s about working with systems and processes that lead to predictability. The predictability of knowing each week that we are on the right track to attain our goals. Over the next decade, we have a great opportunity to build that bridge and use education as a leading indicator of society. Make this decade about leading and innovating by starting with the change you can make. The things we do as individuals have a ripple effect on our teams and organizations.

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About Anthony Kim

Anthony Kim is a Corwin Press bestselling author, with publications including The New Team Habits, The New School Rules, and The Personalized Learning Playbook. His writing ranges the topics of the future of work, leadership and team motivation, improving the way we work, and innovation in systems-based approaches to organizations and school design. Anthony believes that how we work is the key determinant to the success of any organization. He is a nationally recognized speaker on learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, Education Week, District Administration, and numerous research reports. In addition to his writing, Anthony is the founder and Chief Learning Officer of Education Elements, a trusted partner and consultant to over 1,000 schools nationwide. Anthony has been the founder of several companies across multiple industries, including online education, ecommerce, and concerts and events.

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