Another dot in the blogosphere?

What innovation is not

Posted on: February 20, 2016

Poll ten people on what “innovation” means and you will likely get ten different answers. You might also see some patterns emerge.

Here are two common responses to what innovation is: 1) doing things differently, and 2) doing the same things differently.

I agree with the first notion, but I think that the second is flawed. If you are doing the same things, how can you call it different?

In a few seminars, I have showcased examples of how people have used the show-and-tell method over time: Cavemen drawing on cave walls, lecturers on blackboards, instructors with overhead projectors, teachers with PowerPoint and “interactive” white boards.

Is doing the same thing differently all that innovative? How can it be when the medium has changed and the method has not?

Consider another example.

My son’s school has a “no homework on Mondays” policy. There are caveats in this practice, but I shall not waste words on them.

By force of habit, I asked my son on a Monday if he had homework. Before I could take my question back, my son replied that he had. A teacher gave the class homework on Monday and told students that it was due on Wednesday.

Technically a child could wait till Tuesday to do the homework. But even a child knows that Tuesday will bring even more homework that they will have to add to an already full plate.

Doing the same thing (dishing out homework) differently (giving it a different due date) is not innovative. It is a creative response to staying ahead in the curricular race, but it is a selfish one. It does not benefit the child, it does not change practice, and it works against the movement to try something new.

Part of the Twitterverse seems to have fallen in love with the fixed vs growth mindset debate. @gcouros suggests we adopt an innovator’s mindset. I agree. But only if innovation is about doing things differently, not doing the same things differently.

4 Responses to "What innovation is not"

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