George Couros is a Canadian educational leader, who is also prolific social media contributor. He espouses innovation in education, and through his posts has created a sea change in the way people are talking about education, and its future. This is a book that coalesces these thoughts, and adds in some excellent examples of innovation.
You would read this book if you’re interested in:
* understanding what an innovator’s mindset is
* how to cultivate one in yourself and others
* exploring how this mindset manifests itself in the classroom
What is The Innovator’s Mindset?
Couros defines innovation as, “…a way of thinking that creates something new and better.” (pg. 19) He defines the innovator’s mindset as, “…the belief that the abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.” (pg. 33) This is where the book is the most powerful: he is defining innovation as a way of thinking and applying that thinking to create ‘better learning opportunities’. He goes further to define 8 characteristics of the innovator’s mindset: (pg. 49-57)
These are great characteristics to highlight, and if you’ve followed the sea change of educational leadership (#edleadership) these 8 characteristics won’t be a surprise. They are, in fact, the same characteristics that we want to see if our students, teachers and middle-leaders as well as administration. However, what this book does is contextualize these characteristics to the educational context in very powerful ways. He uses examples and prompts to make these characteristics deep and meaningful to the reader.
Prompts to Think About Your Own Practice
One of the more engaging pieces of this book comes at the end of every chapter. Each chapter has ‘Questions for Discussion’ that challenge the reader to consider what they’ve read in their own context and their own practice – regardless of their position as teacher, leader or administration.
“What questions do you think are vital to understanding those who serve in education” is one example of a question. And it is a powerful one. Couros’ prompts align with the main thrusts of each chapter, and each one has a powerful connection to the ‘end-user’ of education: the student. “What are some ways that you get in the ‘middle of learning’ to understand the needs of those you serve?‘” (pg. 91). These prompts direct us to focus on empathizing with the student, and the reader is well-served by taking these prompts seriously and articulating your response.
Beyond this Book: Where Innovation Can Go…
This book is geared more towards teachers as it positions innovation as a classroom experience. Many times, Couros emphasizes that it is the classroom learning experience that should be at the heart of school innovation. This is where he and I differ. There are three chapters that I, as a Vice Principal of an Independent School, really connected with. This is because these chapters explore innovation at the level of systems and structures:
* Chapter 5: Learn, Lead, Innovate
* Chapter 10: Less is More
* Chapter 12: Create Meaningful Learning Experiences for Educators
It is in these chapters that, I believe, a strong force of innovation lies: in the very systems and structures of a learning organization. If you want to free teachers’ mindsets, you have to free their time and space. Think differently about when PD happens, and how it happens – not just asking them to go on Twitter or other social media outlets – and build these systems into the daily lived experience.
This means innovating (in Couros’ definition) in the very calendar, timetable, and expectations of our students. It means innovating with, not just for, students, teachers and parents, in how their very day is structured. It is about redefining where innovation occurs by rethinking the organizational chart. These are opportunities that will spur on further innovations because it means changing the parameters of school as we know it.
It means innovating with your students, teachers and parents, not just for them.
This book is a great read for anyone in education because of the macro-look, the broad perspective, that it offers. Just keep in mind that it is a start on how to rethink education – not the recipe. To be fair, this is not what he set out to believe (or so I think). It is a great overview, with insightful suggestions and prompts, and powerful examples of teachers that are innovating.
For those that go ahead and read it, I strongly urge you to check out, on twitter, #innovatorsmindset – it is a powerful resource to support this read.