You’re Not That Innovative(and that’s okay) by Adam Bluestein and Converting Ideas to Education

This post is going to be based on the following article written by Adam Bluestein posted in Inc. Magazine in the 9.2013 issue. You might want to read the article first.

You’re Not That Innovative(and that’s okay) by Adam Bluestein – http://www.inc.com/magazine/201309/less-innovation-is-better.html

Below are excerpts from the article in bold with my thoughts applied to education. Always open for your thoughts.

What if innovation is not the panacea it’s said to be?
Innovation and Creativity is a huge push in education right now. I push it more than anyone and live my life on the Edge of Chaos continually trying to come up with new ways of doing things. However, not everyone is like me. And that is okay. Do we need every educator to be this way? I don’t think so. Schools need a wide flavor of teaching styles and mindsets. I did not always think this way, but am starting to realize the importance of variety of a staff to ensure quality education.

How much disruptive innovation do you really need to advance your business goals?” 
Schools need disruptive innovation. You need educators pushing the boundaries to make new things happen. BUT, you don’t need your entire staff. You need a few out exploring the new frontiers. Much like history. Countries did not send their entire population to new uncharted territories. They sent a few to figure things out and once established sent more. Education and schools need to be the same way with new crazy ideas.

On average, the most successful companies devoted about 70 percent of their innovation assets (time and money) to “safe” core initiatives; 20 percent to slightly more risky adjacent ones; and just 10 percent to transformational, or disruptive, ones.

I love this excerpt. Perhaps schools should be the same. A majority of the staff should be “safe” and tweak existing practices in small steps, but nothing too crazy. 1/4 or so of staff should be a bit more risky taking on new ideas to see what happens that eventually the “safe” group could adapt once things are worked out. You need just a small group to be the crazy disruptive ones. They are the ones that are way out there doing things that challenge the status quo and things that have never been done. They are two steps ahead. Then the next group adapts their ideas over time and the safe group implements. 

This seems like a safer approach to ensuring quality education while still pushing the frontiers of education. I think this keeps teachers grounded without feeling like a failure while still challenging everyone within the confines of where their comfort zones exist. Schools cannot be too overboard with disruptive innovation, but on the flip side schools cannot just sit back and be happy with how things are going.

Core innovation involves making incremental changes to improve existing products for existing customers

We don’t always have to be drastic in decisions. Look at any successful company or product and it is just a minor tweak on existing platforms. Education should be the same. Educators should never be satisfied, but we cannot lose our focus on what we need to accomplish.


Transformational (a.k.a. disruptive) innovations involve inventing things for markets that don’t exist yet–say, iTunes or Starbucks. Of course, when a disruptive innovation succeeds, the returns can be enormous.

Love this passage as well. When the educators who are way out there do get a hold of something special it is going to be awesome. Yet we cannot expect all teachers to be out there hoping for their ideas to be the next greatest thing. Students lose out in the end. Consistency is still a must for their day to day routines.

Coming up with ideas isn’t nearly as hard as determining which ones are any good and figuring out what to do with them. 

Educators are just like students and we don’t like to be criticized. Sometimes we have to put our big boy pants on and accept that our ideas are not the best. That is life. We adapt and learn. We adjust. We learn from the ideas and tweak them to make them better. Don’t get pouty and give up. Be open and honest and adapt to make the ideas good. Feedback is essential. Have a backbone. Be ready for criticism. If you never get any feedback, then you really know your idea is bad.

A cool idea that excites your engineers should never become a working project until someone can articulate how it actually solves a pressing problem that your customers have.

When we come up with ideas we must have time to have conversation about the idea. We need feedback and suggestions. Educators should project tune. They should also do the project or idea before implementing with students. We have to ensure the idea is a good one before entering the classroom and impacting student learning.


 “You never have enough resources and time to attack all your opportunities,” says Sher. “You want to focus on the best ones, so you can finish them first. Two nonessential ones get done, the important ones don’t, and there’s no value created.”

Time is always a complaint in education. It is a complaint in all aspects of life. The goal should be to figure what is the most important idea to tackle and tackle it. We cannot spread ourselves so thin that we never really get anything accomplished. This is a major flaw of mine that I am working on currently.

Doblin found, companies get the highest return on investment when they focus on things such as improving business models, internal processes, and customer experience.

Education for students will increase when schools focus on their education models and organization, communication among staff and taking care of their educators, and ensuring the students have opportunities to learn.
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Applying Entrepreneurial Thought To Education #coffeechugPLN

I was recently finishing up another magazine that I wanted to share out some ideas.

Inc. 32nd Annual Fastest Growing Private Companies in America 9.2013

Below are some thoughts that emerged while I read the articles.

1. Eric Paley (page 60) “The Myth of the Perfect Product”
Don’t wait until your product is perfect to build your business. You will be waiting forever.

I love thinking of this statement in education. As my building moves to Project Based Learning I think one of the issues we are running into (there are several) is that we (educators) think the project must be perfect, completely laid out, with precision details mapped out each day. We cannot just go and wing it, but we have to take an idea, build a framework, infuse it with passion and excitement, and run with it. Sometimes we have to just go and see how it develops and through the journey of learning we will find out what really works best. I really think that our lessons and projects should be just as much as learning for ourselves as educators as much as the students. We need to continue to improve our instruction and lessons, but we cannot wait for a perfect lesson because it will never exist and we will sit idle all day long.

2. As we rethink education, we have to sometimes develop an entrepreneur approach. When we think as an entrepreneur we cannot forget that this can create anxiety and some stress. Things will fail. Things will not work. You will make mistakes.

And it is okay.

The goal here is the process. The goal is to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone boundaries and explore what you are really capable of achieving. Through the ups and downs we have to be careful not to let it consume us completely. Give time for breaks and rest. Do something different for a fresh perspective. Never give up!

It makes me think of our robotic teams. They start off super excited when building and designing their new robots. Then they hit a wall when their plans don’t work and they cannot think their way through any other ideas. At this point we move to something different – our research project. We take a break. Year after year they come back to the robot with a whole new fresh perspective and make up so much ground by just getting away from it all. In the end, things just fall into place.

It is not that we give up, but understanding the ebb of flow of creativity and innovation and the process of acting upon it.

3. I just love this title. For me, I think in education we have to allow teachers to have full autonomy in their classroom. It is the duty of the teacher to then deliver high quality learning opportunities. If we provide teachers with freedom to teach, then we must be prepared for the valid criticism when we are not delivering. I feel that often times we sugar coat too much in education. We need to be strong enough to receive constructive feedback when we are not doing as good of a job as we can be. We expect our students to constantly take in feedback that tells them they are far from perfect. Why can’t educators be held to the same standard? We all make mistakes. We all have weaknesses. They key is to become aware and work on it. Don’t pout. Don’t whine. Get a backbone and challenge yourself to improve.

And just like my design series, there will be a Part 2 to this series.

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