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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The problem is not technology, the problem is us!

My own private Coffeechug Cafe! #coffeechugpln

Reading one of my favorite magazines, WIRED, I read a recent article titled “The End of Unplugging” by Mat Honan. In this article he talks about a hike he took where he was without Internet. Through his journey and hike he realized that no matter how hard we try, we are always connected someway.

It is impossible to not be connected in this day and age. It is easy to point the finger and complain about all the issues that this may cause, the lack of thinking, people not being self sufficient without a phone, etc.

However, it is easy to point the finger and come up with excuses and complaints. What we need to come to terms with is that the problem is not the technology.

The problem is us!

As Mat states in his article, “Rather than focusing on taking temporary breaks from technology, we need the discipline to live with it all times.”

This is a rather unique way of looking at the issue. One that I really like and forces the individual to take charge. Lately, I have been working on this discipline. Just this weekend I worked to have my phone on me at all times while working with my son on his book report, but at the same time tried to not look at my phone every 20 seconds. Rather I wanted him to know that his work was important, more important than any tweet that buzzed my phone.

Later in the article, the author states, “The phone isn’t the problem. The problem is us – our inability to step away from email and games and inessential data, our inability to look up, be at an alpine lake or at family members.”

This rings true. We have to learn to develop the discipline to work in both worlds – connected and real time. We have to understand that when we are out for dinner with friends and family that we respect those who we are with and not insult them by focusing more on people we are not directly with. There is this happy medium. We have to take time to be in the moment and not constantly checking in and out and losing out on key moments. There is a time and place for it all.

Instead of pointing fingers, take responsibility, hold yourself accountable, and realize that the problem may be you.

More importantly what strategies have you used to help keep a sense of balance and discipline when it comes to being constantly connected?

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How I read business/marketing books and apply to education

This bothers me. Must help my son be more in tune with his learning.

I have been asked multiple times since this summer about what I am reading. People usually start to lose interest the minute I tell them I am reading a great business or marketing book. It seems boring or non educational. I think they are expecting me to say I am reading some new educational book with strategies or lesson plans.

To be honest, besides Teach Like A Pirate, I have not read a good quality education book in quite some time. There are some great ones out there, but for the last two years I just don’t see anything new or groundbreaking.

I am finding that reading the latest marketing/business books have really opened my eyes up to a new perspective. I am not reading them to make money or start my own company, but I read them with the lens of education.

Let me explain how I do this.

1. Vocab transfer

The following words I exchange in my mind while reading

business = education
product = students or goal of my classroom depending on context of material
customers = students and sometime parents/community
making money = helping students learn

2. I read in chunks

I don’t speed read. I will read a few pages or a chapter and stop. I will then stop to think about what I read. Go back over a paragraph or two and then make notes using Evernote or my notepad. I will jot down ideas from the book into my own words moving the ideas to education.

3. Read other material

Even though I am reading the book I am still paying close attention to other blogs, Twitter, newsletters, etc. looking through it all to further apply the content to education. Many times when I have this focus I can pick and pull from several other resources to solidify my ideas

4. Blog

Most of the blog posts lately have derived from this method. I simply share out an idea when I think that I have one worth sharing. At some point I would like to mold these into a cohesive book, but with two books already in the process this will have to wait.

I have been sharing my weekly reads on my new podcast.

I am also working on creating a newsletter where I share out what books, magazines, and resources I am currently focusing on. I hope to have this up and running soon.

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Why thinking about Design is vital for Education! Part 1

The other day I tweeted the following

Really questioning why topic of “design” is missing in landscape of education? #coffeechugpln
— Aaron Maurer (@coffeechugbooks) October 30, 2013

I have become fascinated(alright obsessed) recently with the whole notion of design and how important it is becoming in the business world and the landscape of innovation. Design is becoming so important as people realize the whole complete package of any idea or product is essential to being one unit from the packaging material to how the product actually fits into the package.

As I read one of my new favorite magazines Fast Company the whole issue just so happened to be the 10th Annual Innovation by Design Issue(my first issue sent in mail for my new subscription).

Below are the key ideas I marked and highlighted this issue that I feel are vital to not only innovators and business, but more importantly to education as we prepare students for the job market that will require this type of thinking. I have taken the information and shifted the angle to meet the perspective of education. These ideas are not directly quoted from the articles, but read, adapted, and modified to fit the world of education.

  • Design is not just about creating new products, but new ways of working, leading, and seeing. I think that in terms of education that “products” are the students where we must infuse new ways of working, leading, and seeing to develop more advanced and visionary students.
  • The best teachers are effectively designers – those who grapple with ambiguous challenges, probing for creative solutions,
  • “This is what I’m thinking.” I might gut-check that with him and say, “Is my gut right or wrong?” (Nike article, page 90) This is vital. This once again fits with education. We have to stop teaching in isolation and network with others to find the answers. We as educators can do a much better job of collaboration. We think we do this, but really so much time is wasted complaining and comparing barriers.
  • “It’s important to have a culture that doesn’t punish you if you make, eventually, a mistake. It’s part of the innovation process. I always joke, saying, “What scientists call experiments, marketers call failures or mistakes.”” (Pepsico, page 92) Love this! We have to have a culture in our school for educators and students to make mistakes. We live in such high stakes environment that all of us are afraid to make a mistake so instead of pushing the envelope we just stay status quo to avoid any potential conflict.
  • “But every time you try to infuse a new culture into a very successful and efficient organization, it’s going to try to reject the new. You need the sponsorship of the CEO.” In the case of education we need the support of administration and for educators to be willing to try something new. How else can we model learning to our students if we don’t shake things up ourselves?

Part 2 will come out tomorrow.

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    Things I learned from my massive pile of magazines – Part 4

    Part 4 will continue things I took away from Men’s Health December issue. Go here to read part three

    I will start off by stating that after reading the article on Todd Durkin I went on Amazon and bought his IMPACT book. I am such a sucker for books and workout ones in particular. I need something new and fresh and this looks promising. I also picked up 100 push-ups in 7 weeks training book. Between these two I should have plenty to do starting in January.

    Buying these items reminds me of the fact that magazines are just monthly catalogs of things to buy with articles to persuade you to buy these items even more. The media giants are smart because they just worked on me.

    Another article grabbed my interest in this issue for several reasons
    1. The title, How a Fat Nation Can Slim Down – I was interested to read the ideas suggested
    2. Some of these topics are ones that could be used in my Lego Robotic team presentation
    3. Further motivation to change my eating habits to healthy and normal

    What I learned?

    • Brian Wansink, Ph.D conducted a study on larger people vs. regular people and their behavior in eating at restaurants. Crazy stuff was pointed out by seat location, plate sizes, men and their manly image, etc.
    • More than 50% of calories come from carbs
    • Average man watches 3 hours of tv and 24 minutes of exercises – This is sad my friends!!!!
    • 2/3 of Americans are overweight
    • 1/3 of men and 40% of women born this century will be diabetic and die before their time
    • Average American consumes 45 lbs of sugar
    • a single 64 ounce Double Gulp provides the same amount of sugar as what was at one point in time a lifetime supply of sweetener
    • Average American drinks 16 ounces of pop a day and if that were to be replaced by water they would weigh 15 lbs less than what they currently do.

    There were some good solutions/ideas presented. Nothing mind blowing or anything new, but awareness of parents and what they feed their kids, schools need to change, companies need to stop targeting people and d more than just tell us to exercises, government should get involved like they did with cavities and tobacco, and just a whole collective battle to change things.

    I think it is time. How many of us know of someone who has body aches, problems. illness, disease, etc. that could probably be eradicated with some exercise and change in their diet? We all know these people and it is time we take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.

    Enough with Men’s Health. Up next, another Outside magazine and ESPN.

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    Things I learned from my massive pile of magazines – Part 3

    This post will cover my thoughts of the Men’s Health December issue. This one is in my top 5 favorite magazines. Despite the fact that David Zinczenko has been accused of recycling articles and pictures(quite obvious when you read about it online and also frustrating to a consumer) I still find this magazine to draw me in to everything it shares.

    1. Suggestions for top 3 coffee bean picks(yes, I plan on buying them all now, thanks Men’s Health)

    • Best Light Blend they suggest Zoka Tangletown Blend
    • Best Medium Bodied they suggest Verve 1950 Blend
    • Best Deep, Bold blend they suggest Gimmel Coffee Leftist Espresso Blend

    Never heard of any of these, but after some posts on Twitter and now this I have some serious coffee coming my way(twitter recommendation I read was Flying Goat Coffee)

    2. Pull Out Poster had a great workout. I plan on incorporating this into my first workouts after the holidays to get refocused on my training even though I hate dead lifts with a passion.

    3. Some delicious looking meatball recipes. Too bad my family does not like meatballs or else I would make them.

    4. Great article titled, From Average Joe to Pro discusses how to train no matter who you are. Todd Durkin, the trainer of the article states that he trains all his clients the same no matter if they are NFL players or a regular guy like myself. Durkin has a book called IMPACT! Body Plan. Never heard of it, but may be worth checking out.

    • Guy in article followed his training and dropped 12 lbs in one month and many body ailments disappeared.
    • Not easy, but in order to change workouts, must change mind(so true with everything in life am I right Coffeechuggians?)
    • Proper warm up makes you sweat. Running on treadmill for 5 minutes and bench press with just bar is USELESS people. I know that and yet how many of us do that? Actually, I just did that today knowing it was a waste of time. Do as I write not as I do!!
    • Dynamic warm up of about 15 exercises in 7-10 minutes. Tough people!
    • Workouts should take 45 minutes and not two hours. Efficient with time
    • Giant sets – 3 exercises or more with no break in between
    • Durkin provides some killer workout ideas. I am going to try out the Death Crawl and the one labeled as one of his favorite drill to end any workouts. They look super nasty, but am up for the challenge. Will keep you posted.

    There is much more to share and that will come in part 4.

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