Creating Innovators, Chapter 1

While beginning this book, I had my reservations about the book. It seemed that the book started out by selling the idea of innovators. I think anyone reading this book would not need to be told that innovators are important to our society.What is Innovation? The London Business School defines it as “novel and creative ways to create value through new products and services, or new business models or new processes.” The Olin College of Engineering states “Innovation may then be defined as the process of having original ideas and insights that have value, and then implementing them so that they are accepted and used by significant numbers of people.” Annmarie Neal from Cisco states “innovation at the edge, on the other hand, is about new business models, and new go-to-market strategies.”

When Tony Wagner described his skills of innovators which he described in his last book “The Global Achievement Gap” they reminded me of a combination of 21st Century Skills and the PYP Learner Profile and attitudes. (PYP is the Primary Years Programme which Woodmen Roberts Elementary is a part of. It is created by the IB system. His Seven Survival Skills are:

  1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence
  3. Agility and adaptability
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurship
  5. Accessing and analyzing information
  6. Effective Oral and Written Communication
  7. Curiosity and imagination

Tony Wagner believes that these are necessary but not always sufficient. I really liked Dyer, Gregersen and Christianesen’s discovery of the five skills that separated innovative from non-innvoative individuals: associating; questioning; observing; experimenting and networking. I especially like the associating one. When I read Daniel Pink’s book “A Whole New Mind” one of my favorite quotes is: “The most creative among us see relationships the rest of us never notice.” Tony Wagner concludes that curiosity, collaboration associative thinking and a bias toward action and experimentation are things that make you an innovator and most of those things can be taught.

I have watched Sir Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on “Schools Kill Creativity”. We don’t give students enough time to play, to explore, to follow their curiosity. I love Tony Wagner’s discussion about play and pranks. Pranks in particular take a lot of problem-solving skills. So it seems like at the end of this chapter Tony Wagner narrows it down to Play, Passion and Purpose. The PYP 5th grade Exhibition Project should allow students to use these three traits. We ask them to brainstorm about their interests. The students “play” with different ideas that they want to research. We ask them to choose their topic (or their passion). Then we ask the students to come up with an action piece where they are helping to solve the problem. I love this model but we need to be exposing our students to these concepts earlier. By 5th grade, many of our students have hidden creativity and we need to push it out of them. They are looking at the educators around them for the “right answer” and their should be no right answers.

Based on this chapter, I will try to allow creativity to flow in my library. I would like to start a independent studies group of students who will use my resources and me to discover whatever they want to discover. This could be tech related or school related or completely separate. I would also like to do some of this in my class time. Explore the opportunity for students to simply explore. With the use of the Internet, any of us can learn most of what we want by carefully searching the Internet. Students need to learn this skill through the Library and through their classes.


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