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The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity

August 14, 2017

These new ideas about effective K-12 education can apply to every organization.

In this treatise on rethinking the classroom setting, author George Couros zeroes in on how innovation is the key to unlocking students’ potential. His insights into the relationship between administrators, teachers, and students have clear correlation to how executives and managers can inspire employees to find creative solutions to business problems.

What Is Innovation? 

Couros defines three types of mindset: fixed, growth and innovation. A fixed mindset is one that is hung up on past failures. A growth mindset is one that moves beyond failures and believes change is possible. Couros uses the example of piano lessons: a fixed mindset thinks it cannot learn; a growth mindset believes it can, which leads to trying, which leads to growth. What about the innovation mindset? It goes beyond growth—it’s an unencumbered way of thinking that can lead to entirely new things. It believes it not only can learn to play piano, but it can eventually write a new song!

Does Innovation = Technology?

Innovation is often conflated with new technology, but it is not necessarily rooted in the material. Technology can be an integral part of innovation, but it’s more important to help individuals learn how to think in an innovative way.

The drumbeat is constant: today’s schools need to jettison dogma and innovate to prepare students for the future. Schools still have a long way to go to reach that goal, but education innovators are making headway, and so can you.

8 Rules for Innovation

Couros identifies the characteristics that compose the innovator’s mindset.

1. Empathy. Shift from speaker-centric messaging to learner-centric messaging.

2. Be a Problem-Finder. Encourage the ability to identify problems as much as fixing them. After all, you’ll never fix a complex problem if you can’t see it as a problem in the first place.

3. Take Risks. Even if something is working now, don’t be afraid to question best practices.

4. Network. Talk to other managers about what works for them and incorporate it into your business.

5. Be Observant. Look beyond expected sources to find ways to inspire and innovate.

6. Create. Empower workers to find their own creative solutions to problems.

7. Resiliency. The drive to overcome setbacks is crucial to innovation—after all, some new ideas will fail. What happens next is what matters.

8. Reflect. To move forward, look back. What needs to happen next is embedded in what’s already happened.