The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

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

Couros, George

We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started , we have failed them .


Compliance does not foster innovation . In fact , demanding conformity does quite the opposite . In a world where new challenges constantly arise , students must be taught to think critically about what they are facing . They must learn to collaborate with others from around the world to develop solutions for problems . Even more importantly , our students must learn how to ask the right questions — questions that will challenge old systems and inspire growth .


If students leave school less curious than when they started , we have failed them .


I’m defining innovation as a way of thinking that creates something new and better .


Individualizing education and starting with empathy for those we serve is where innovative teaching and learning begins .


One of my favorite people in the world, and a remarkable educator is Bill Ferriter ( @ PlugUsIn ) from Raleigh, North Carolina . Not only does he constantly push the boundaries of education within his own classroom, he also challenges other educators to stretch their thinking . Bill freely shares his creative presentations on his Flickr page. He’s given his content a “ Creative Commons ” license , so others can modify them , with attribution to his original work. One of his pieces of work , a graphic titled , “ What Do You Want Kids to Do with Technology ? ” caught my attention. 


“What Do You Want Leaders to Do with Technology ? ”


Putting the project online meant that the teacher , parents , as well as people around the world could comment on the students ’ posts .


Designing solutions with both the individuals ’ interests and the end goal in mind is crucial for any innovation to be successful .


 “ Change is inevitable . Growth is optional . ” [


But in schools , where we focus on our students as the future , growth can no longer be simply an option .


Change is constant , and I stated earlier that change is an opportunity to do something amazing .


The Innovator’s mindset is necessary for all of us if schools are to move forward .


In a fixed mindset , students believe their basic abilities , their intelligence , their talents , are just fixed traits . They have a certain amount and that’s that , and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb . In a growth mindset , students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort , good teaching , and persistence . They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein , but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it . [


The Innovator’s mindset can be defined as the belief that the abilities , intelligence , and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas .


Having the freedom to fail is important to innovation . But even more important to the process are the traits of resiliency and grit . Resiliency is the ability to come back after a defeat or unsuccessful attempt . Grit is resolve or strength of character .


That is the Innovator’s mindset exemplified : Try , fail , and try something else until you find or create a solution that works .


Innovation starts not by providing answers but by asking questions .


What is often misunderstood is that the higher up any one person is in any organization , the more people they serve , not the other way around .


Would I want to be a learner in my own classroom ?

What is best for this student ?

What is this student’s passion ?

What are some ways we can create a true learning community ?

How did this work for our students ?


“ what you can do with what you know . ”


Information is abundant ; it’s common . What’s uncommon , and desperately needed in today’s education systems , is the Innovator’s mindset .


Twitter and connecting with other science educators using the hashtag # scichat . Since she was new to Twitter , I showed a video called “ Twitter in 60 Seconds ”


Great educators can work within the constraints of the system and still create innovative learning opportunities for their students .


Highlight (yellow) – Location 617

The 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset


1 . Empathetic

2 . Problem Finders / Solvers

The world is not step – by – step or linear ; it’s complex and often requires a messy solution .

Educational thought leader Ewan McIntosh notes that finding the problem is an essential part of learning — one that students miss out on when we pose the problem to them first .

Teaching students by example to be self – starters and to continuously evaluate how they might improve their education helps them learn how to effectively learn .

3 . Risk Takers

4 . Networked

Networks are crucial to innovation . writer Tom Kaneshige says , “ Every idea is fundamentally a network of ideas …

Steven Anderson , well – known educational speaker and writer says , “ Alone we are smart , together we are brilliant . ” The power of networking is sharing ideas , clarifying our thinking , and developing new and better ideas .


Having an audience can clarify thinking . It’s easy to win an argument inside your head . But when you face a real audience , you have to be truly convincing . Social scientists have identified something called the audience effect — the shift in our performance when we know people are watching . It isn’t always positive . In live , face – to – face situations , like sports or concerts , the audience effect can make athletes or musicians perform better — but it can sometimes psych them out and make them choke , too .


Yet studies have found that the effort of communicating to someone else forces you to pay more attention and learn more .

Innovation ( and enjoyment ) flourishes when teachers collaborate to learn and practice new strategies . Isolation is often the enemy of innovation .

5 . Observant


6 . Creators

Learning is creation , not consumption . Knowledge is not something a learner absorbs , but something a learner creates . Learning happens when a learner integrates new knowledge and skill into his or her existing structure of self . Learning is literally a matter of creating new meanings , new neural networks , and new patterns of electro / chemical interactions within one’s total brain / body system . [ 35 ]

7 . Resilient


I love the Chinese proverb that says , “ The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it . ”


Most people are far more comfortable with a known average than with dealing with the unknown — even if the unknown holds great possibility .


If you don’t believe in your idea , why would anyone else ?

8 . Reflective

  • Questioning our efforts , progress , and processes is crucial to innovation .
  • In education , how often do we actually build in reflection to our learning ? We have a lot of schools that do variations of “ Drop Everything and Read ” ( DEAR ) , a concept that encourages students to read and consume information .
  • How might we all be impacted if we took time out of each day to the think about what we have learned and how it impacts our next steps ?


Mantra of an innovative educator . I am an educator . I am an innovator . I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask , “ What is best for learners ? ” With this empathetic approach , I will create and design learning experiences . I believe that my abilities , intelligence , and talents can be developed , leading to the creation of new and better ideas . I recognize that there are obstacles in education , but , as an innovator , I will focus on what is possible today and where I can push to lead towards tomorrow . I will utilize the tools that are available to me today , and I will continue to search for new and better ways to grow , develop , and share my thinking , while creating and connecting my learning . I focus not only on where I can improve , but where I am already strong , and I look to develop those strengths in myself and in others . I build upon what I already know , but I do not limit myself . I’m open to and willing to embrace new learning , while continuously asking questions that help me move forward . I question thinking , challenge ideas , and do not accept , “ This is the way we have always done it ” as an acceptable answer for our students or myself . I model the learning and leadership I seek in others . I take risks , try new things to develop , 

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