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One of our The Daily Riff Classic posts, timeless:

“Too many teachers and employers still reward
the ‘old school’ behaviors
of deference to authority and striving for ‘success,’
conventionally defined –
and count on carrots and sticks
for motivation.”
-Tony Wagner

Educator and author, Tony Wagner, and I sat down for lunch recently to talk about his new book
This is most definitely not — oh-another-book-on-why-we-need-to-be innovative.

Sure, Wagner gives us a terrific primer as to why innovation is absolutely critical for our future growth and success.  But what is most compelling is his meticulous dissection of how innovators are raised, challenged, supported, and developed, after an extensive process of
identifying and conducting over 150 interviews.

He gives specifics, examples, and wonderful
narratives, true to his signature Wagnerian style,Thumbnail image for Creating-Innovators-Tony-Wagner.jpg
that are written with both a tone and language not meant to impress the academic world he travels in, but to inspire and communicate to both educators and laypersons who have more of a “get real” attitude and desire to make change happen.  This is a book for parents, educators, mentors, and those who understand that education and innovation are inextricably linked.

In this case, how do we create the conditions at home, in our schools, and in our communities for students to create, learn, produce, and to innovate?  I’m convinced Wagner is on a true mission to make change in the way we view and “deliver” education, and, fortunately for us, the world wind is moving in that same direction, so better get on board.

Having not yet read his book before our meeting, when I asked Wagner, “Okay, what’s the premise?” his response was, “We follow young STEM and social innovators- mainly in their 20’s  – to find out how they got there; what made them that way – the influences, the thinking, the type of parenting, education, the backgrounds, which are varied, but show similiarities.  “What are some main take-aways?”   Wagner, without missing a beat, gave these:

1)    Higher education still drives everything that happens in  K-12, and that is going to change due to disruption already happening.
2)     It’s the students who have an outlier teacher, parent, or mentor (or two or all three) that become innovators.
3)    The trajectory of play to . . . passion to  . . . purpose is essential to create an innovator
(think: developmental steps).
4)    Student work portfolios should/could overtake reliance on standardized grading and test scores as credentials.
5)    Innovators all had something in common: they wanted to make a difference in the world.
6)    Parents and teachers play an important new role in creating innovators.

Wagner also elaborated, “Innovators do not necessarily have to be an entrepreneur – on their own initially creating a business; or a bigger-than-life roguish personas (like a Jobs, Einstein, Zuck, Oprah, Martha Stewart, or Richard Branson), but they can be those people who can be innovative even working within organizations, corporations, and non-profits.   They are imbued with a purpose, style of behavior and attitude that allows them to create something original of value, make a difference, or change a process, service, system or way of thinking.”

  “Innovation doesn’t have to be about creating the next iPad.
It can be the way you treat a customer.”

Joe Caruso, a retired business executive, Creating Innovators

So, with book in hand, I dove in, having to pause to realize the enormity of what Wagner was bringing to the public conversation:  Innovators are being groomed all around us who will be leading the charge.  However, presently, they are outliers.  Will non-outlier students be prepared for this new society and market?  As what?  Will they have the ability to help solve some of our most pressing challenges this generation faces?  When even certain facets of our prestigious institutions have grown obsolete, what do parents and educators do next?  Fortunately, Wagner does give answers, not just laments.

Walking the innovator talk, Wagner collaborated with 2 Million Minutes producer Bob Compton to create 60 web-link interviews available via smart-phone QR codes that complement the narratives and major points from each chapter segment, such as Parenting an Innovator, and Sengeh (one of the eight young innovators featured) and the Value of Mentors.  Book trailer below this post.

 

 

 

 

 

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