Jun 24, 2016

The Myth of the Isolated Innovator

“I had this idea that would shake the foundation of education as we knew it. I told people, they laughed and turned away. It was me against the world. I was forced back into my corner, alone. My only option was to find the other isolated members of the innovators club and preach only to that choir.” –An innovative teacher

This is the going myth in educational innovation. The myth that innovators are isolated by their radical ways and that the majority of teachers are either too “stuck in their ways” to see the brilliance of the innovation or they’re too lazy to change their ways.

The more I read on creativity and innovation, the more I see that story we tell as self-serving cover. Rather than learning to communicate why the innovation is better for students, we resort to protectionism. We develop an air of superiority because we are so ahead of “them” rather than being uncomfortable.

I’ve felt this. I believed this myth.

I was wrong.

Seth Godin’s blog today reminded me that someone truly interested in changing the way things are done MUST be a cornerstone in the community. They must facilitate communication. They can not be a whisper in the hallways.

It is not enough to self-congratulate.

It is not enough to speak to the echo chamber.

It is not enough to blame the “traditional” ones.

It is not enough to close your door and think you are being radical.

We must work to disrupt the myth that innovators are isolated. This is my challenge to those of you who want to innovate to step into the arena despite your level of discomfort.

The only way to change is through people. Avoiding people changes nothing.

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  • You and I have had this conversation before. Absolutely we do have to be the cornerstone. Sadly that often means dealing with brick walls. But, I suppose that is the price you pay.

  • Like the comment above, we’ve talked a lot about this in the past. If we are truly passionate about seeing public education innovate and move forward to address the demands of our post-industrial knowledge economy then it isn’t enough to work in isolation. Even having a virtual PLN, while important, isn’t enough in my opinion. We need to work with those in our own schools and engage the skeptics in what Senge describes as dialogue, where we seek to understand each other and not win an argument. Those who don’t agree with us are critical resources for refining our own thinking and testing the value of our ideas. Without them we are prone to fads and shallow analysis.
    Thanks for the post!

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