Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creating Innovators

I wanted to share highlights from Tony Wagner's Creating Innovators: the Making of Young People Who Will Change the World.


The solution to our economic and social challenges is the same: creating a viable and sustainable economy that creates good jobs without polluting the planet. And there is general agreement as to what that new economy must be based on. One word: innovation

And 77 percent agreed, “the greatest innovations of the 21st century will be those that have helped to address human needs more than those that had created the most profit

Disruptive or transformative innovation, on the other hand, is about creating a new or fundamentally different product or service that disrupts existing markets and displaces formerly dominant technologies

Finally, Brown writes that design thinkers are, above all, collaborators: “The increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of the enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.

People who are successful at Google also have a bias towards action—you see something broken and you fix it. You are smart enough to spot problems, but you don’t whine about them or wait for somebody else to fix them. You ask, ‘How can I make things better?’ And collaboration is so essential to everything that we do—we prize the ability to recognize and learn from people around you, who have very different kinds of expertise.

 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. The result is that many in the Innovation Generation are skeptical of adult authority and the institutions that their elders have presided over. School is a game the Innovation Generation knows they have to play to get “credentialed,” but they do it with as little effort as possible

The sense of purpose can take many forms. But the one that emerged most frequently in my interviews and in the interviews by the authors of “the Innovator’s DNA” is the desire to somehow “make a difference” 

“To me, empowerment means students can go out and apply what they’ve learned to the problems that they’ve never seen before with parts that they’ve never used before.” 

Apple is run like a start-up. It is a company that is continuously innovating, through rapid prototyping and iterating. Rethinking what the future will be. Yes, you have to make a profit to build a successful company, but real success means putting that profit back into continuous innovation. 

The D-Lab philosophy is very much experiential—real projects for real people and real feedback on your projects. Too often students don’t get meaningful feedback on their work. In terms of design, our focus is on people who live on less than two dollars per day. We also believe in building the capacity of people we work with in the developing world—foster the belief that they are creators, designers—and that our students should value indigenous knowledge. 

Instead, we need to encourage students to give voice to their beliefs and to support their intrinsic empathy and commitment to justice 

But I don’t see these young innovators buying into being the “twice as” generation. They are defining their own, different American Dream—one that values passion and purpose, in which their priority is making a difference more than making money. As one young innovator said, “I want to live a meaningful life with just enough money to support myself and a family.