The Innovator’s Mindset: A book review by Bob Morris

Innovator's MindsetThe Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity
George Couros
Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. (2015)

“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out if it.” Sir Kenneth Robinson

As you may already know, Robinson’s presentation, “Do schools kill creativity?” is the most popular of all TED videos, with 37,824,635 total views thus far. Presumably George Couros agrees with Robinson that many (if not most) schools kill the development of their students’ creative thinking and the mindset responsible for that systemic process now controls it and resists change.

In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck observes, “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.” When concluding The Myths of Creativity: The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas, David Burkus discusses the “Mousetrap Myth,” suggesting that it “is perhaps the most stifling to innovation because it doesn’t concern generating ideas. Rather, it affects how ideas are implemented. It’s not enough for an organization to have creative people; it has to develop a culture that doesn’t reject great ideas…Leaders need to get better at counteracting their own bias and recognizing innovations sooner. We don’t just need more great ideas; we need to spread the great ideas we already have.”

With only minor modification, most of the material in The Innovator’s Mindset is as relevant to a workplace environment as it is to an academic environment. According to Couros, “The growth mindset is crucial to one’s openness to learning. But to change education and prepare students for their futures, we need to adopt an innovator’s mindset for ourselves and instill this mindset in our students. We must focus on creating something with the knowledge that’s been acquired.” Substitute “workers” for “students.” Peter Senge is a staunch and eloquent advocate for the total learning organization. He probably had corporations in mind but all of his insights could also be applied to schools, colleges, and universities.

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Couros’s coverage in Parts I and II (Chapters 1-7):

o Introduction (Pages 1-10)
o Defining Innovation, and, Innovation Starts with a Question (19-22)
o Open Innovation Learning (22-23)
o Adopt an Innovator’s Mindset (32-36)
o Critical Questions for the Innovative Educator (39-41)
o The 8 Characteristics of the Innovator’s Mindset (48-58)
o The Power to Kill Innovation (70-71)
o The Power of “No” versus a Culture of “Yes (72-73)
o Disrupt Your Routine (82-84)
o Master Learner, Innovative Leader (86-88)
o The Characteristics of an Innovative Leader (88-90)
o A Culture of Empowerment (97-99)
o 8 [Occurences, Habits, Customs, etc.] to Look for in Today’s Classroom (111-115)

Whatever and wherever the given circumstances may be, the challenge remains the same for everyone involved: create an environment within which creative thinking is most likely to thrive. Organizations need innovative governance, leadership, and management. That is as true of each elementary school in an inner city such as Detroit as it is of a Fortune 50 company such as General Motors. George Couros has identified eight crucial characteristics that are necessary for an innovator’s mindset, not only for teachers but also for everyone involved in education. And I presume to add, not only for C-level executives but for others at all levels and in all areas of operation.

Many of those who read this book and feel motivated to empower learning, unleash talent, and (perhaps) lead a culture of creativity may hesitate because of doubts about what can be accomplished. I urge them to remember what Margaret Mead once observed: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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