The Innovator’s Mindset

I am a big fan of George Couros’ work. When I attended ISTE2015 in June, I had the opportunity to see him speak about the Innovator’s Mindset. Building on the work of Daniel Pink and Carol Dweck, Couros presents the idea that if we are to continue to move forward in education, we cannot simply learn new skills, but rather take those skills and create something brand new from them. He shared the following infographic:


I just finished his book titled The Innovator’s Mindset and I wanted to share some of the things I learned.

  • Teachers need to learn how to be innovative “inside the box.” Many people complain that teachers don’t want to change. It isn’t that they don’t want to, but rather they lack the guidance or access to resources to make that change happen.
  • Schools have become more about compliance than learning. Couros shares an excerpt from an article written by Thomas Friedman titled “How to Get a Job At Google.” Traits that are listed are Cognitive Ability, Leadership, Humility, Ownership, and Expertise. Following the rules is not on the list. We too often care about whether students followed the guidelines of a project more than what their actual final product was.
  • The mantra of “hire good people and get out of their way” doesn’t work anymore. From a study by Tom Rath, employees are 40% more likely to be disengaged at work if their manager ignores them. This doesn’t mean that they will be unproductive; engaged employees are more likely to be innovative with how they accomplish their jobs. If you want the status quo, ignore your employees. If you want innovation, know what is going on and give the people the support and resources they need to be successful.
  • “Sometimes people are afraid to share what they want because they don’t know that getting it is even a possibility.” When Couros was a Principal, instead of asking the teachers what classes they want to teach, he asked them to describe their dream position. Not only did he learn about what classes the teachers liked to teach, he learned about their passions in their job. Some people simply said they love teaching the class they already are assigned to. In one case, a teacher mentioned a passion of his and they were able to design a schedule that gave him an opportunity to teach to that passion. Being able to work on your passions every day makes people more innovative and they find greater fulfillment in their job.
  • Everyone has something great to share. We need to remember that education is now global. Even if what we share only goes to our school community, it has helped more people because it has gone beyond the four walls of the classroom.
  • If we only teach students the curriculum, we have failed them. Too many teachers are teaching topics or courses that they are not passionate about. When this happens, they will only focus on what needs to get ‘covered’ and not on the other skills that will help students be better people.

The book is fantastic and inspiring. It is also something that if you buy, you need to share. It is not meant to be kept on a shelf for you to return to every couple of years to reread. It is not a manual for how to be innovative that you will check back to to see if you are following the list. This book will give you the spark you need to get started on your journey toward innovation, which you will share with a colleague to get them started on their own journey.


1 thought on “The Innovator’s Mindset

  1. georgecouros

    Thank you Marc for all that you shared! Glad you enjoyed the book and appreciate the recommendation to others! I appreciate you taking the time to create something and make your own connections to the learning.



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