Why is Silicon Valley the Magic Kingdom of innovation, and what lessons can K-12 schools learn about how innovation succeeds in times of rapid change? I have been pondering and studying this and will write a series of short blogs based on the findings of some long-standing experts from the Valley, translated into ideas and options for K-12 educator-leaders. Some of my ideas are prompted from the thinking of Anna Lee Saxenian, Richard Florida, Victor Hwang, and John Seeley Brown.
Silicon Valley developed a remarkable density of talent and passion for the technology revolution. That density allowed many of the characteristics of the Valley model to form: frequent formal and informal connections, mobility of workers from company to company, and an openness and sharing of ideas between people who might compete in the workplace and also be close friends. Saxenian uses the word “recombitorial” to describe how people and companies constantly form and re-form along with ebb and flow of ideas, success, failure, and re-start.
While we think of schools as being pervasive in our society, and physically they are, individuals in schools, the potential innovators, often lack this density of connections. We are open and sharing of our ideas…when we happen to interact. We are proximal in space, but only few of us connect frequently beyond the silos of our classroom, office, department, grade level, or campus. There are many, many educators and schools, but we lack effective density in terms of the critical connections that lead to real innovation.
Solution: proactively increase effective density. You and your colleagues have many pathways available: increased classroom visits, social media, EdCamps, local and regional mini-conferences, critical friends networks. Activity suggestion: take ten minutes in your next faculty meeting to map individual and collective professional connections, and brainstorm cheap, frequent, fast ways to increase density of those connections. You will find many!