The Power of “What If?” in Innovation

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The Power of “What If?” in Innovation

Active learning starts with finding questions, not answers; that concept was miles ahead of the bleeding edge three decades ago but now seems to have gained acceptance.  In preparing two workshop facilitations for the fall, I sat down yesterday to generate some question lists to help prime the pumps, and it sort of got away from me. Feeling inspired by Bo Adams’ “60-60-60” exercise last spring, in 14 minutes I created a list of 57 questions about how we operate our schools. But I get ahead of myself.

As many of you know, our thought leader Bo Adams posted a list of 60 “what if” thought provokers this last spring, one each day for two months.  Yesterday I copied down the tag line of each, any of which would be a place for educators seeking true innovation to start.  Some of my favorites, thanks to Bo (all his posts are on his blog archive):

  • What if faculty meetings were more like fashion shows?
  • What if we valued and developed teacher teams as much as sports and music teams?
  • What if schools factored in experiment days like snow days?
  • What if we expected and empowered students to co-design curriculum?
  • What if schools were more like summer camps?
  • What if we crowd-sourced assessment?

I set the clock and  only listed questions that have at least the possibility of adding value to schools, which means, by definition, that they could lead to possible innovation (ideas that do not create value may be good but are not considered innovative).  Since my background is more on the business side of schools, many of my ideas about adding value have to do with re-aligning resources to mission and vision, so they are a good compliment to Bo’s focus on learning. Here are a few of mine:

  • What if our classrooms looked more like design studios?
  • What if we paid our teachers to develop all of their own classroom resource material over the summer and did not buy any more textbooks?
  • What if we decided that an increase in the student-to-teacher ratio of 10% did not decrease educational outcomes?
  • What if we brought in visiting faculty from developing countries to teach at our school every year?
  • What if we allocated 2% of our operating budget to in-house curriculum design and pilots?
  • What if employees were assessed on how well they learn?
  • What if we opened a satellite campus in the middle of our city’s business or technology center?

If I can create this list of 57 ideas for innovation in 14 minutes, just think what powerful groups of collaborating school experts can do!  Innovation start with this simple exercise: asking “what if” questions with value potential, unhindered by naysayers.

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By | 2012-07-12T15:43:10+00:00 July 12th, 2012|Innovation in Education|1 Comment

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  1. boadams1 July 15, 2012 at 11:51 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the mention of CHANGEd: What if…60-60-60. Knowing that those posts sparked some of your amazing questioning makes the two months all worthwhile again! Love your Qs!

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