Category Archives: amanda lang

11 Books To Further an #InnovatorsMindset

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Innovation is more about mindset, than skill set.  This is something that I truly believe and focus on in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset” (Which I think would also be a good part of this list as well!).

In schools though, “innovation” is not only about individuals, but something that is required at all levels.  Working with so many different organizations around the world, you can see little things in how they operate which lend to how innovative they are.  Policies that are there because they have always been there, often inhibit innovation in many organizations, as they create so many hurdles to jump over, pushing people to either give up on the notion of innovation, or leave entirely.  This is why both leadership and management are crucial. Management is about the “stuff”, while leadership is about people.  If the “stuff” inhibits people instead of empowering them, you have a leadership problem.

Below are some books that have really pushed my thinking in the area of leadership and innovation. It is not comprehensive, but just a mix of some that you may have heard of, and some you haven’t, with a mix of business and education books.  I enjoyed all of them though and they have helped either shape or reaffirm my thinking and they will challenge the way you look at leadership, innovation, and education.

HumanizeHumanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World – Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

A Favourite Quote: “The challenge here is not to do social media better. The challenge is to do our organizations better. The challenge is to make our organizations more human.”

At the centre of innovation is people, and this book is a great reminder of that.  Where technology is seemingly at the forefront of many conversations in education, this book gets you to focus on tapping into people using technology.  It is one of my favourite reads.

Bringing Innovation
A Favourite Quote: “The first step in teaching students to innovate is making sure that educators have opportunities to be innovators themselves.”
What I loved about this book was that it tempered powerful ideas with actual examples of people doing this work as well.

LaunchLAUNCH: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student – A.J. Juliani and John Spencer

A Favourite Quote: “You cannot empower students to be self-directed, responsible, critical-thinking people if they can’t ask their own questions. At that point, you’re teaching compliance rather than responsibility.”

Full disclosure…I wrote a review for this awesome book.  Here is what I shared:

“‘Spencer and Juliani do an amazing job of bringing this concept to life using both powerful and practical examples, as well as narratives that make this book both inspiring and attainable at the same time. All kids walk into school curious and creative. This book will help weave a path to ensure that these traits are not only maintained, but accentuated when those same students leave.”

Great book that is for those educators looking to implement design thinking in meaningful ways into their classroom.

Why SchoolWhy School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere – Will Richardson

A Favourite Quote: “What doesn’t work any longer is our education system’s stubborn focus on delivering a curriculum that’s growing increasingly irrelevant to today’s kids, the outmoded standardized assessments we use in an attempt to measure our success, and the command-and-control thinking that is wielded over the entire process. All of that must be rethought.”

This book is a great and easy read, that will surely push your thinking of what school is compared to what school could be. Will Richardson also does this continuously and consistently in his blog as well.

originalsOriginals: How Non-Conformists Move the World – Adam Grant

A Favourite Quote: “We live in an Internet Explorer world. Just as almost two thirds of the customer service reps used the default browser on their computers, many of us accept the defaults in our own lives.”

This book has some really surprising ideas…Such as procrastination is often seen in many innovators, and that innovation doesn’t just have to be new, but “different and better”.  Really great read.

power of why

The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success – Amanda Lang

A Favourite Quote: “Curiosity is, therefore, strongly correlated with intelligence. For instance, one longitudinal study of 1,795 kids measured intelligence and curiosity when they were three years old, and then again eight years later. Researchers found that kids who had been equally intelligent at age three were, at eleven, no longer equal. The ones who’d been more curious at three were now also more intelligent, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider how curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge. The more interested and alert and engaged you are, the more you’re likely to learn and retain. In fact, highly curious kids scored a full twelve points higher on IQ tests than less curious kids did.”

Although this is a business book, the author brings lots of examples on the importance of what we do in education, and the long term impacts it can have on us as individuals.

school

Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need – Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase

A Favourite Quote: “One of the most important questions any school or teacher can ask is simple: “How can we be more thoughtful about what we do?” Unfortunately, it’s not the question we ask most frequently. The question schools and teachers have fallen in love with—“What more should we be doing?”—is much more dangerous and leads to the creation of unsustainable systems.”

This book was an awesome read, with short chapters that have a beautiful mix of common sense while also pushing your thinking.  I read it in one sitting and really appreciated the thinking of the authors on this in the possibilities for education today.

mindset

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – Carol Dweck

A Favourite Quote: “What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort. And that’s what they were doing—getting smarter. Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.”

If you haven’t read this book, you should.  It is a powerful read about motivation and learning, and has sparked many ideas for me in this blog, as well as countless other educators.

I live in the future

I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work & Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted – Nick Bilton

A Favourite Quote: “You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.”

Books like this bring an awareness to what the world is now, as opposed to what we see it could be.  It also will challenge the traditional notion of “literacy” in a world where creation is becoming more and more important.

world class

World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students – Yong Zhao

A Favourite Quote: “The new survival skills—effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills—“are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must muster; they are essential survival skills for all of us.”

If you have ever seen Zhao speak, this book emulates that.  It is thought provoking, going beyond the usual things you may read about education, but written in an engaging and compelling way.

smarter

Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better – Clive Thompson

A Favourite Quote: “Literacy in North America has historically been focused on reading, not writing; consumption, not production.”

I just loved this book…It is great for so many of the arguments that people make that technology makes us less intelligent, but is written in a compelling way, full of great stories.

In no way is this meant to be a “best of” list; just books that have influenced my thinking.  This is also a list of books on “Innovation”, with none being in my list.  I would love to know what you think some of the best books are so please feel free to share them in the comments.

Curious about…?

In Amanda Lang’s book, “The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success”, she talks about the importance of curiosity and it’s connection to intelligence:

Curiosity is, therefore, strongly correlated with intelligence. For instance, one longitudinal study of 1,795 kids measured intelligence and curiosity when they were three years old, and then again eight years later. Researchers found that kids who had been equally intelligent at age three were, at eleven, no longer equal. The ones who’d been more curious at three were now also more intelligent, which isn’t terribly surprising when you consider how curiosity drives the acquisition of knowledge. The more interested and alert and engaged you are, the more you’re likely to learn and retain. In fact, highly curious kids scored a full twelve points higher on IQ tests than less curious kids did.

As I was reading this book, here were two things that came to my mind:

And then…

Ian Hecht shared this tweet with me:

This is getting kids to be “curious about history”, which will definitely help students to flourish in other areas.

You will hear lots of people push the thinking (paraphrased), “Our students shouldn’t ‘do’ math, but try to think like mathematicians.”  I can’t remember where I saw it, but I do remember someone challenging this notion suggesting that a “mathematician”  is not something you become simply because you are trying to think that way.  It takes years of dedication and work to become a “mathematician”, “scientist”, or “writer”.  That made sense to me.  But what if we promoted the notion that we want to encourage kids to become “curious” about these disciplines?  Is this not a step towards that path, while also encouraging students to find their own ways?

Asking questions, not regurgitating answers, is the first step towards innovation and creativity.  Promoting curiosity, and having students thirst for knowledge, no matter the discipline, is a much more powerful path than simply learning the “stuff”.  It ensures that spark is lit long after their time in any single classroom or school.

What if our goal in school was to inspire curiosity, especially, since in many cases, we actually negate it. I believe the learning that could happen would be something that we create tremendous growth both in schools and society.

Innovation starts not by providing answers, but by asking questions.

“…many kids are learning how to be good at going to school.” #InnovatorsMindset

I started to read this extremely enjoyable book by Amanda Lang, titled “The Power Of Why: Simple Questions That Lead to Success”.  Although I only have read the first chapter at this point, there was so much that connected with education, that I couldn’t help but to take a “blog break” and share some of my thinking.

This quote on the importance of curiosity connected a lot to what I wrote about in “The Innovator’s Mindset“:

Curious kids learn how to learn, and how to enjoy it—and that, more than any specific body of knowledge, is what they will need to have in the future. The world is changing so rapidly that by the time a student graduates from university, everything he or she learned may already be headed toward obsolescence. The main thing that student needs to know is not what to think but how to think in order to face new challenges and solve new problems.

Yet do schools often promote the opposite of curiosity and look for compliance?

In an educational system in which productivity is measured by hours logged per task, number of worksheets completed and scores on standardized tests, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to prompt kids to ask more questions unless the questions are about what’s going to be on the test. In many classrooms, stopping to encourage and mull over questions that aren’t procedural or directly related to the material at hand is viewed as wasting time. It’s no big surprise then that most kids come to school bursting with questions, but exit, a dozen or so years later, asking very few. Curiosity declines from one grade to the next, and the reason isn’t that kids’ thirst for knowledge has been satiated and they now know everything they want or need to know.

And then this:

So instead of learning how to learn, many kids are learning how to be good at going to school. The straight-A student is, in virtually every educational setting, the one who has figured out what the teacher wants and how to deliver it.

Yet, here is where I was blown away.  Does the “get the right answer” culture stop at K-12, or does it continue on in post-secondary?  The author contends in some ways it gets worse:

But apparently, matters are even worse at institutions of higher learning. My source of this information? Celebrated professors at those same institutions. “The traditional way of thinking about learning at a university is that there’s somebody who’s a teacher who actually has some amount of knowledge, and their job is figuring out a way of communicating that knowledge to someone else,” Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, told Maclean’s. “That’s literally a medieval model, it comes from the days when there weren’t a lot of printed books around, so someone read the book and explained it to everybody else. That’s our model for what university education, and for that matter high school education, ought to be like. It’s not a model that anybody’s ever found any independent evidence for … I don’t think there’s any scientist who thinks the way we typically do university courses, where we have 300 people in a lecture hall and someone standing at the front and talking to them, has anything to do with the best methods for getting people to learn.”

…Gopnik went on to point out that because of the “insane” competition to get into top universities like McGill and Harvard, by the time students finally arrive, they’ve been trained to focus on grades rather than on taking intellectual risks or asking questions. The important thing is getting an A, not having an original thought.

Do we do our best to weed out divergent thinkers?  What does this do for our thinking in the future and the future of “innovation” in education, business, and social programs?

But this lack of “divergent thinking” (or the openness to it) is not only encouraged in schools, but in every day facets of our lives.

In this article shared by Stephen Ransom titled “The Other Side is Dumb“, it also talked about how the “Internet” is not necessarily promoting divergent thinking. Where things are carefully curated based on what you have shared, are we open to listening and considering the perspectives of others, or are we so focused on “being right” that we lose out on our own growth?  (Really encourage you to read this entire article.)

Or, the next time you feel compelled to share a link on social media about current events, ask yourself why you are doing it. Is it because that link brings to light information you hadn’t considered? Or does it confirm your world view, reminding your circle of intellectual teammates that you’re not on the Other Side?

I implore you to seek out your opposite. When you hear someone cite “facts” that don’t support your viewpoint don’t think “that can’t be true!” Instead consider, “Hm, maybe that person is right? I should look into this.”

Unless we intentionally go out of our way to ask questions, listen to others, and try to gain perspectives that do not always align with our own, we will get what we got.  Seemingly, the world and education is set up to keep you colouring between the lines, yet if we truly want to promote “innovation”, we are going to have to encourage curiosity from ourselves and our students, to gain new perspectives that will help us all move forward.

We forget that if students leave school less curious than when they started, we have failed them.