Can You Become an Innovation Broker?

Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg is a book that I had heard about a little while ago and checked it out of the library.  It sat on my table and for whatever reason I didn’t read it. I returned it to the library and after reading a few more blog posts and listening to some podcasts, it came up a few more times so I signed it out again and this time I took the time to read it and I am glad that I did.  I enjoyed the story telling the most in the book but had a couple of take aways – one on innovation and one on data which I still need to think about a bit more and will write about next.

One of the sections that stuck with me the most was the chapter on innovation, a term that is used quite a bit in education.  In the book, creativity is about mixing old ideas with a few new ones in a different way than thought of in the past.  I liked this type of definition of creativity – it isn’t about creating something completely new, which I believe is a lot of folks mindsets and can be a roadblock, but it’s remixing and tweaking.  “Creative” people seem to be good at taking ideas from different areas and mixing them together better than the “less creative” person is the sense I get from this section. However… a few quotes that I were significant to me:

The creative process is, in fact, a process, something that can be broken down and explained.  That’s important, because it means that anyone can become more creative; we can all become innovation brokers. (pg 237)

How do I become an better innovation broker?  How do I help the staff and students at my school become innovation brokers?  Will this framework help us move ahead as a school community?

The appendix has a summary of the big ideas here are the ones for innovation.  All points I will return to as we work to be better at my school.

  • Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways – and “innovation brokers” are key.  To become a broker yourself and encourage brokerage within your organization:

  • Be sensitive to your own experiences.  Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish cliches from real insights.  Study your own emotional reactions.

  • Recognize that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign everything is falling apart.  Rather, creative desperation is often critical: anxiety can be what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways.

  • Finally, remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives.  By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives, by giving new authority to someone who didn’t have it before, we retain clear eyes. (the previous 4 bullet points are from pg 283)

I think as we try and improve in schools it is important to look at what we do in school as well as what is done outside education – is there something that can be combined that would be better for our students and learning?  Could the different ideas (or strategies) be from within a school but from different departments?  How can we promote a sharing of ideas and get people talking?  Maybe I need to think about that pineapple chart talked about in the Hacking Education book I read a while ago.

Who are my innovation brokers at school? How do I support them? What skills, routines, and strategies do I need to develop or improve to become an innovation broker?  Good questions that will tumble in my head for sometime.

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