Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World – by Tony Wagner

The Future of Inovation

  • Many young people have no idea what they are interested in because they have been pushed to achieve versus pushed to explore. Many parents provide too much structure and become helicopter parents who intervene too often. Parents should look for toys that encourage imagination and invention. One took a child to a hardware store and gave him $25 to spend. Many limit screen time and when children ask questions suggest they look it up.

Taking On the School

  • Parents need to struggle with how much to push a child to master something versus letting kids figure out what they actually like. A balance is needed here. Avoid false praise and try to have the child reflect on their own accomplishments. There are likely to be struggles with helping kids deal with schools and teachers. Schools typically expect all kids to learn the same thing at the same time at the same pace. Not all children are ready to do things like reading at the same age. Some are capable of advancing much faster than the teacher’s selected pace. The public school mindset also expects compliance with the rules and giving the one correct answer in a low and respectful voice. There is also the conflict between learning for a test or grade versus learning as an expression of a child’s intrinsic interests. Be ready for tension between your goals and the school’s goals. Be willing to take the school on while you help your children enjoy their childhood. Trust your intuitions, judgements, and values and trust in your child.

Management for Innovation

  • By now it should be clear that old fashioned command and control management where all the innovation comes from the top is obsolete. The free flow of information up and down the organization is critical for innovation. Great ideas come from all levels. You can’t manage innovators the way you use to manage folks in manufacturing. Innovators don’t want to be managed. Even the military is learning this. They realize that they are likely to get better innovation from a lieutenant on the battlefield than a general far away. The three guiding principles are: 1) Convert most classroom experiences into collaborative problem-solving events. 2) Tailor learning to the individual learner’s experience and competence level based on assessment results. 3) Dramatically reduce instructor-led slide presentation lectures and begin a using blended learning approach that incorporates virtual and constructive simulations, gaming technology, and other technology-delivered instruction.

Some Final Words on Authority

  • Authority still matters for successful innovation. It is the authority that comes from having some expertise, but it also comes from the ability to listen well and empathetically, to ask good questions, to model good values, to help an individual more fully realize his or her talents, and to create a shared vision and collective accountability for its realization. It is the authority that empowers teams to discover better solutions to new problems.
  • Finally, Tony asks “are we prepared to not merely tolerate but to welcome and celebrate the kinds of questioning, disruption, and even disobedience that come with innovation?” If you would like to see Tony in action, just go to YouTube and search for Tony Wagner.

Who Is Tony Wagner

  • Tony is the first innovation education fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard and the founder and former co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He consults with schools and foundations and has served as a senior advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He is a former high school teacher, K-8 principal, and professor of education.
  • Tony’s video collaborator for this book is Robert A. Compton. Robert has produced eight feature-length documentary films on global education and innovation.
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