Where Do Innovative Organizations Get New Ideas?

As Beaver makes plans around program and pedagogy, I am often asked “Have you looked at what other schools are doing?”  We do, but that strategy by itself produces limited impact.  Looking at what other schools do can help us to improve what we are already doing, but schools and all organizations need to look beyond their own sectors to come up with genuinely fresh and innovative ideas.  For example,  highly successful Fund Manager Bruce Berkowitz, Beaver class of 1976, moved from New York to Miami to get away from the same-think clutter of Wall Street and put himself in an environment where he could develop novel investment strategies. It seems to have worked. In 2009 Morningstar named Berkowitz Domestic-Stock Fund Manager of the Decade.

Over the years our work at Beaver has been informed by educators such as Grant Wiggins, Heidi Jacobs, David Grant and Howard Gardner.  Beaver parent Chris Dede of the Harvard Graduate School of Education was key in helping us take advantage of teaching with technology.

But help has come from many outside of education. In 1995 I spoke with former Beaver Board President Ed Eskandarian just after Arnold Worldwide secured the Volkswagen account with their “Drivers Wanted” campaign.  As he talked about how people at Arnold worked in teams, it became very clear to me that schools needed to teach students how to work in groups to prepare them for a world that demanded that skill.  We learned about problem based learning from John Castellot (parent of Michael ‘01) of Tufts Medical School.  Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind had a major impact on our push to teach creative problem solving.  People like Jim Collins, Tom Peters, and Guy Kawasaki have influenced the way we run the school.  Others include Salman Khan, Sir Ken Robinson, Google, IDEO and all those fabulous TED talks.

I follow the Globe, The New York Times and Education Week on Twitter, but I also follow The 99 Percent,  Fast Company, TechCrunch, Good and MIT Media Lab. Okay, I follow The Onion too.

The exciting thing is that fresh and innovative ideas almost always come from unexpected sources.  Our job is to be open to what those sources might be.

I don’t get much inspiration from Nike posters, bumper stickers or needlepoint; but I thought I might conclude from some famous lines from a few innovators.

The moment you think of yourself as great, your slide to mediocrity will have already begun.  Jim Collins

If you are going to preach madness, wear a suit.  Tom Peters

Never play a song the same way twice.  Louis Armstrong

Make excellent mistakes.  Daniel Pink

Ship then test.  Guy Kawasaki

Always remember … the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.  James Barksdale

It’s too late to stop now.  Van Morrison (I have over 200 of his songs in my ipod so I had to include something from him)


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