Chic Thompson Challenges VSS Attendees to Break Learned Habits for Innovation

Chic Thompson, Author and President of Creative Management Group, spoke this afternoon at the International Association for K-12 Online Learning’s (iNACOL) annual Virtual Schools Symposium (VSS) on the power of innovation and design in education through creative thinking.
“Always look for a second answer,” said Thompson after showing two great analogies of how students imagined solutions to problems in a unique way. We can leverage students’ unique and fresh perspectives to discover creative outcomes.
Thompson recommended VSS attendees to do the following to keep their minds agile:

  • Move watch to your opposite arm
  • Listen to a new radio or TV station
  • Drive to and from work a different way; and
  • Use mouse with your other hand.

Thompson mentioned Zappos as a great example of customer service; the company ships next day and permits 365-days to return purchases. The secret to its success, Thompson said, is implied 100 percent trust of customers. Inspired by this philosophy, he asked, “What if we could trust our students to do exactly what we asked today?” The question applies to health care, education, customer service, and more. It changes the way we might approach problems.
Rather than ask your students, “What did you do at school today?” Thompson recommended asking, “What questions did you ask today?” He argued that changing the way we approach questions, problems, and solutions can reshape the outcomes.
Thompson said ideas take time and passion coupled with a willingness to see out the failures to find the solutions. It took him roughly 40 years to see an one invention come full circle to its original solution in the right environment. “When something goes wrong, something goes right,” said Thompson. “You learn from trial and error.”
Thompson discussed unexpected solutions to comedic, yet practical daily challenges. He called it “thinking in opposites,” uncovering what can be flipped to get the right solution. “Start off with what’s positive and then go to the negative,” said Thompson. “Then turn the negative into an opportunity.”
View live webcasts of VSS at

Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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1 Comment

Denny Hammond

Was this presentation recorded? If so is there a way to gain access to it. It was an awesome presentation and very inspiring. I did not get a chance to take notes since it was during lunch but I know there were some key points that he hit on that I wanted to make note of. Thanks!


Sarah Cargill

Hi Denny, Thanks for stopping by. I believe that this presentation was recorded and can be found at Thanks! Sarah

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