12 Education Innovation Mindsets for Leaders

Last week I had the honor of working with the Kentucky team leading the implementation of the nation’s largest RTT-D grant.  As a member of the Kid-FRIENDLy Fidelity Council, they are tasked with supporting the team’s overarching goal to improve college and career readiness through personalized learning for the more than 60,000 students served by the 22 participating districts and more than 100 schools served by the grant. The impact opportunity is high. The goal of the first meeting was for council members to share advice and expertise on enabling and inspiring innovation. The lessons on education innovation shared by the members – made up of local, state and national experts – were too good not to share with anyone looking to develop an education innovation mindset.
12 Lessons for Leading Education Innovation:

  1. Leaders must first help their teams to get over the “we’ve never done it this way before” mindset.
  2. Innovative leaders think deeply about the future and help shape it. They don’t just sit back and let the future unfold.
  3. Leaders must first define what “boldness” looks like in their school and district; “bold” doesn’t’ look the same everywhere.
  4. For the best chance at success, leaders work with stakeholders to name and define the specific goals around teaching and learning first and then build the strategies to get there. Every decision, large and small, must flow out of these goals.
  5. Good leaders understand iteration and know when to “fail fast and move on” versus when to “go all in and scale up.”
  6. Innovative leaders create space for small-scale, bottom-up innovation from teachers and students to grow among the wider, system innovation happening school or district-wide.
  7. In risk-averse environments, one job of the leadership is to develop “courage to fail” in the stakeholders. Failure is not a problem, but failing to learn from it is.
  8. Rules & regulations don’t have to be barriers. Leaders can and should play a meaningful role in informing local, state and national policies to enable innovation.
  9. Transformational leaders harness the power of the community and create opportunities for parents and students to be the leading voices as advocates for change.
  10. Leaders inspire action by acknowledging that everyone is on their own path –  “It’s okay to be wherever you are; but it may not be okay to stay there.”
  11. Leaders understand that just because they know something, that doesn’t mean everyone else does. They create opportunities for other innovators on the team to show what they know, share their successes & failures and inspire others.
  12. Innovative leaders are results-driven and know the difference between real innovation and “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic deck.” Knowing that difference creates the best opportunity for authentic innovation to thrive.

Interested in learning more about sustained, visionary leaders to advance innovations in education? Check out “Innovation Mindset = Growth + Maker + Team Experiences.”
Inspired by this original blog post, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation created this cool vine of the key lessons:

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