What is the relationship between gravity and innovation?

Photo by  Joel Filipe  on  Unsplash

Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Think about some of the predominant characteristics of "school" in the United States. School:

  • starts around age 5 and continues through age 18, often through 22, occasionally 25. As a percentage of the population, very few people continue formal schooling beyond that.

  • is organized around age-level cohorts (i.e., “grade levels”) that begin their learning sometime around September and end sometime around June.

  • takes place in dedicated buildings, within discrete classrooms, with one teacher per class.

  • awards final credit for learning according to “seat time” (not for proficiency or mastery).

  • structures learning as an individual experience (and assigns grades accordingly).

In a time of considerable educational innovation, why is adoption so thinly distributed?

For starters, the model described above has created a colossal center of gravity (i.e., status quo bias).

For roughly the last century, "school" was like the sun--a massive star organizing the movements of planets and illuminating a solar system.

But in an age of exponential change, that star is collapsing. And when a star collapses, it can form a black hole.

Our school model, collapsing under its own weight, is not an idle matter: According to Reid Hoffman, co founder of LinkedIn and startup guru, the next Silicon Valley is Shenzhen, China. And according to Peter Diamandis, the pace of innovation in China is staggering.

Schools' access to innovation is not the issue; the tools are abundant.

But do the people in your school or learning organization have an innovation mindset?

Or are they caught in the psychological gravity of a dying star?

Your school can ignore the question but, as Grant Lichtman recently pointed out, the question won't ignore your school.


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