Thursday, March 6, 2014

Iteration Is Not A Four Letter Word (It’s Nine)

     Recently, I was sitting at the EdSurge conference in Baltimore on a Saturday morning, listening to Jim Shelton, Acting Deputy Secretary of Education, speak about innovation.  In his comments he mentioned a word that used to drive me crazy in my brief stint in the private sector, iteration!  Iteration in my previous life meant we were always working on the new and improved whatever – product, process, etc.   
     Didn’t we ever get something right the first time?  Well, no. Did we really have to revisit everything we created to find a way to make it better, faster, more effective? Ah, yes. Did I have to change my “check it off the list” framework to approaching the work?  Kinda.  In hindsight, was iteration in fact a good thing?  You bet!
     I am in the process of reading Tony Wagner’s latest book, Creating Innovators.  Tony always makes me challenge my status quo – one of the keys to innovative thinking.  If you haven’t picked this up yet, it’s a must read.  While I’m reading the print version (no surprise right?) he is using a new twist, embedding codes in the book linking you to videos that support the text.  Pretty cool.
     In order to create the kinds of innovative citizens we will need to fix all of the things we have managed to mess up, we need to take a look at our current practices, those practices responsible for churning out the folks (that would be us) who have created this current mess.  We’ve been talking about transforming education for years, yet very little has changed.  While I support radical changes in our system of education our children, at this point, I’d settle for any innovative change in what we are doing.   
     Let’s create some change.  If not us, then who?  Even if we start small, and then iterate, and iterate, and iterate some more.  It’s a good thing.  The status quo?  Not so much.   Just look around you.

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