Q: Where do good ideas come from?

A: My husband, Kevin.

He has this incredible ability to capture key ideas from books.  And nothing makes me happier than to savour his summaries.  He’s so good that I once carried on a conversation about Michael Pollan, and only later realized that I hadn’t actually read any of his books.

Kevin often recommends books that I should read, but I’ve learned that if I’m patient, he will end up telling me all about them. And I look forward to that. I consider his talent genius.  Why read Malcolm Gladwell, when Kevin can give me the highlights?

So when he mentioned Steven Johnson’Where Good Ideas Come From, I had my own great idea… wait for him to read it first.  But I was curious, and I am a Johnson fan, so I had an even better idea… google it.  Et voila!  Johnson was on TED Talks in September, and I was able to enjoy his summary of his book in 18:17 minutes.  That’s serious competition for Kevin.

Johnson studied times and places where there has been an unusual level of creativity and innovation. He found that the best ideas do not come from a lone eureka moment or a flash or an epiphany or any single thing.  There is no apple-falling-on-the-head for most ideas.  Instead he proves that the best ideas have long incubation periods – what he calls “the slow hunch” – and we need to share these and build on them.  He emphasizes the need to connect ideas.  Similar to Covey’s “abundance thinking” concept, he believes that chance favours the connected mind, and we need to spend more time connecting good ideas, not protecting them.

This is important for schools – how can we build better spaces that encourage the development of ideas?  Slate just did an interesting examination of the 21st century classroom.

But we are in the midst of big changes in our schools, and we need to focus on how to prepare kids for a future we cannot imagine where change is constant.  I see leadership teams and boards across the country asking the same big and exciting questions:

What are the skills and attitudes that our kids need? How do we get our teachers to embrace change and risk? In a world focused on performance and university admissions, how can we get our kids to be genuinely passionate about learning and life?  How do we tell our story – that we are kind and caring places where we know and love our students? How do we ensure that a variety of kids can access our schools?

I have a hunch that our schools need to spend more time together reflecting on and sharing good ideas. Imagine the possibilities if we collectively make our schools the most innovative in the world.

So I recommend Johnson – whether you read the book or watch the TED Talk, or even save 14 minutes and watch the 4:07 minute RSA-like animate whiteboard video version, like 400,000 others have done since September.

And here’s my (or is it Johnson’s?!) best idea yet: read or watch, but please take the time to share your good ideas.

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