Monday, December 8, 2008

Who am I to talk?

I've never brought a technology breakthrough to market.

I don't have 20 years of classroom teaching under my belt.

I'm not a fabulously well-to-do entrepreneur who turns ideas into millions.

I'm not a poet or artist whose work has been validated by critics and audiences.

So who am I?

Why do I have the potential for adding something to the conversation on innovation and the role of arts learning in developing creative, innovative thinking and other 21st century skills? See what you think:

I am an independent observer of innovation (and its opposites). My career experiences are:
  • Supporting various education reform initiatives as an independent analyst and writer

  • Working with teams of educators—sometimes as a technical writer who clarifies, sometimes as a outside perspective who brings a beginner's mind and renaissance tendencies to a creative challenge

  • Explaining the work of NASA R&D teams to managers, funders, and the general public

  • Teaching communications courses to technically oriented people
I think those experiences have helped me see the big picture of learning and understand different perspectives. If you've read Frans Johansson's The Medici Effect, I stand at what he calls "The Intersection"—the place where disciplines and cultures meet. The Intersection, says Johansson, is where we see "extraordinary discoveries" and "pathbreaking innovations" like those that occurred through the patronage of the Medici family in fifteenth century Italy. My search for answers is taking me not only into the knowledge bases of education and the arts but also into the arenas of business, technology, neuroscience, psychology, and more.

Perhaps also, because I am a knowledgeable outsider, I can bring a beginner's mind to this issue. Maybe I can be what Cynthia Barton Rabe calls a "zero gravity thinker"—someone who is burdened by neither GroupThink nor Expert-Think and so is able to ask questions that help those on the inside see things in new ways. (Her book is Innovation Killer: How What We Know Limits What We Can Imagine—And What Smart Companies Are Doing About It).

I hope soon to begin blogging about my interviews with experts, creators, innovators, and other inspirational people.

I hope also to share insights about my own encounters with works of art, strategies for enhancing creativity, and occasional (hopefully not too self-indulgent) reflections on my own experiences as a learner, the evolution of my particular brand of creativity and how it was stifled and nurtured, ways I try to nurture the imaginations of children in my life, and other relevant experiences. (That will take some getting used to since doing so much writing for clients tends to push "me" way in the background).

Finally, I think we all need to weigh in on this issue. Our schools are at a turning point and much is at stake. Technologically, change is accelerating. Nationally, we are at the edge of chaos—a place of great potential for new beginnings. None of us has all the answers for navigating the Age of Innovation, but I'm pretty sure we need new ways of thinking and a different approach to the test-driven educational improvement of the NCLB era.

I hope if you read this, you will be more confident in the future value of Artful Innovation, and I invite you to share your ideas, expertise, and observations whenever you wish.

Image by Juanrondonleon @ Wikimedia Commons

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