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Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World Paperback – February 10, 2015
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“A road map for parents who want to sculpt their children into innovative thinkers.”—USA Today
"In this fascinating book, Tony Wagner addresses one of our most urgent questions: How do we create the next generation of innovators? By telling the stories of young creators, and by taking us inside cutting-edge programs, Wagner shows that the answer isn't to double-down on outmoded, formulaic solutions--but to embrace the principles of play, passion, and purpose. Creating Innovators is important reading for anyone concerned about the future."--Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“In the equation of world success, superior innovation is the only factor that can keep America #1. Two passionate citizens, innovators in their own right, have produced a compelling prescription for our time. Read it, watch it, and spread the word.”--Mitch Daniels, Governor, State of Indiana
"To combat the competitive threat from economies like Brazil, Russia, India and China, we must develop empowered entrepreneurs and innovators. Creating Innovators is a masterful work that shows us how. Tony Wagner's case studies reveal more about these fine innovators than he may have realized. World leaders, business executives, educators, policy makers and parents, take note!"--Dr. Annmarie Neal Founder, Center for Leadership Innovation and Former Chief Talent Officer, Cisco Systems
“Tony Wagner makes a compelling case for how our education system has to change if we are to create the innovators we need to face tomorrow's challenges. If you are an educator, a parent of a child struggling with conventional education, or an employer looking to have a pipeline of creative talent, then read this book, take note of the ideas and play your part in creating the change we must make happen.”--Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO
"In my life I have met and worked with individuals who help create the world they live in—innovators. Their lives are so much more fulfilling than people who live in a world of someone else's creation. This book, in a clear, tangible way, explores how to help young people access skills of innovation and lead richer lives."--Brad Anderson, former CEO, Best Buy Corporation
“In just the click of a mouse, we left the Industrial Age for the Information Age. Now just as quickly, we find ourselves in a new age of our society and economy; the Innovation Age. Tony Wagner and Bob Compton have provided a powerful tool for parents, educators and students seeking success in this new society and economy.”--Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction
“Many have written about the paucity of innovation in America. Others have chronicled our schools' struggles to improve on dimensions of skills that matter. In this book, Wagner has positioned himself astride these critical challenges in a way that clarifies what we must do to address these problems, and how we can do it--making this a must read for anyone interested in the education of our nation.”--Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School, and author of Disrupting Class
“A seminal analysis promising hope for the future through small wonders in the classroom.”—Kirkus
About the Author
Tony Wagner currently serves as an Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s Innovation Lab. Previously he has worked as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility. Tony is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences and the author of Creating Innovators and The Global Achievement Gap.
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Wagner is convinced that knowledge is less important to the modern student than the ability to innovate and he deplores the fact that so few children are given an environment to grow as innovators. Certainly, the ability to innovate is important and students who have that strength should be given the opportunity to grow it. On the other hand, I don’t see convincing evidence that every child would shine in the environments Wagner describes any more than every child shines in the schools we have now. Unfortunately, most of us are not able to envision a school system that actually encompasses everyone’s strengths, no matter what they happen to be and, until that kind of vision takes hold of our culture (and our universities), it is very difficult to make effective changes.
In some sense, this book models the pointlessness of innovation for innovation’s sake. I took the time to download the app and watched all the videos that were interweaved into the text. These videos (most of which were less than 2 minutes and consisted of interviews with the people in the book) are mainly repetitive of what was already said in the text and added little to the argument, unless you are the type of person who needs to have a face connected to a quote. Perhaps this video addition counts as innovative, but I found it to be irritating rather than enlightening.
In the end, however, Wagner has a number of good things to say and presents ideas that need to be addressed. He may not have the answer to everything in education, but he asks good questions and the people and schools he examines may be part of the larger answer to making our educational system work in the twenty-first century.
But the book has shortcomings from my perspective. He distills lessons from a body of interviews and draws sound generalizations ... from those interviews. I believe that he ought to let us know, however, that he is not talking about the vast majority of people. Rather he wants to make innovators out of the gifted minority. That's okay. But this is not innovation for everyman.
I believe he also confuses innovation with creativity as concepts. I learned (at my Fortune 100 company) that innovation involves turning knowledge into money - that is, it isn't valuable unless someone values it enough to pay for it. It might be creative, therefore, but not innovative. Further, creativity has two formats (see Michael Kirton) - and one variety does indeed lead to innovation. The other leads to adaptation. Thus you can be creative in more than one way, and Wagner does not seem to acknowledge that.
He also employs misleading dichotomies, such as making a difference versus making money. This is not an either/or phenomenon. I think you can do good while doing well.
Given the small (and biased: US, middle-upper class, etc) sample size, it's hard to draw general results, but nonetheless, there are interesting patterns that emerge. No surprise, parenting style matters: you have to let the kids explore, make mistakes, and not stifle them with own ideas (or ambitions). Similarly, teachers and mentors have an enormous impact: knowledge is one thing, ability to relate that knowledge via practical projects and exploration is another - creating innovators requires (a lot) more than just rote fact acquisition (aka, passing standardized tests).
How do you create environments that support this kind of development at home, at school, and at work? It's not an exact science, but this book highlights some interesting experiments and experiences.