Today’s #FutureHigherEd post is by Mills College professor Dan Ryan, who teaches a course on how to use design thinking to improve higher education. Prof. Ryan asks whether an idea can be innovative if someone else is already doing it.
It’s a question that is interesting in its own right. The bottom line is that it is not only OK, there’s virtually no other way to make progress. A few years ago, Mike Brown at Brainzooming wrote about how to steal (borrow) creative ideas with a clear conscience:
- Take a piece of an idea and build from it (i.e., pick a color from a famous work of art and use it as inspiration)
- Generalize an idea and then apply the broader idea in new situations
- Look at the creative inspiration from a different perspective
- Determine an idea’s underlying structure and apply new creativity to a comparable structure
- Shift the creativity in some way (i.e., looking at what the creative state was immediately before or after an idea is present)
- Pay tribute to an idea, using it as instigation for new creativity
- Take individual pieces of creativity and assemble them in new ways others haven’t before (i.e., Groundhog Day + Silver Streak = Source Code)
Ryan’s students went looking for innovative ideas to borrow from other schools and came up with an interesting list, including:
- “Learning by Contract” at New College of Florida
- Evergreen State College contracts and clusters
- Hampshire College
- Howard S. Becker’s “modest proposal“
- Bard’s early college
- Flipped classrooms
- Open Educational Resources
- Problem-Based Learning at Maastricht
- The Block Plan at Colorado College
- Degree Qualification Profiles (see also Lumina Foundation)
- The Bologna Process
- St. John’s College
Mike Brown thinks this is the basis for creative instigation, the process of searching intentionally for ideas that can instigate your own creative activities as you sculpt, adapt, and reassemble them into solutions that are meaningful and relevant to your circumstances.
Do you think this is a missed opportunity for educational innovators? My experience is that ideas originating off-campus (or, shudder, from other industries) have a hard time competing with local ideas. Think N-I-H: Not Invented Here. Why is the N-I-H syndrome such a powerful force? How much better off would we be if we routinely built on the work of others?