Innovation's Organizing Principles

This Page:


Part One - Accumulating Levels of Leverage

Part Twp - Closer Look at Leverage Points within Innovation's Principles

Part Three - Special Value of Purpose

Part Four -- "How" Hypotheses

Top of Page

Value: High-Leverage Learning about Innovation

"He taught me to look for the non-obvious ways to gain leverage times ten on an issue."[1]

McKinsey & Company Manager,
About Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka



This page elaborates upon, and associates with sources, the hypothesized new value associated with establishing innovation's organizing principles -- broad access to a resource for high-leverage learning about innovation and its methods.

Part Four, the last section of this page, adds sample "how it could become" hypotheses. That is, how could this hypothesized value of access to high-leverage learning about innovation and its methods become available to students? The most fundamental "how" to address is that of developing a valid and articulate version of innovation's organizing principles, beyond a prototype.



Part One -- Accumulating Levels of Learning Leverage


"The curriculum of a subject should be determined by the most fundamental understanding of the underlying principles that give structure to the subject."[28]

-- Jerome Bruner, The Process of Education


Again, the feasibility of principles matters because of the hypothesized value associated with the potential public good of a developed, high-quality set of innovation's organizing principles.

The balance of text for this Part One discussion of the three accumulating levels of learning leverage, repeats the related text from the site's Home page:

Level 1: Leverage from Principles Alone

When education psychologist and cognitive learning theorist, Jerome Bruner, established the conceptualization of "structures of the discipline" he argued that "the curriculum of a subject should be determined by the most fundamental understanding of the underlying principles that give structure to the subject."

Overall, structures would facilitate students' access to, and engagement with, a subject. Using Algebra as an example, Bruner held that understanding Algebra's underlying principles, or structures, allows students to recognize myriad problems as but "variations on a small set of themes."[29] For innovation, a framework of structures (or principles) would allow students to recognize its wide-ranging examples as "variations on a small set of themes." It might also facilitate recognizing new opportunities.

Bruner held too that a framework of structures of a discipline "permits many other things to be related to it meaningfully." [42] In the case of innovation's purpose and methods -- in effect, a modifier of the overall workplace -- there are indeed many things to which innovation relates. For example, a framework of structures or principles would:

Overall, Bruner held that a framework of structures provides support for taking in "an enormous amount of information," akin to the cognitive science notion of "chunking."[30]

In a similar vein, Peter Drucker argued that it's a framework of "organizing principles" that permits "conversion of a skilled craft to a methodology or discipline" -- by making it "broadly teachable" -- as occurred in the past with engineering, the physician's differential diagnosis, and more (including the scientific method).[31] A framework of structures, or principles, provides not only for any individual learner's efficient access to the unifying concepts of innovation's driving purpose, forces, and methods, it allows too for the beneficial connection of shared understanding across learners.

Drucker made this argument within the context of describing the crucial need to convert innovation and entrepreneurship's skilled craft to methodology: He held into the early 21st century, up to his death, that a "post capitalist" society in which "knowledge is the only meaningful resource" means that: "Every organization … will have to learn how to innovate – and to learn that innovation can and should be organized as a systematic process." "What we need is an entrepreneurial society." [32]

Level 2: Leverage Points Associated with Innovation's Particular Principles

In addition to the fundamental value of a framework, the particular content of innovation's organizing principles, at least according to the prototype principles, presents the additional value of three complementary and mutually-reinforcing learning leverage points, as follows:

The complementary and mutually reinforcing nature of these three learning leverage points includes dynamics such as: Intelligibility supports the dimension of personalized guidance, which supports engagement, which supports deepening intelligibility and personalized connection and engagement, and so on.

With time and intentional structures, the combination of these dimensions can train the eye, develop discerning imagination associated with pertinent knowledge, cultivate innovation consciousness and its day-to-day impetus, cultivate personal purpose and signature strengths, and more.

Overall, a student is learning innovation's version of creativity, which includes understanding the present-day need for its expression:

Level 3: Leverage from an Innovation Learning System

By allowing for broad access to innovation instruction that is grounded and connected across time and place, organizing principles provide for an innovation learning system, similar to the existing system for science. John W. Gardner provided an early voice for such a system. In a book about "the individual and the innovative society," Gardner framed innovation's instructional challenge in a way that remains pertinent over fifty years later:

"The classic question of [societal renewal] has been: How can we cure this or that specifiable ill? Now, another question: How can we design a system that will continuously reform (i.e., renew) itself, beginning with the present specifiable (ills) … (to the) ills (we) cannot foresee?" ... "Like a scientist in a lab, part of enduring tradition/system …"[35]

In the way that the scientific method has established an enduring tradition and broadly-accessible system for over a century of learning and practice, toward the purpose of advancing what is known about our world, innovation's organizing principles could establish such a tradition and system for the 21st century's urgently needed societal effects associated with innovation's function of resource leverage.

Leverage from an innovation learning system extends, or amplifies, Drucker's notion of converting a skilled craft to a discipline or methodology:





Part Two -- Learning Leverage Points within Innovation's Organizing Principles

This section looks at the special value of each of the three learning leverage points associated with this site's prototype version of innovation's particular organizing principles:

Complementary and mutually reinforcing, these leverage points are hypothesized to offer students the value of:

Tactically, the levers can be complemented by existing pedagogical structures (e.g., project-based learning, e-learning) and existing innovation models & tools (e.g, design thinking).

Also, a separate page of this web site features sketches of sample Learning Applications, motivated by the principles and complementary learning levers, to address a sampling of new opportunities for programming and tools.


A. Lever of Intelligibility

"To do things differently, we must learn to see things differently. Seeing differently means learning to question the conceptual lenses through which we view and frame the world ... To see differently, we need new intellectual constructs."[36]

John Seely-Brown, 1997

A Lens --
A high-quality version of innovation's organizing principles provides a lens for seeing innovation's driving fundamentals:

Well-articulated principles provide a conceptual on-ramp.

Students can view concrete innovation examples through the lens, seeing the fundamentals that drive each example, from the simplest to the most complex. Fundamentals such as:

  • the creative structure of hypotheses (about new value)
  • value as force for change
  • resource leverage and its ultimate purpose of collective benefit

By recognizing widely varying examples of innovation offerings as but variations on a small set of driving constants:

In this same vein, the lens captures what cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham calls the "unifying concepts that come up again and again" -- "a limited number of ideas carried through a curriculum for years as different topics are taken up."[37] It provides support for successful thinking to which students may return time and again, for deepening learning.

Plus, like Bruner, Willingham points to connecting the concrete with the abstract as the best way for students to gain traction with understanding the unifying concepts: "The surest way to help students understand an abstraction is to expose them to many different versions of the abstraction," where the connection is explicit. [38] Examples in the form of stories add the general learning lever of "meaning" for even greater effect of connecting the concrete with the abstract:

"The human mind seems exquisitely tuned to understand and remember stories. Stories are believed to be treated differently in memory."[39]

Overall, unifying concepts and plentiful concrete examples support students' successful thinking regarding innovation's intelligibility:

"What is innovation? How does it work? Why does it work? Why does it matter?"

Taking in Enormous Amount of Information --
Bruner pointed also to a subject's framework of underlying principles as support for taking in "an enormous amount of information." [40] Cognitive science uses the term "chunking" for this benefit to cognitive processing and memory. [41]

This benefit is very much pertinent to learning about innovation, given how broad reaching and varying it is. The framework established by innovation's organizing principles serves to situate what is indeed an enormous amount of information, which can be introduced and assimilated over time. For example:

Permits many other things to be related meaningfully --
Bruner argued too that understanding a subject's underlying principles, or structures, "permits many other things to be related to it meaningfully."[42]

This too is highly pertinent to learning about innovation. For example:

Overall, within a trajectory of learning, innovation's unifying concepts can be continually related to the "close neighbor" concepts of science and invention, per the type of summary in the following table:

  Innovation Science Invention
Direct Function/
Advance total value produced from same resources. For associated societal benefits of advancing standard of living, sustainability of finite natural resources, &/or human flourishing. Advance knowledge/
Advance technical capability
Medium of Expression "Value" in form of Offerings Argument Technical Function, Demonstration
of Change
Commercial & Social Production Systems Disciplinary fields of knowledge Disciplinary/technical fields of knowledge
Nature of Hypotheses "What could be as new value to customers"
"How the new value could become an offering accessible to customers and catalyst of change."
"What is" "What could be technically"
Knowledge Pertinent to Hypotheses

Integrates knowledge from core strands, such as:
(i) industry/operations;
(ii) customer;
(iii) human & social dynamics; (iv) anything & everything.

Can feature "ordinary" knowledge.

Can incorporate knowledge resource of advances in Science and/or Invention.

Primarily disciplinary

Primarily disciplinary/technical
Agents of Change Widely varying (possessors of pertinent knowledge, purpose & skills) Typically masters of a field of knowledge Typically masters of a technical field
Gatekeepers of Change Customers Experts in Field Varies
Gatekeeper Criteria Value is Forcefully Positive Argument is Valid & Reliable Demonstration is Reliable

Support for Personal Connection (Seeds of Inspiration) --
By revealing innovation's broad expression and demystifying how its forces allow for positive change -- including, as Steven Johnson noted, "Good ideas are not conjured out of thin air; they are built out of a collection of existing parts" [43-5] -- intelligibility can serve as a leverage point regarding how one might participate. This can begin early, in small but meaningful ways.

As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and colleagues have noted:

"Humans can observe and/or be shown how activities of humans have changed the environment, fostering realization that other people may be able to also bring about change ... A sense of what has been done helps lead to a sense of what might be done as well as an appreciation for the kinds of established constraints that might affect imagined changes." [44]

Even without hands-on engagement, assignments could, for example, call for selecting one's favorite innovation example(s), reflecting on why they're favorites, and noting the types of knowledge ("existing parts") connected to form these pictures of possibility.

See a fuller discussion of support for personal connection under the third learning lever heading of "Embedded Personal Guidance."


Trajectory of Intelligibility --
Overall, the lens of innovation's organizing principles (along with hands-on practice) can launch and support a trajectory of deepening intelligibility, supporting both deepening inspiration and more effective engagement.

For example, the Kauffman Foundation's Panel on Entrepreneurship Curriculum in Higher Education described the benefit of maturing intelligibility in distinguishing examples of excellence, drawing on an analogy with music:

Departments of music composition cannot make students creative. But studying how great music is made can ignite whatever creativity students possess and help bring it to expression. The aim of studying composition is to unpack works of genius and excellence and thereby lead students beyond imitation to originality. … Making innovation intelligible may help students to imagine and engage in entrepreneurial activities they otherwise might not have considered. [45]

Innovation's organizing principles can support continual "unpacking" of excellent examples, or what Willingham refers to as "understanding the parts and the whole." [46]

Deepening knowledge of innovation's unifying concepts supports successful thinking for unpacking such as:

Plus, examples of unpacking a bit more:


At this site's Applications page, three of the tools feature examples and stories that are structured by the intelligibility lever's lens:

  • An online gallery of innovation profiles is sketched as a new type of learning tool, where each profile is structured according to a template that is based on innovation's organizing principles. The gallery idea, as sketched, is both searchable (by tags representing myriad types of variation) and interactive. The sketch also points to a simple prototype of this type of tool at

  • Cases of social innovation viewed through the lens of the prototype principles are intended to help convey the type of unpacking that a framework of principles can support.

  • "Elegant video lectures" are to convey a developed version of principles/concepts, potentially within a venue such as the Khan Academy (or other open educational resource). A potential model for such lectures might be a principles-structured curriculum about the subject of engineering, designed for new engineering students.[46-5]




B. Lever of Engagement

"No amount of doubling down on math and science courses is going to produce the innovators we need in the 21st century. ... The key is engagement." [47]

Richard Miller
President, Olin College of Engineering


Channel of "Good & Good for You" --
The light that the prototype organizing principles shines on innovation's essential purpose and forces, in turn, shines light on opportunities for scaffolding students' hands-on engagement with the purpose and forces.

In particular, the combination of the three learning levers associated with the principles supports an on-ramp for engagement, which can launch a trajectory of learning that can be understood only by virtue of experience.

It's learning that is both "good" and "good for you":


The engagement scaffolding opportunity borrows from Csikszentmihalyi's example of a "flow" channel, where each of a series of experiences is neither too difficult nor too easy. If the experience is too difficult, it provokes anxiety, or perhaps disinterest and lost opportunity in the case of innovation's methods. If it's too easy, it's boring. [57]

Willingham reinforces the notion of this "just right" channel: "Working on problems that are of the right level of difficulty is rewarding, but working on problems that are too easy or too difficult is unpleasant." [58]

Most important ultimately, Csikszentmihalyi holds that every experience within the flow channel produces growth in abilities, for a potential channel of ever-developing growth and personal evolution. [59]

Hands-on practice with innovation's constants lends itself to the structure of a flow channel, based on fine gradations of difficulty combined with vast possibilities for personalization. Again, Drucker noted that innovation's function and forces "pertain to all activities of human beings other than those one might term 'existential' rather than 'social.'" [60]

This overall approach is similar to existing experiences with the methods of science, and consistent with science, hypotheses represent the essential creative structure.


Hypotheses as Fundamental Structure of Engagement -- Most fundamental to engagement is working with innovation's essential creative structure of hypotheses, featuring the principles-based methodological constants of:

Throughout engagement, organizing principles provide constant reference and benchmarks for innovation's hypotheses, emphasizing the same fundamental purpose and forces, for the smallest application to the largest.

As one of those forces, all experiences should emphasize what each student finds important, compelling, interesting, etc., even within "small" examples:

It's difficult to convince someone to care deeply about advancing a transaction-based subject that they do not already care about. But if the practitioner's intrinsic interest is in place, it allows for the methodology's force of "inner-driven and other-focused."

IDEO's General Manager, Tom Kelley, advised:

"(T)his work [of understanding customers] requires curiosity. How can you get better at it? Find a field that commands your interest." [61]

To help foster personal connections, hands-on practice can and should incorporate regular variations of the methodological constants -- guided by common categories of variation described under Intelligibility (e.g., societal benefit in terms of profit, planet, and/or people; nature of value offered; hypotheses for "what could be" vs. "how it could become"; and so on). The variations highlight innovation's broad and yet structured space for personal preferences. It would make sense for students to keep a log, or journal, of variations explored and associated reflections.

Hypothesis Testing:

Actively generating and testing innovation's hypotheses reinforces and deepens learning, including understanding fundamental differences versus hypotheses for the purpose of science. (Conceivably, the differentiation could support skill with hypotheses for science too.)

The purpose-based departure includes actively considering the different basis for testing innovation's hypotheses and implications for designing those tests:

Even as the activity of testing represents an area of overlap between methods of innovation and of science, testing for innovation's purpose of resource leverage is fundamentally different from testing for the purpose of science (advancing knowledge).

  • For science, "truth" is with respect to a formal, existing reality.

  • For innovation, "truth" is with respect to customer response to possible new value (and associated possible resource leverage).

Tests of innovation's "what" and "how" hypotheses typically involve gauging customer response, which informs decisions about action (e.g., whether or not to act; what to expect from action). There may be a series of potential actions and decisions, such as:

  • whether or not to pursue an idea at all (where an offering may be represented initially as a description only, or what the Lean Startup calls a "minimum viable product")

  • preparing to act on the idea, which may include testing and adjusting elements of a design for action and which is likely to involve arranging for resources and other aspects of implementation planning

  • assessing, or evaluating, implementation (which may inform decisionmaking about future action, including broadening the scale of action).

At each stage, the rigor of testing innovation hypotheses, determined by the practitioner, reflects the extent of resources at stake (including resources limited to students' time, energy, etc.). Also, at each stage, the design of testing may include both "test" and "control," drawing on fundamental research and/or analytic methods.


Sample Scaffolding -
The following set of stages provides an example of the opportunity to scaffold hands-on practice with innovation's methodological structure of hypotheses:

Each of these sample scaffolding stages is described in brief:

The omnipresence of innovation's forces means that engagement allows for beginning with intuition, especially within "mental engagement."

  • Virtually all students have hands-on practice as customers responding to offerings of value (especially as defined by Drucker -- referring to all but that which is existential rather than social).

  • In this sense, it's likely that most have experience too of offering value to others.

That base of experience gives them an intuitive understanding, which can provide support for a successful start of mental engagement as an innovation agent. To launch initial student engagement, connection to the organizing principles can be loose and then brought to bear as a structured reality check of sorts -- a basis for cognitive processing that follows engagement.

For example, drawing on a known subject like environmental sustainability (and one that is deemed important widely among today's youth), questions like those in the box below can be engaged and then related back to the organizing principles.

  • As a side note, there is no reason for every teacher to need to come up with topics and questions. Instructional resources could be generated, featuring a variety of topics to support this type of mental engagement. (The sample application for the separate discipline of engineering, noted at the end of the Intelligibility section, just above, provides an example of concepts linked to exercises. It's a curriculum-based book: Principles of Engineering.)

  • Topics could be tailored to learner age, with respect to the starting point of life experiences. However, for all beginners, regardless of age, the gist of the questions probably would be similar, focusing on the principles' driving constants and with relatively straightforward scenarios.

  • For example:

Mental Engagement --

  • How much of what you could recycle [readily] do you recycle (or compost, etc.)? When you don't recycle, what's the reason?
  • Is "value" associated with your amount of recycling -- value such as "ease" and/or "meaning" (connection to a purpose larger than oneself).
  • What might lead you to recycle more? (Or less?)
  • What might you do if you wanted to increase others' recycling/composting in a given context (home, classroom, cafeteria, school, restaurants, etc.)?

    • Consider intuition-based answers as working hypotheses. Probe for what knowledge students are drawing upon.
    • Ask how they might test their ideas and/or how they might investigate what types of value would most influence the "customers" in that context -- the gatekeepers.

  • Proceed with "how" hypotheses.

    • The array of "how" hypotheses that arise intuitively might then be written into a large "business model canvas."
    • Students could work in groups on this or on different types of examples, guided by their interest, and the class could consider overall examples.

  • With all hypotheses generated from intuition, unpack them. Ask students to consider what knowledge they drew upon for their hypotheses. What's the category/strand of that knowledge? What is not known that matters?

  • With class sharing, make constant reference to the organizing principles. Also, call upon pedagogical structures such as those from Writers' Workshop (.e.g, beginning with "I like [this element of the example]" and proceeding with "I'd like to see more value in ..." etc.]).

  • If motivation is there, proceed with experimenting/implementing.

  • After this exercise in mental engagement (or one that begins with mental engagement), refer to the real-world example of the one-time new offering of curbside recycling pick-up. (Ready access to this and other such stories could be developed.)

  • Ask if there are ways other than the force of value to generate the same extent of recycling and its collective societal benefit. Consider the comparative resources needed for different approaches.


Cultivate regular practices that have been associated with fertile creativity, such as purposeful observing, questioning, and experimenting/testing -- looking outward through the principles-based innovation lens. With this, cultivate practitioners' internal and external conditions of creativity, such as: openness, flexibility, and complexity. [62]

For example, for the sample practice of logging observations, begin perhaps by sharing with students the findings of author Steven Johnson, who investigated shared types of practice among an array of creators (including Charles Darwin) across the domains of science, invention, and innovation, over centuries, where one practice was keeping a log of observations. [63]


Practice of Logging Observations --

There could be "questions for the week," tailored perhaps to particular innovation concepts.

For example, honing in on the concept of resource leverage, a question for the week might be:

  • Where do I see resources underutilized? Or phrased differently, where is there waste? (For example, many school buildings are empty all summer and on weekends, youth have strengths that a community could benefit from, a lot of edible food is thrown away, outgrown youth sports equipment, wasted electricity, etc.).
  • In advance of logging, discuss actual innovation examples that have focused on the innovator practice (observation) that highlights the question for the week. For underutilized resources, the overall "sharing" economy offers a cluster of examples (e.g., ZipCar, Uber, AirBnb). Similarly, Salman Khan, in founding the Khan Academy referred to the "ridiculously underutilized resource of the Internet" for benefits to education. Make examples vary enough to keep students' minds open.
  • Generally, guide students to actively consider resources of all types, including knowledge/information resources.
  • After the period of observation, have students reflect independently on what they logged, including reflecting on how the underutilized resources might be used to offer new value to some set of "customers." That is, how can the resources be made more fruitful?
  • Also share observations. Perhaps the instructor could cluster students' observations into categories for positing on poster paper. The clusters and particular examples then could be discussed, built upon, and potentially even serve as a basis for implementation.

The same practice of logging observations could be applied to other concepts. For example, "value as a force for change" could be associated with an observation question of the week such as:

  • Where are people experiencing "rough edges" in their activities? For example: hard to get a phone signal, hard for youth to find a babysitting job and/or for adults to find babysitters, experiences of being new to a school, experiences of being bullied, some kids want to play sports and don't have the resources for equipment.

  • Or similarly, where do I notice opportunity for improvement (e.g., school lunches? raise funds with better offering than selling popcorn or pizza dough?)


Structured exercises for different practices could help students develop day-to-day consciousness of innovation's purpose and opportunities. Not only are examples bringing concepts to life, the examples are personally generated. Continued engagement can support "deep memory" of the essential purpose and forces, all toward support for "opportunity finding." Experiences with a variety of practices also could lead to student adoption of preferred practices (an element of personal connection).

Hypothesis testing provides additional focal opportunity for engaging a fundamental innovation practice/method. Testing includes the benefit of being bounded and yet essential to the practice.

  • Conceptually, hypothesis testing provides an opportunity to consider the purpose-based difference between hypotheses for innovation vs. for science and invention, but also to consider an area of overlap that varies across innovation examples. That is, since the reason for testing is different, the design for testing often is different throughout innovation's practice. For innovation, test design considers the resources that are at stake if customer interest is low, considers the resources needed if interest is high, etc. In general, test design asks: How accurate does the gauge need to be and for what reason?

  • Testing innovation hypotheses can begin informally, in keeping with the power of small. Students could be assigned to test hypotheses where customers are peers, siblings, neighbors, teachers, coaches, community members, etc.., in person and/or online. Testing can help them consider who represents their customer segments and much more. For example:

    • In-person testing could exercise students' empathy muscles. It could also help stretch their "inner conditions" of openness, flexibility, and comfort with complexity.

    • Testing also could involve hands-on experience with the practice of prototyping, especially with "minimum viable products" -- as minimal as drawing a picture of an envisioned offering.

    • Finally, depending on student interest, testing could lead to revising hypotheses (and/or testing revisions).

The message within a cookbook's introduction from Julia Child and colleagues speaks to the highly valuable support that "recipes" can provide for early hands-on practice with "fundamental techniques":

"Our primary purpose in this book is to teach you how to cook, so that you will understand fundamental techniques and gradually be able to divorce yourself from a dependence on recipes." [64]

Since innovation's organizing principles situate an array of models and tools, continued reference to the principles can support experimenting with different tools and also support recognizing how various tools provide differing aspects of support.

Within instruction, tools can be selected based on varying tasks (e.g., from hypothesis generation to testing, implementing, and assessing):

  • Some models and tools emphasize an overall process, along the lines of a recipe for cooking (e.g., "design thinking" and "lean startup"). Others support one or more particular aspects of the work (e.g., a model of ten innovator "personas" describes varying ways to connect personally to innovation's purpose and practice). In some cases, it is skilled cooks, not beginners, who can make the best use of a recipe (e.g., the benchmarks of "disruption"). [65]

  • For learners, the combination of a principles framework and models/tools is complementary and potentially synergistic. For example: the intelligibility offered by principles allows for an overall purpose; tools can support learners in getting started; and the framework of principles provides benchmarks (e.g., considering all pertinent strands of knowledge for innovation hypotheses, confirmation of forcefully positive value to customers, etc.).

  • See a mapping of an array of differentiated innovation models and tools to the prototype principles, plus brief descriptions.

Eventually, actively situating tools vis-a-vis the principles and overall methodology can support students in learning to use innovation tools nimbly.

Along with tools designed specifically to support innovation's methods, the established pedagogical structures of tools such as project-based learning (PBL) represent a seemingly strong complement for hands-on practice with innovation's methods. For example, PBL's established guidelines for boundaries supports acting on hypotheses that students find compelling or simply worth trying out.

Action can cultivate:

  • Practical abilities -- especially for those who have undiscovered talents in this important practitioner skill area -- while containing the demands of implementation within learning contexts. [66]

  • Innovation's version of participating in teams -- ideally "collectives of purpose" -- where the dynamic is both cross-functional (a division of labor) and collaborative (a merging of minds). [67]

  • Learning from failing -- especially if learners recognize ways they didn't observe fundamentals and especially if the failure motivates them to adjust and try again.

  • Concrete perspective for relating innovation's methodology to science, invention, and more -- in support of reflection about personal preferences among these complementary methodologies, including over time, or perhaps about ways to integrate them (e.g., focusing on using innovation's methods to leverage advances in knowledge or technology).

  • And much more.



Aim Toward Maturing Creativity -

Descriptions of mature creative capability reinforce the value of a means to scaffolding. They reinforce the pertinence of intentional and structured cultivation over time.

To begin, consider in the box just below the developmental demands indicated by Robert Sternberg's WICS model (Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized), which unpacks fundamental elements of mature creativity for the explicit purpose of understanding what is to be learned. [68]

Note that the WICS model addresses creativity in general, which encompasses science and invention/technology, but seems different from "art."


"Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity Synthesized" (WICS) --

Building on a period of funded creativity scholarship from the latter half of the 20th century, Sternberg drew on the work of multiple scholars in elaborating this model: "Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity Synthesized (WICS)." He presents the elements in reverse order of the WICS acronym:

  • "Creativity": "(W)ork that is novel (original, unexpected), high in quality, and appropriate (useful, meets task constraints)."

    "Creavity is the potential to produce and implement ideas that are novel and high in quality. (Creativity) goes beyond the creative intelligence ... in that it contains attitudinal, motivational, personality, and environmental components as well as the cognitive one of creative intelligence."

  • Intelligence: "Creative work and the broad-based creativity underlying it, requires applying and balancing the three intellectual abilities -- creative, analytical, and practical -- all of which can be developed."

    "Creative ability is used to generate ideas. ... Without well-developed analytical ability, the creative thinker is as likely to pursue bad ideas as to pursue good ones ... Practical ability is used to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical accomplishments. It is also used to convince other people that an idea is valuable ... (and) to recognize ideas that have a potential audience."

    • "Analytical ability involves analyzing, evaluating, judging, inferring, critiquing, and comparing and contrasting."
    • "Creative ability involves creating, designing, inventing, imagining, supposing, and exploring."
    • "Practical ability involves applying, using, implementing, contextualizing, and putting into practice."

  • Wisdom: "People can be intelligent and even creative but also foolish."

    "(W)isdom is the application of intelligence, creativity, and knowledge as mediated by positive ethical values toward the achievement of a common good through a balance among (a) intrapersonal, (b) interpersonal, and (c) extrapersonal interests over the short and long term."



WICS & Common Core --

The WICS model of creative capability (again, encompassing multiple types of creativity, including science) highlights the importance of proficiency with the K-12 Common Core Standards (CCSS) as one fundamental element.

However, considering the model's multiple elements of ability, the CCSS seems mainly to serve the analytical ability within "Intelligence," with modest attention to cultivating the model's other types of skill.

Structured innovation learning experiences could support broader development of the WICS ~checklist of what is needed for maturing creative capability. Plus, if students are engaged in learning about innovation, those experiences actually can support development of the areas of overlap with the CCSS in addition to broadening development.

For example, scaffolded experiences could support the WICS "Creativity" element -- attitudinal, motivational, personality, and environmental components (beyond creative thinking) -- and much broader development of the "practical intellectual abilities" and "Wisdom" element. (Nobel prize recipient Daniel Kahneman emphasizes the need to cultivate "responsible creativity.") [71])

Similarly, other resources highlight the function of engaged experiences with the humanities, again for all types of creativity:

"For, in effect, the humanities have as their implicit agenda the cultivation of hypotheses, the art of hypothesis generating.

It is in hypothesis generating (rather than in hypothesis falsification) that one cultivates multiple perspectives and possible worlds to match the requirements of those perspectives. [69]

Gardner argued similarly for the crucial perspective to be gained from the humanities:

"... by absorbing, through literature, religion, psychology, sociology, drama and the like, the hopes, fears, aspirations and dilemmas of (one's) people and of the species." [70]


Beyond WICS --

WICS is a demanding profile, and yet across expert resources, descriptions of mature creativity include some additional important specificity:

Teams --
In the past decade in particular, it is commonly held that learning to be creative within a team represents a fundamental element of maturing creative capability.

Innovation by nature is cross-functional; however, that can amount primarily to a division of labor. It contrasts with, for example, what Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown referred to as a collaborative meeting of minds, with reference to modern teams as "collectives of purpose" (see context in box below).


Internal and external conditions --
The work of multiple thought leaders associates the mature creative process with both internal and external conditions that are robust in terms of: openness; flexibility, and complexity. [70-1]

Social innovation thought and action leader, John W. Gardner, noted that making complexity productive requires a "tolerance" that is borne of "profound confidence" in one’s capacity to "bring some kind of new order" from "a wild profusion of ideas and experience.” [72] For most learners, such profound confidence is almost certainly a product of experience and development.


Support for Discernment --
Bruner (whose scholarly work of some eight decades addressed "creativity" in addition to cognitive learning theory and more) considered "discernment" the most important creative ability:

"To create consists precisely in not making useless combinations and in making those which are useful and which are only a small minority. Invention is discernment, choice." [73]

Csikszentmihalyi, too, spoke of discernment as central, specifically with respect to the evolving state of the world:

"It is no longer possible for mankind to blunder about self indulgently ...

The most important challenge that confronts us now is learning how to assess the pros and cons of the fruits of our imagination." [74]


Style of Thought --
Pertinent to a trajectory of learning, Bruner also referred to a "style of thought" that distinguishes any discipline and that requires time and participation for absorption. (e.g., "function" within biology). For innovation, style of thought candidates might be "leverage" and/or "change by way of value."

"Increasing experience with a subject may be necessary to bring the meaning of its style of thought "increasingly to light." [75]


Within a World of Constant Change --
Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown have called for "a new culture of learning" -- beginning with formal schooling -- that cultivates the imagination for a world of constant change and where continuous learning is lifelong. [76]

Summarized in the box just below, the "new culture" model reinforces the function of personally compelling purpose. It includes elements of overlap with the WICS model, but with different terminology and different emphases.


Cultivating Imagination In World of Constant Change --

In the new culture of learning, change is not only embraced, it's created. The new culture is about "how the imagination is cultivated to harness the power of almost unlimited resources to create something personally meaningful." The design for learning is built upon:

  • Knowing -- which is "increasingly about knowing how to find and evaluate information on any given topic"
  • Making -- which features hands-on learning and "requires deep and practical knowledge of the thing one is trying to create"
  • Playing -- which involves: (i) the "ability to organize, connect, and make sense of things"; (ii) the organizing principle of a "leap" ... over the gap between the knowledge one is given and a desired end result; and (iii) a questing disposition.

Good questions are especially important, and peer-to-peer learning is integral, based on active engagement within "collectives of purpose" -- based on shared interests and opportunities.

"Students learn best when they are able to follow their passion and operate within the constraints of a bounded environment."

"The passion of the learner is the greatest source of inspiration but also the largest reservoir of tacit knowledge," and "(tacit understanding) relates most deeply to the associations and connections among various pieces of knowledge."

Power of Small --

Throughout any version of scaffolding stages there can be emphasis on the power of small, while allowing for the possibility of "big" emerging. Consider:

If/when big ideas emerge, guide students to test them, make revisions ("iterate"), create a design for action (using the business model canvas), and when appropriate, go for it.



Overall, with time and intentional structures, the combination of intelligibility and practice can train the eye and day-to-day impetus for change by way of value, cultivate knowledge, personal purpose and strengths, creativity's internal conditions and discerning imagination, and more. Students could become more aware of opportunities for learning and practice outside of school, including online communities of practice and "collectives of purpose" (as phrased by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown).

Especially if intrinsic motivation takes hold, these young learners could help create fertile external conditions that support peers. In fact, they're likely to influence an innovation learning system itself and to do so in big ways.


See sketches of engagement-oriented progamming at this site's Applications page, for students of varying age:

  • Youth
  • Higher Education -- Social Innovation




C. Lever of Embedded Personalized Guidance


"If (young people) are to commit themselves to the best in their own society, it is not exhortation they need but instruction." [86]

John W. Gardner


With the prototype principles illuminating the fit of innovation practitioners' response to the human value for purpose -- larger than the self but personally compelling -- an innovation learning system provides a leverage point for developing both innovation capability and personal purpose.

Indeed, it's noteworthy that the type of scaffolding described in the sections just above resemble a process for discovering purpose that Damon discerned from his research among youth.

A Process -
Damon found not only similarity across individuals in the benefits of discovering personal purpose (including "a prodigious amount of extra positive energy"), he also found similarity in the type of process that had unfolded in discovering purpose and committing oneself to it. [80]

Damon outlined a sequence of twelve steps, listed below, that he found to characterize the development of purpose among these youth. If support associated with learning about innovation is substituted for (or added to) the steps that feature support from immediate family and persons outside the immediate family (steps 1, 2, and 6), there is interesting resemblance between a principles-based process for learning about innovation and the process that led youth to make long-term commitment to an inspiring purpose.

  1. Inspiring communication with persons outside the immediate family
  2. Observation of purposeful people at work
  3. First moment of revelation: something important in the world can be corrected or improved.
  4. Second moment of revelation: I can contribute myself and make a difference
  5. Identification of purpose, along with initial attempts to accomplish something
  6. Support from immediate family
  7. Expanded efforts to pursue one's purpose in original and consequential ways
  8. Acquiring the skills needed for this purpose
  9. Increased practical effectiveness
  10. Enhanced optimism and self-confidence
  11. Long-term commitment to the purpose
  12. Transfer of the skills and character strengths gained in pursuit of one purpose to other areas of one's life. [81]


Examples of the mapping --

Consider the fit of Damon's process of steps for discovering purpose with the immediately preceding sections on "Intellgiility" and "Engagement":

Steps 1-3 were addressed under the "Intelligibility" section above, including the following quote and comments:

"Humans can observe and/or be shown how activities of humans have changed the environment, fostering realization that other people may be able to also bring about change ... A sense of what has been done helps lead to a sense of what might be done as well as an appreciation for the kinds of established constraints that might affect imagined changes." [44]

Intelligibility's combination of unifying concepts and varying types of examples, especially in combination with the pedagogical power of "stories," supports early connections to students' authentic interests (or the vicinity). Learners are encouraged to reflect on the types of real-world innovation examples that appeal to them (e.g., considering favorite examples, appealing roles, etc.), where examples can include the example of youth-driven applications of varying scale.

Intelligibility facilitates understanding common types of innovation variation, in support of personal connections:

Plus, innovation's principles help students see how the methodology relates to other types of methodogies and societal functions (as described under "Intelligibility"). This explication can support understanding of personal leanings that do not call for direct use of innovation's methods -- in part by clarifying how methodologies relate and in part by articulating the overarching imperative for innovation's societal effects in the 21st century (with most everything relating).

The closer examples can get to students' authentic interests (even latent or seedling interests), the more likely it seems that the learning will be received as compelling "value." Even progress in a personal sense of direction is likely to be valued.

As an example of a tool that draws upon innovation's "Intelligibililty" as a type of support for personal connection that resembles steps 1-3 of the common youth process that Damon observed, see the sketch for a searchable gallery of innovation examples at this site's separate page for Learning Applications.

Steps 4-10 ("I can contribute myself" through "Enhanced optimism and confidence).
Steps like these were addressed under the "Engagement" section, within a multi-year process of scaffolding.

Hands-on experiences support a whole different type of exploration of innovation's varying ends and means. These experiences allow for unique qualities of feedback and discovery, which can support productive further exploration and/or development of purpose.

Both empowerment from the methods and support within hands-on learning (e.g., from teams and students' learning community) were described as fundamental to trajectories of learning about innovation, which includes purpose development:

With repeated experiences over time, the combination of hands-on practice and deepening understanding of innovation's essential purpose and forces can provide continuing fodder for reflecting on personally compelling purpose.

Steps 11-12 ("longer term commitment" and "transfer of skills and character development to other areas of one's life") represent the element of power that a personal connection to purpose lends to maturing innovation capability, for robust personal and societal effects.

Echoes of, and response to, John W. Gardner --
In sum, principles-based innovation instruction features the call for, and value of, personal connection to the larger social enterprise. It can be viewed as a response to John Gardner's 1963 call to action, which remains utterly relevant today:

"(W)e must help the individual to re-establish a meaningful relationship with a larger context of purpose. … (O)ne of the reasons young people do not commit themselves to the larger social enterprise is that they are genuinely baffled as to the nature of that enterprise. … They do not see where they fit in. If they are to commit themselves to the best in their own society, it is not exhortation they need but instruction. … We must also help the individual to discover how such commitments may be made without surrendering individuality." [86]

The last sentence might be rephrased: We must also help the individual to discover how much energizing enrichment and meaning there is in committing themselves to the best in their own society.

It's significant that an innovation learning system, grounded and connected by high-quality organizing principles, might support the discovery of commitment as forcefully positive value (the opposite of surrendering individuality).

Indeed, the scaffolding of purpose may represent an embedded secret sauce within the scaffolding of innovation understanding:

This overall possibility contrasts with a status quo where:

"We mainly train [adolescents] to be consumers -- of abstract information, entertainment, and mostly useless products -- with too little regard for concrete, active engagement with the environment."[86-5]

Again, innovation instruction's embedded personalized guidance seems to fit with a 2010 statement of strategy expressed at the web site of (U.S.) Council of Chief State School Officers, which described providing for:

It fits too with an innovation model for "maximal value," which emphasizes an ever-improving match between customer interests and global resources. Within the model, maximal value is realized when value is customized for every individual customer (N=1) by drawing on a global span of resources (R=G).[88] As discussed in the section just below regarding the special value of purpose, research has indicated that student discovery of purpose brings an energy and focus to academic work and to learning whatever is needed.



Part Three -- The Special Value of Purpose

"Purpose gives rise to learning." [25-5]

Robert Quinn


In the 21st century, it's timely that the value of personal purpose -- larger than oneself but personally compelling -- has become increasingly visible, including the value of development among youth. That's because 21st century society needs the force of personal connections to purpose. It's an opportunity for win-win.

The visibility of purpose has been associated in part with the new field of positive psychology. For example, in co-founding the field, research psychologist and past president of the American Psychological Association Martin Seligman established a theory of "well-being," which speaks to what humans value most fundamentally (what free people will choose; "uncoerced choice"). "Meaning/Purpose" is included in the theory's set of five categories of experience, each of which is argued to be valued "for its sake alone":

Meaning/purpose, in fact, represents a type of pinnacle category within the theory: Seligman relates the category of positive emotions to the "pleasant life," the categories of engagement, relations, and achievement to the "good life," and the category of meaning/purpose to the "meaningful life." (Having all five elements is associated with the "full life.")

Among Youth --
For youth in particular, support for purpose development has become newly visible as an active quest, based in part on the view that adolescence is "the proper period in life to begin such reflection."[18] This quest contrasts with a status quo in which purpose has been shown to be valued by most youth but largely elusive. Advocates argue that it is learnable -- indeed that developing or discovering it "has been a good deal harder than it should be." [15.5]

William Damon, in particular, has provided a leading voice in youth-focused research regarding purpose and its effects, including leading the "Stanford Youth Purpose Project," with a nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students.

Consonant with Seligman's theory of well-being, Damon argues:

"The disposition toward purpose has been bred into (humans). [4] ... There's a universal yearning for the meaning of a sense of positive, forward direction." [5]

Based on his research with youth, Damon notes that this personalized sense of direction "is not necessarily career, but it's deeper than grades and awards." It speaks to the "why" of schooling (something Elon Musk has lamented as missing in the U.S.). Damon explains:

"[Purpose] speaks to an ultimate concern, larger than the self, a deeper reason for immediate goals and behavior. It speaks intrinsically to:

  • Why am I doing this?
  • What does it matter?
  • Why is it important?" [6]

In providing a response to schooling's "why," purpose brings an energy and focus that contextualizes and integrates academic work:

"Only when students discover personal meaning in their work do they apply their efforts with focus and imagination." ...[7]

"Goals are integrative." [9]

"It's not simply academic motivation in the conventional sense. Rather, purpose behind the requirements. Why strive to learn and use the work in a masterful and ethical way?" [8]

"Only a long view fueled by energetic purpose can build and sustain capacities that will be needed."[10]

Similarly, from Robert Quinn, an organizational psychologist whose work includes schooling:

"The capacity to learn and create emanates from genuine commitment to purpose. When we really care we are willing to fail our way to success. In this process, we see and do things no one else does. ... Purpose gives rise to learning ..." [25-5]

It's further significant that purpose can contextualize a student's academic work because, unlike student/human value for purpose, academic work generally is not valued for its sake alone. In Why Students Don't Like School, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham explains: "We're naturally curious, but we're not naturally good thinkers."[30] Academic work may be good for you, but often is not experienced as "good." For example:


Largely Elusive --
Consistent with many other indicators, Damon's nationally representative sample of U.S. high school students indicated that only a small minority of students have been finding personal purpose:

Damon found that the youth who had developed purpose (e.g., environmental causes, music performance, computer programming) were generally quite normal; for example, they weren't prodigies. "What is special about these highly motivated young people is their exceptional clarity of purpose." [79]

Finally, Damon concluded that applicability is indeed broad: "Anyone can find purpose and pursue it with rich benefit to themselves and others." [82]

"It is the combination of normalcy and exceptional initiative that makes this group so informative to us. Their experiences offer lessons that are wholly relevant to all young people growing up today. [83]

Developmentally, the proper period in life to begin such reflection is during adolescence when a youngster begins to make choices about what kind of person to become and what kind of life to lead." [84]

Elusiveness of purpose also extends to the level of higher education, including encompassing high academic achievers. For example:

For those who aren't among the highest achieving students, the prospect of purpose is no less valued and no less valuable, including as context for academic work. For example, discovery early enough can mean avoiding or reducing the need for remediation for those who continue to higher education and including potentially higher rates of college completion based on having a clear and compelling "why" for the study.

Broadly speaking, Sir Ken Robinson has described a "human energy crisis" related in part to the reality that strengths and interests can be "buried deep" inside individuals. For too many, the existing means for accessing these internal drivers have not been sufficient, and in the 21st century, the access is important to society, not to individuals only.

Learnable --
Bryan Stevenson's experience fits into Damon's main argument, stemming from the Stanford Youth Purpose Project, that finding personal purpose "has been a good deal harder than it should be."[15.5] Damon offers general guidelines to support student "pathways to purpose," which he refers to as a learning process:

"The learning process takes time, but it's not an unpleasant process." (Damon identified twelve steps that have characterized the discovery process of youth who have connected with a compelling personal purpose, elaborated at Part Three of this page, under Personalized Guidance.) [17]

"Developmentally, the proper period in life to begin such reflection is during adolescence." [18]

"We should not leave such discoveries to chance." [18.5]

It's noteworthy that Damon argues that support is vital for purpose discovery:

"Anyone can find purpose and pursue it with rich benefit to themselves and others ... But support is vital along the way (including from family and community)." ... (Students) are determined but not self-sufficient. [16]

It's noteworthy in particular because this support is not always accessible. Plus, no matter the level of support (from much to none), it's noteworthy that early and continuing principles-based instruction with innovation's methods may provide unusually robust support that is accessible to all students. It may provide the support of an instrument that is both natural and intentional for cultivating students' purpose development -- one that provides grounding for experience-based exploration of purpose over a period of years.

The present-day attention to purpose development among youth, including the call for support, resembles reflections of John W. Gardner from over fifty years ago. Gardner lamented "a vast reservoir of underutilized strengths," and in a book about "the individual and the innovative society," he wrote:

“(W)e must help the individual to (re-)establish a meaningful relationship with a larger context of purpose. … (O)ne of the reasons young people do not commit themselves to the larger social enterprise is that they are genuinely baffled as to the nature of that enterprise. … They do not see where they fit in. If they are to commit themselves to the best in their own society, it is not exhortation they need but instruction. … We must also help the individual to discover how such commitments may be made without surrendering individuality."[19]

Indeed, one particular 2016 resource for finding purpose is the publication Finding Purpose, Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling, by Andrew Hoffman, a scholar of environmental issues and sustainable enterprise. In this book, Hoffman provides an echo of, and also response to, Gardner's very words. The resource is constructed around the connection between personal purpose and "the nature of the larger social enterprise" in the 21st century -- establishing the means to a sustainable world. Given this context, Hoffman calls for individual responses to the questions of what needs to change, why, and how change takes place -- acknowledging the force of personal purpose. [19-2]

Like Gardner and others, Hoffman acknowledges the need to support students: "(W)e need to instill in people a deep desire to use their abilities and influence to make the world a better place." [19-4] An aspect of that support is to reinforce understanding of the value of a purposeful connection to the larger world (the opposite of "surrendering individuality"):

Again, it's notable that the 21st century world needs individuals' abilities and influence broadly. It hasn't always.

Innovation Learning as Potential Instrument for Purpose Cultivation --
Given the special human value for purpose and the belief that "we should not leave such discoveries to chance" -- for the sake of both individuals and the larger world -- it's significant that innovation instruction, beginning within K-12 years, might be especially fitting as a natural and intentional instrument that can support purpose cultivation. It's an instrument that provides structure for exploration and incorporates experience-based learning.

Indeed, it's not surprising that principles-based innovation instruction can be mapped to a series of steps that Damon related to discovery of purpose among the youth in his study.[19-5] This mapping and more is discussed under the section above on Embedded Personalized Guidance.

Plus, throughout all of the detailed discussion in Part Three, just below, the human value for purpose provides a leverage point for learning about both innovation and personal purpose.

Within the context of U.S. public schooling, the opportunity for innovation instruction (e.g., as of middle school years) may even amount to "more is less," in that purpose brings focus and integration.

In fact, it seems that something in the ballpark of purpose development was at one time considered as a strategic complement to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). A strategy statement included on the web site of the sponsoring Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) described an overall goal of providing for:

Although not specified as "purpose," the idea of personalization of the standards may have featured a kindred type of development, and at any rate, the framework of "every student" and "each student" seems fitting. It's also in keeping with an innovation model for "mass customization," as discussed at this site's separate Learning Applications page.[25]

In a big-picture sense, it could be argued that every student should know the reason that innovation's forces matter within the 21st century, including knowing what those forces are and how it all works. Every year a new cohort of students graduates into that larger context.



Part Four -- "How it Could Become"


"Pick a battle worth fighting. Try to do something that has the potential to impact a lot of lives." [77]

Steve Case, AOL co-founder


Most fundamentally, realizing the above "what could be" -- broad access to high-leverage learning about innovation -- requires the activity of establishing a high-quality version of innovation's organizing principles.

The organizing principles represent one element of a strategy that consists of hypotheses for "how" the potential for high-leverage learning "could become":


Sample "How it Could Become" Hypotheses --

The hypotheses listed below are for the sake of example only. They're not elaborated at this time, both for the sake of brevity and because they require the gathering and/or input of much more knowledge and perspective.

Of note, although temporally, the development of organizing principles would come first, that developmental activity is listed last in order to begin by filling out the overall picture of "what could be."

Overall --

Begin K-12. (Urgent need to make better use of these grades, as pipeline to post-secondary. Also, window of opportunity for favorable properties of adolescent brain.) Integrate vertically with higher education, for continued trajectories and modular interface.

i. For K-12


(i) Study nature of localized approaches already underway, including program evaluations and trajectories of curricula/programming/teacher training.

(ii) Co-create pilot strategy and (online course) curriculum with highly-interested teachers, students, and others (e.g., partners, state leaders).

Consider "lean startup" approach to development, beginning with a "minimum viable product" and proceeding with constant and nimble evaluation and improvements. At first, incorporate testing of organizing principles. Overall, criterion for "passing test" is "forcefully positive value" to students.

Sample strategic elements for curriculum:

  • Parallel to long-existing approach to teaching methods of science.

  • Map to Common Core State Standards

  • All students exposed -- For example, could be situated in social studies given innovation as economic and societal phenomenon. (But all teachers trained for a methodology that integrates and applies knowledge.)

  • Followed by innovation electives.

  • In general, draw upon existing pedagogical structures (e.g., project-based learning) combined with array of innovation models/tools. Develop new innovation teaching tools to fill gaps (e.g., see Application Sketches in next section).

  • Be explicit with students that teachers are modeling new epoch of lifelong learning and adaptation and/or allow for non-credentialed ("Innovation certified") community resources for teaching (which would mean developing this new certification in line with organizing principles).

(iii) Devise parallel teacher training (online and/or in person) working with same team above plus other resources (e.g., professional development expertise).

(iv) Test in varied schools, but which all have interested faculty (self-selected early adopters). Modify strategy and curriculum per experience; solidify for ease of use and overall check of "compelling value" in eyes of customers.

(v) Offer "free market" type of roll-out, resembling the adoption of a new technology, either within interested states or across states. Early adopting teachers are likely to become a rich source of curricular design and support, including likely participation in online communities of practice.

Partners & Resources:

(i) PBL/Design Thinking -- An organization like the Buck Institute shares value for "gold standard" project-based learning (they developed it) and possesses teacher training expertise. They also have network of schools already trained in PBL. IDEO (design thinking exoertise, including teaching it) could find value in partnering for curriculum development and perhaps development of tools.

(ii) Online Specialists -- In addition to overall input, there may be examples of established courses that represent strong models for online instruction.

(iii) Khan Academy could value this overall endeavor and could add substantial value of quality instructional videos. (See sketch of instructional video under Application Sketches below). They are most likely to respond enthusiastically if strong organizing principles have been developed by and/or endorsed by figures they know and respect.

Open Educational Resources could represent an alternate venue for learners to access videos and other potential resources.

(v) Council of Chief State School Officers -- This influential policymaking body shares the value for cultivating higher-order thinking skills and may be predisposed to innovation instruction's particular mode of personalizing learning. They also have an active innovation lab and close connections with public education's operational frontline.

(vi) Positive Psychology thought leaders -- Positive psychology is fundamental to this site's hypothesis regarding the special value of purpose. Plus, the still-young field includes the specialization of "Positive Education," which includes (but is not limited to) what the field labels as "character development," which overlaps (perhaps a lot) with what this site refers to as "purpose development." For example, Positive Psychology's "strengths" are character strengths; developed and engaged strengths (especially when connected with a personally meaningful purpose in the larger world) are associated with "flourishing." There are additional aspects of overlap with this site, all worth understanding.

(iv) Prominent innovators with education/public interest -- e.g., Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, other.


District/State policymakers -- Gain enthusiastic endorsement and support from local and regional policymakers and political leaders (includes modest budget support). Value to them is more engaged students for yield on schooling $ and greater workforce capability. Plus argument for window of opportunity for teen brain plasticity.

Customer Segments:

Students as primary customers. Proposed value as described in core hypothesis (high-leverage learning about innovation, with embedded support for personal sense of direction, or purpose).

Teacher customers are as primary, or almost as primary, as students. See proposed value under "Activities" above.

Parent customers: Value of engaged students and greater opportunities. Yield on schooling time/$.

Public (taxpayer) customers: Proposed value of more fruitful use of public investment in schooling. Plus greater workforce capability. Opportunities or youth.


ii. Higher Education

Make parallel to research methods (consistent grounding to span all disciplines and undergrad/grad).

  • Versus status quo of widely-varying frameworks for innovation curricula. Given multidisciplinary and cross-functional, shared intelligibilty is especially important.

  • Indeed, it seems only a matter of time until the majority of a university departments, or disciplines, will include "Innovation Methods" curricula in parallel to "Research Methods" curricula, including the parallel of beginning with organizing principles.

Pilot with pioneering type of university (e.g., Arizona State University).

See Application sketch for social innovation as one example.


Develop organizing principles:

Note - The possibilities below are for the purpose of example. They're limited to those I know of.

Need spearhead candidate(s):

Leading candidates: Michael Crow (president of Arizona State University)? John Hennessey (president of Stanford University)? Richard Miller (president of Olin College of Engineering)?

Core committee, plus advisory circle for feedback/input:

Types of expertise to be represented: economics (on innovation's purpose and also workforce aspects), business and social/public sector practitioners and thinkers (including technology expertise), positive psychology, educational psychology (including creativity experts), education innovators, public thinkers/advocates.

Sample recruitment list:

Educators with Priority of Innovation Instruction -- ASU's Michael Crow, Stanford's John Hennessey, Michigan's Andrew Hoffman & James Duderstadt, Harvard's Clayton Christensen and Tony Wagner, MIT's Christine Ortiz, K-12 Teacher Pioneers and Early Adopters

K-12 thought leaders and practitioners with emphasis on teaching critical thinking -- e.g., Daniel Willingham

Eduators with Knowledge about Creativity and Teaching It (includes element of wisdom) -- Robert Sternberg (WICS model for teaching/learning), Teresa Amabile, Mihalyi Csikcszentmihaly, Guy Claxton, Howard Gardner, Ken Robinson

"Value" -- Positive Psychology's Martin Seligman, Angela Duckworth ("grit"), other

Commercial Sector -- Drucker Institute, Steve Case, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, John Seeley-Brown

Social Sector -- Bill Drayton (Ashoka), Stephen Goldsmith, Kaiser Permanente, other

Purpose Expertise -- Stanford's William Damon, Univ. Michigan's Andrew Hoffman, MSU's Barbara Schneider

Design -- IDEO, Stanford University d.School

Innovation Models/Tools -- e.g., Tom Kelley (personas; design thinking), Eric Ries (lean startup), Clayton Christensen (disruption), other

Thought leaders regarding workforce -- e.g., Georgetown's Anthony Carnevale, McKinsey & Co.



IN SUM -- Harnessing the Resources of Expert Knowledge & Students' Progress in Personal Direction

If the structured exploration of personally-compelling purpose that is embedded in learning about innovation produces progress in a personal sense of direction, students' experience of progress is likely to be received as "forcefully positive value."

It may be precisely because of this force that broad student access to an innovation learning system -- grounded and connected by organizing principles -- stands a chance of addressing the societal "ill" of needed advances in innovation's effects. Value for purpose provides a leverage point for learning about both innovation and personal purpose.

Broad access to early and continuing innovation instruction is significant as a possibility for catalyzing the win-win change of more flourishing individual lives and more societal capability for innovation's needed effects.





[1] David Bornstein, How to Change the World, Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, (Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 2004), p 55

[2] John W. Gardner,Self-renewal; the individual and the innovative society (Harper & Rowe, New York, 1963), p 12

[2-1] William Damon, Path to Purpose, How Young People Find their Calling in Life (Simon&Schuster: New York, 2008). See particular points within the body of this page.

[2-2] Daniel J. Siegel, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain (Penguin Group: New York, 2013), p 6, p 94

[3] Martin E. P. Seligman, Flourish, A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, (Free Press, Simon & Schuster: New York, 2011)

[4] Damon, 2008, ch 2

[5] Damon, 2008, p 32

[6] Damon, 2008, p 113

[7] Damon, 2008

[8] Damon, 2008, p 113

[9] Damon, 2008, p 94

[10] Damon, 2008, p 109

[11] Damon, 2008, p 59

[12] Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in A New Culture of Learning, Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, (Create Space: Lexington, KY, 2011)

[13] jTwo Stanford professors wrote a book after a course they offered on "Designing Your Life" became so popular that it became standard for all Stanford freshmen: Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, Designing Your Life (Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 2016)

[14] Wendy Kopp, One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph Of Teach For America And What I Learned Along The Way, (Public Affairs: New York, 2001)

[15] Bryan Stevenson has described this path during many interviews, speaking engagements, and in the book: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Random House: New York, 2014)

[15.5] Damon, 2008, p 120

[16] Damon, 2008, p 104, p 99

[17] Damon, 2008, p 97

[18] Damon, 2008, p 106

[18.5] Damon, 2008, p 171

[19] Gardner, 1963, p 12

[19-2] Andrew J. Hoffman, Finding Purpose, Environmental Stewardship as a Personal Calling, (Greenleaf Publishing Ltd: U.K, 2016), ch 3

[19-3] Hoffman, 2016, p 3

[19-4] Hoffman, 2016, p 5

[19-5] See these steps at this page's section on the lever of Embedded Personalized Guidance.

[20] See for example:

Daniel T. Willingham, Why Don't Students Like School?, (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2009)

Arthur G. Powell, Eleanor Farrar, and David K. Cohen, The Shopping Mall High School (Houghton Mifflin, 1985)

[21] This cultural characteristic is probed in Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life, (Alfred A. Knopf: New York, 1963)

[22] Education Week, June 8, 2017, Teacher Blog, "Most Students Are Not Naturally Interested in STEM, Teachers Say"

[23] See for example the demands depicted in: Robert J. Sternberg, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, New York, 2003)

[24] Web site for Council of Chief State School Officers:
When the CCSSO's above two-part strategy statement was a part of its web site (~2010), the need to determine instruments for personalizing (not specifically purpose development) was the primary associated discussion point, including a statement that CCSSO would be participating in a coming associated conference. In more recent years, the strategy seems not to have been included at the web site, and it's not clear what ensued.

[25] C. K. Prahalad and M. S. Krishnan, The New Age of Innovation, (McGraw-Hill: New York, 2008).
"Mass customizaton" follows from Prahalad and Krishnan's model for "maximal value" of "N=1; R=G," which emphasizes an ever-improving match between customer interests and global resources, which the authors argue has been gaining traction for years, not a new idea. Total optimal value is realized when value is customized for every individual customer (N=1) by drawing on a global span of resources (R=G).

Borrowing the model for the context of schooling, the idea at this site is that a strategy for "every" and "each" student could lend itself to "maximal value." In particular, the more that a developing personal purpose contextualizeseach student's academic work, the broader the pool of learning resources that can be harnessed in support of overall development.

[25-5] Robert Quinn, "Determination and Openness,", Feb. 22, 2016

[26] Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p 12

[26.5] The expression and concept of "integrating and applying" knowledge (as opposed to the university's traditional focus on "generating" knowledge, with attendant reward systems) comes from Clayton M. Christensen and Henry J. Eyring, The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2011). 

[26-8] Jerome S. Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, (Harvard University Press, 1986), p 52

[27] Siegel, 2013, p 6, p 94

[35-5] At this site's Principles-Sources page, see the Creativity section (topic "C") for discussion of sources associated with each of these thematic conditions.

[36] “Seeing Differently: Insights on Innovation” / edited with an introduction by John Seely Brown. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, c1997

[37] Willingham, 2009, p 68

[38] Willingham, 2009, p 67

[39] Willingham, 2009, p 32

[40] Bruner, 1960

[41] Willingham, 2009, p 27

[42] Bruner, 1960

[43] Peter F. Drucker, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, (HarperBusiness, 1985)

[43-5] Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, (New York Riverhead Books, 2010) , p 35

[44] David Henry Feldman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and Howard Gardner, Changing the World, A Framework for the Study of Creativity, (Praeger Publishers: Westport, CT, 1994), p 38

[45] Kauffman Foundation, “Entrepreneurship in American Higher Education,” A Report from the Kauffman Panel on Entrepreneurship Curriculum in Higher Education

[46] Willingham, 2009, ch 4

[46-5] James J. Duderstadt, Glenn F. Knoll, George S. Springer, Principles of Engineering, (Wiley: New York, 1982)

[47] Within last two minutes of: T-Summit 2016, Video: National Town Hall,

[49] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Barbara Schneider, Becoming adult : how teenagers prepare for the world of work, (Basic Books: New York, 2000), pp 219-220

[50] Jerome S. Bruner, On Knowing, Essays for the Left Hand, (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge, 1962), p 18

[51] Wendy Kopp, One Day, All Children: The Unlikely Triumph Of Teach For America And What I Learned Along The Way, (Public Affairs: New York, 2001), p 4

[52] A. G. Lafley and Ram Charan, The Game-Changer, (Crown Business: New York, 2008)

[53] David M. Kelley and Tom Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All, (Crown Publishing Group: New York, 2013)

[54] This source became lost, but I found the expression too nice to lose.

[55] Willingham, 2009, ch 4

[56] Drucker, 1985. Drucker described reader views that innovation and entrepreneurship is "only marketing" and agreeing that is is only marketing (which doesn't make it simple).

[57] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow : the psychology of optimal experience, (Harper Perennial: New York, 1991)

[58] Willingham, 2009, p 10

[59] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millenium, (HarperCollins: New York, 1993)

[60] Drucker, 1985, p 27

[61] Tom Kelley, The Art of Innovation, (New York : Doubleday: New York, 2001)

[61-5] Gardner, 1963, p 34

[61-6] Drucker, 1985, p 34

[61-7] Drucker, 1985, p 34

[62] See this site's Sources page, under the Creativity section, for a heading that associates sources with thematic internal and external conditions.

[63] Johnson, 2010

[64]  Thomas A. Stewart, The Wealth of Knowledge (Currency Books, 2001), p 192

[65] At this web site's Quick Reference page, see a brief description of ~15 models and tools, plus a mapping of various tools to innovation's fundamental methods.

][66] As one example of practical abilities, see the WICS model's inclusion and description: Practical ability is used to translate theory into practice and abstract ideas into practical accomplishments. It is also used to convince other people that an idea is valuable ... (and) to recognize ideas that have a potential audience." "Practical ability involves applying, using, implementing, contextualizing, and putting into practice."

Also, from Tony Wagner, Creating Innovators, (Simon & Schuster: New York, 2012), consider his elaboration of "seven survival skills" -- for every U.S. individual's fundamental level of productive participation in the third millenium:

[67] Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning, Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, (Create Space: Lexington, KY, 2011)

[68] Robert J. Sternberg, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Creativity Synthesized, (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, New York, 2003)

[69] Jerome S. Bruner, Actual Minds, Possible Worlds, (Harvard University Press, 1986), p 52

[70] John W. Gardner, On Leadership, (The Free Press: New York, NY, 1990), p 165

[70-1] See a section devoted to these thematic internal and external conditions at this site's Principles-Sources page (at the Creativity section).

[71] Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux: New York, 2011)

[72] Gardner, 1963, p 38

[73] Bruner, 1962, p 20

[74] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millenium, (HarperCollins: New York, 1993)

[75] Bruner, 1960, p 28

[76] Thomas and Seely Brown, 2011

[77] Remarks on Oct. 11, 2017 in Ann Arbor, Mi, on Rise of the Rest tour.

[78] Damon, 2008, p 96

[79] Damon, 2008, p 80

[80] Damon, 2008, p94

[81] Damon, 2008, p 96

[81-5] Tom Kelley, The Ten Faces of Innovation, (Currency Doubleday: New York, 2005)

[82] Damon, 2008, p 104

[83] Damon, 2008, p 103

[84] Damon, 2008, p 106

[85] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Barbara Schneider, Becoming adult : how teenagers prepare for the world of work, (Basic Books: New York, 2000), p 220

[86] Gardner, 1963, p 12

[86-5] Csikszentmihalyi and Schneider, 2000, p 219

[87] Web site for Council of Chief State School Officers: When the CCSSO's above two-part strategy statement was a part of its web site (~2010), the need to determine instruments for personalizing (not specifically purpose development) was the primary associated discussion point, including a statement that CCSSO would be participating in a coming associated conference. In more recent years, the strategy seems not to have been included at the web site, and it's not clear what ensued.

[88] C. K. Prahalad and M. S. Krishnan, The New Age of Innovation, (McGraw-Hill: New York, 2008)