Innovation and failure...

Grant Lichtman offers tangible examples of innovation in his book #EdJourney and poses several questions on failure.

Photo of Jill Bergeron

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Innovation requires failure, right? But do we have to call it failure? That sounds like the end and I think that's how we all feel when we encounter failure, regardless of whether we are students or teachers. Perhaps we can begin to reframe failures as stumbling blocks toward success. With this in mind, I offer up Grant Lichtman's book #EdJourney which delves deep into innovative practices in schools across the country and asks these questions about failure.

  • What is failure and who defines it?
  • How is failure useful?
  • How will we recover from failure?
  • What are some examples of past organizational failure?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Moss Pike

Hi Jill! Following up with your great post to see if we can build a prototype out of it in our next phase. How might we design some cultural "tools" that allow us to engage with the questions you've identified above? How do we share and celebrate failure? Are there some examples from #EdJourney that could get us started? I'd love to explore failure with you in more detail in our "Ideate" phase!

Photo of Jill Bergeron

Hi Moss,
Sorry for the very late reply. I've been on vacation with my family. Anyway, I'd love to think about how failures could be celebrated.
I think we need to start off with a question like, "What was it about this idea that made it seem like it would be successful?" I don't think most people pursue an idea that they think will fail. So reflecting on what made them pursue the idea initially is a good idea. I also think this needs to be part of evaluations. Questions to include might be, "What did you do this year that failed?" and then a follow-up question might be, "Why did you consider it a failure?"
I also think that we need administrators to participate in this risk-taking process in a visible way. If teachers are supposed to be the models for students, then administrators should be the models for teachers, right?

Photo of Moss Pike

Hi Jill! Not a problem at all, and any delay in building the idea has been repaid with the direction you've suggested! I think you're exactly right that we need to focus on what success is in our minds. The goal now is to craft an evaluation as you've suggested or perhaps think of doing an interview (especially of someone in an admin position!), when we ask these questions. And it'd be fantastic to craft a list of questions as you've started here. Imagine the power that answers to them could have, if we can make them more visible within a community! More than happy to team up with you on a post, if you'd like. Excellent work!

Photo of Jill Bergeron

I see we only have 22 hours left. Should we write something up in a Google Doc and propose it?

Photo of Moss Pike

Sure; that's a great idea! Feel free to get something started in a Google Doc, from which we can cut/past into an ideate post. And if you'd like, also feel free to add me to your team in the Ideate post ("Team" button is toward the bottom). Excited to put something together with you! I'm mosspike at gmail, in case you want to share anything with me.

Photo of Ellen Deutscher

Jill, Thanks for your post. I agree that sometimes failure sounds like an end point. Ultimately we don't want our students to fail in the end. I sometimes use the #failforward term. I like stumbling blocks, because I visualize stumbling and recovering when I say #failforward.

Photo of Mark Carlucci

We need to redefine failure. Something like,
1. A step of the path to success.
2. A learning opportunity.

Photo of Patrick Murray

Is it failure or progress?

Photo of Mark Carlucci

I think that failure is synonymous with progress. Maybe not necessarily progress in the direction we are hoping, but progress nonetheless.
Failure carries too many negative connotations and the concept, explicitly or not, comes up all to often. Putting a positive spin on it, in my opinion, is something we should be working towards.

Photo of Bob Weiman

A group from my school took a blended learning course with Grant Lichtman last year, and this was a very interesting topic of conversation which led to important conversations about failure and risk-taking. How does one encourage risk-taking among teachers or administrators in schools?

Photo of Becka Nathan

I really agree with the idea that we need to reframe failure as something not just ok but necessary! Stumbling blocks is a cool way to look at it, but sometimes I wonder if rather than changing the language we can just change our perceptions of something? Maybe rather than calling it something new we can just say that yep, that failed and be ok with it. Sometimes a failure is the end and we move on to something new and sometimes it is just a bump in the road, all comes back to reflection and not seeing a mistake as something bad but just something that happens :)

Photo of Moss Pike

Thanks for sharing #EdJourney, Jill! It's by far one of my favorite books on education and innovation. The way Grant frames innovation has stuck with me, namely, that innovation is only valuable if it's sustainable. The stories he shares are also scalable across any community, and so I'd love to see more people doing exactly what he did. Would love to talk it over some more!

Photo of Becka Nathan

The idea of innovation only being valuable if it is sustainable is such an important one, all the more reason to embed the culture into schools rather than it being personality based with a few teachers here and there!

Photo of Brett Brownell

Hi Jill, it looks like your post is still unpublished. If you're done drafting, be sure to click "Publish" at the top of the post and it will be added to the Discover phase. Thanks so much for contributing!