Flipping the Script; 3 Obstacles to Innovation Viewed Differently

Arguments against innovative practices abound.  Innovation comes from not only dealing with roadblocks but recognizing when to turn these same roadblocks into the conversation on how we can do things differently and much better.

Think about the way you (and others) ask questions. Is it in pursuit of moving forward or the hidden reality of holding on to what you have always done?

Here are three common arguments I hear against innovation, and how I respond to them.


1. We don’t have time.

No matter where you go in the world, there are 24 hours in a day. Why is it that some schools are able to do things in a much more compelling way? They do not have more time, they just use it more effectively.

Let’s retire the “we don’t have time” argument. Start to rethink what is important, and how we are using our time. It is not about adding more, it is about doing things differently and better.

I had this same conversation with a teacher years ago about how they could not have students blog because there was no time in the day, yet when observing them, they had students write (copy) for 20-30 minutes items into their agenda daily. The argument was, “They need to be able to learn to organize.”  Reality check; I do not write any notes into a book that says “agenda”. It all goes onto my phone.  I am also not learning to organize myself if I am told what to write down exactly.  I am learning to do what you tell me.  Send them a google calendar appointment (PS…this was a classroom where all students had a laptop) if you like, and then use the other 19 minutes and 30 seconds to do something where the students have to be thoughtful, not mindlessly write off of a board.

Reshape your time, because there is no more coming your way.

2. We don’t have money.

There has never been a school that I have traveled to where they said, “We have so much money this year! What should we do with all of it?”

How you use your money and where you spend it is crucial.  Are you asking for innovation yet having the same textbook budget year after year?

Here is a great conversation starter for the “money” question.  Check out this gif on the “Evolution of the Desk”.

 evolution desk GIF

The question I always ask after showing this, is that if your school has more access to laptops, is your school supply list exactly the same?  Are there things that you can do with this one device, that you are spending money on elsewhere?

Again, it is not always about finding more, but rethinking what you have.

3.We are not sure this will work.

When I hear this reluctance to try something new because of fear of failure, I always try to get people to think about what they are doing now.  Is that practice knocking it out of the park?  Are worksheets “best practice” or “easiest practice”?  If what you are doing right now is stoking curiosity, and a love of deep learning, while empowering students, there is no need to search elsewhere. Do what you are doing.  But if it is not working for every kid, then you have to go out and venture and find (or create) something better for your students.

We also have to redefine “risk”. This is how I explain it to educators:

Risk defined

It doesn’t seem so bad when you see it that way, does it?

If you are not sure something “new” will work for your students, you also have to look at if the “old” thing is truly working, or if we are just doing it because we always have?


What is important about all of these “challenges” is that we use them as an opportunity to have conversations, not as roadblocks.  If we start looking at the challenges as a great way to get people to think differently about the “why, what, and how” of education, we are in a good spot. If we ignore these statements and running away from the challenges, we are actively doing what we don’t want to happen in our schools.

If people are not comfortable sharing these statements, it doesn’t mean they don’t believe them.  It just means that they are in a culture where they aren’t comfortable to have the conversation. Embrace the challenge and see it as an opportunity to move forward.

Every conversation we have is an opportunity to move education forward.

Source: George Couros