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Creating Innovators

The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World by Tony Wagner

· Organisational,Book Review

While this book is 6 years old, it is very relevant to the direction we take as a society from before primary school to beyond university.

The goal of the book is to understand what makes young innovators tick and to figure out how best to design educational and workplace environments that support innovation.

Through a series of interviews, the authors takes a holistic assessment of young people who are making their way through university and who have already commenced to show promise as innovators. He is also particularly interested in parenting styles, the teachers and education system that resonated with them and other key opportunities that made a difference in their lives.

Basically the author dissects through intensive qualitative case studies, how these young people were raised, challenged, supported, and developed to identify what themes emerge and what needs to be in place in all the intuitions our communities utilise to create innovative environments for them to thrive.

His conclusions focus on many of the themes already touched on by many other writers, but the value of this book is the extreme care he has taken to interview, listen to and seek out a variety of different demographic profiles all providing similar themes for creative success.

There is strong critique on education systems and particularly on the role teacher’s play and how they can be supported to create rich learning environments. He shines a light on the US university system and the lack of emphasis on approaches to teach students to think critically and creatively, communicate effectively, and collaborate.

Following the case studies of young innovators he discusses what works and doesn’t in fostering innovation in schools by presenting the themes of

  • individual achievement versus collaboration;
  • specialization versus multidisciplinary learning;
  • risk avoidance versus trial and error;
  • consuming versus creating; and
  • extrinsic versus intrinsic motivation.

The author also spends time discussing parenting for innovation at home and developing innovation-friendly workplaces. Key themes of parenting influences emphasis the value play, passion, perseverance and the importance of failure or iteration.

I also particularly enjoyed the additional links to videos that directly connect us to the individuals interviewed.

For more on Tony Wagner: