The Innovator's DNAInnovate

The key to engagement is involving students in transforming information into something new or a different ways of thinking. When you're on the computer, you're likely to copy and paste. Move between on-computer and off-computer activities to help students with transformation.

Turn website content into a skit. Use the computer's camera to record the skit. Use objects in the room to tell the story of recycling.

Combine Legos and website resources for creative projects.

In The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, and Clayton M. Christensen, the authors identify five skills of innovators in business and industry. These five ideas can easily be applied to creative thinking in the K-12 environment.


The key to associating is connecting the unconnected. Use chains, cycles, patterns, and associations to help students build associations.

By the time students are in high school, they've seen most of the online interactives. Reach beyond the classics and introduce resources where students can draw comparisons. For instance, use the interactives from the Puke Ariki Museum in New Zealand or the National Museum of Australia. Ask students to examine an interactive and compare this experience with a current classroom topic.

Zoom In and Zoom Out. Students are accustomed to zooming in and out on the computer. Involve students in zooming into one example and zooming back out to see the big picture. How does this one example fit the big picture? Then, make comparisons with other students. Examples: one food in a food group; one battle in a war; one phobia to reflect the idea of phobia.

Lego Thinking. You need lots of ideas from many different directions. Then, ideas can be recombined in many ways. The more Lego you have, the more combinations are possible! In addition, you need many different types of pieces not just a bunch of blocks. Students need both breadth (many types of pieces) and depth (lots of pieces). When applied to the classroom, students need breadth across subjects and depth of expertise in each subject.

Making Associating Happen

The Innovator's DNA recommends five tips:

Start with website content and ask students to create an off-computer visualization of what they've learned.


Questioning is the key to creativity. In addition to the standard, who, what, where, when, why, and how. Ask why-not?, what caused? and what-if? questions.

Get students involved in both critical and creative thinking through quality content and evaluation skills. Provide access to databases and deep web resources that go beyond wikipedia. The ability to systematically ask deep questions, use reasoning, and apply evidence to develop arguments, solve problems and make decisions.


Watch the world around you. See how school is connected to the larger world.

Observe from a distance with webcams:


Connect with outside experts and people beyond your classroom.


Try new experiences.

life vestTry It!
Select one of the five skills of innovators. Design an activity that that develops or applies one of these skills.

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