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First Thoughts

The buzzword of the last several years is 'innovation.' Some of the highest praise a startup could receive is to be called "innovative" and Apple seems to capture news cycle after news cycle with stories about their innovations or lack thereof, depending on which cycle you're in. New product? Is Apple the World's Most Innovative Company? Products seem repetitive or redundant? Apple Lacks Innovation. In today's world, we are saturated with innovations to the point we've lost the weight of the word. Innovations should make a difference. Innovations should give us pause and make us understand that the ground we are standing on isn't safe. Innovations, really, are about observing your context and then combining everything you know to be true with a handful of your assumptions and creating a path forward that nobody else saw. 

This month, I wanted to start in an odd place: a history book. Reading about the founding of our country was a fascinating look at a time when innovation was (quite possibly) at its peak. The mix of minds, personalities, and ideas needed to create a more perfect union seemed to be just right. Pulitizer-winning historian Joseph Ellis' take on the Constitutional Convention and what led to it is a case study in innovation.

I've pulled three articles each with their own spin related to innovation and I'm selfishly incorporating my own 'innovation' (it really isn't) at the end.


Reader's Digest

The Quartet: Orchestrating America's Second Revolution

Joseph J. Ellis


  • Under the Articles of Confederation, even writing the Constitution was technically illegal.
  • The first American Revolution (think: 1776) was not about forming a country but instead a short-term political alliance of 13 independent states that intended to go their separate ways following British defeat.
  • There are many lessons to be learned, particularly about innovation, from understanding how the United States (a laughable term in 1787) came to be.
  • Hamilton and Madison has incredible foresight and knew the Articles of Confederation would (in all likelihood) lead to the destruction of some or all of the 13 States.
  • The only solution was one that accounted for the honest (and vehement) disagreements held by early Americans. Are we States? Or are we a Nation? (Hint: the answer is "yes")
  • Madison was against the Bill of Rights before he was for it, eventually writing them to appease larger states like Virginia, his home state that would eventually send him to Congress, where he would pull a full 180 on his views of Federalism vs. states' rights.

Key Quotes:

“The Constitution was intended less to resolve arguments than to make argument itself the solution. For judicial devotees of "originalism" or "original intent," this should be a disarming insight, since it made the Constitution the foundation for an ever-shifting political dialogue that, like history itself, was an argument without end. Madison's "original intention" was to make all "original intentions" infinitely negotiable in the future.” 

“Madison’s experience at both the state and the federal level had convinced him that “the people” was not some benevolent, harmonious collective but rather a smoldering and ever-shifting gathering of factions or interest groups committed to provincial perspectives and vulnerable to demagogues with partisan agendas.” 

Around the Web

The Psychological Argument for a Universal Basic Income 

Olivia Barrow
I'm arguing that to be innovative, an idea must make you stop and think. It must make you question what you believe and wonder about how to move forward. It should raise doubts. It should make you stop and wonder how such a path forward would even be feasible. 

This article did just that for me. It's been a few weeks since I read it and I'm still chewing on it. I'm not an economist or a social worker, so maybe it's easier for those who live in this world, but the idea of each person getting a monthly stipend is odd to me. Not in a bad way, just that it's unusual. And yet...

Key Quote:

"A universal basic income offers what American families need in light of increased scarcity and psychological uncertainty: a restructuring of the social contract for the modern age. The United States has the largest economy in the world. Its citizens shouldn’t suffer psychological scarring from scarcity."


Too Busy to Innovate 

Jeffrey Phillips 
I mean, the title alone should be enough to check this one out. In short: are you making enough space in your life for actual innovation? (See: last month's newsletter on Deep Work) 

Key Quote:

"Once we are all fully booked every working hour in meetings, discussions and debates we'll finally be fully efficient, and almost as assuredly innovation will wither and die."




Innovative Companies Get Their Best Ideas from Academic Research

(Given that I work at an academic research institution, I suppose I'm a little predisposed to like this article. But see for yourself!)

Just for fun:

Moderately self-serving here, but (at least partially as a joke and partially as a scaffold for understanding) I've 'created' the Modern Teaching and Learning (MTL) Framework. The main idea is that everything is working towards Personalized Learning experiences. TPACK in the center establishes the appropriate balance of content, pedagogy, and technology. SAMR is only within the technology circle to help choose the appropriate technology for the task at hand/learning objective. Solid TPACK should lead to a better implementation of the 4Cs, which in turn lead to Personalized Learning.

Naturally, there's more to explore and develop, but nonetheless, I wanted to show my work. I'd love to hear your feedback!
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