Knowing a bit about the strengths and weaknesses of the American public school system, I was overjoyed to read this article in Forbes by Erica Swallow  highlighting some of Tony Wagner’s research findings, while at Harvard Innovation, to be published in his new book The Global Achievement Gap.

Tony Wagner (Excerpt 1):

“We’ve created an economy based on people spending money they do not have to buy things they may not need, threatening the planet in the process,” he says. “We have to transition from a consumer-driven economy to an innovation-driven economy.”

One of five ways Wagner identifies how we stunt innovation in schools (Excerpt 2):

Risk aversion is the norm: “We penalize mistakes,” says Wagner. “The whole challenge in schooling is to figure out what the teacher wants. And the teachers have to figure out what the superintendent wants or the state wants. It’s a compliance-driven, risk-averse culture.” Innovation, on the other hand, is grounded in taking risks and learning via trial and error. Educators could take a note from design firm IDEO with its mantra of “Fail early, fail often,” says Wagner. And at Stanford’s Institute of Design, he says they are considering ideas like, “We’re thinking F is the new A.” Without failure, there is no innovation.

This calls for a quote from the great writer Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), from his prose poem Westward Ho:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.