This Friday, Mount Vernon Institute for Innovation sponsors an annual event called Council on Innovation, where we invite a group of 20-25 industry leaders and entrepreneurs to join us for a day of learning. The structure for the day includes moments of discussion, MoVe talks, a salon lunch, and a design thinking Flashlab all centered around one theme. This year’s theme, “Disruptive Curiosity,” will drive our day together as we purposefully plan moments of intersection between faculty, students, Council members, and members of the greater Mount Vernon community. In the morning, after the welcome and introductions, we will lead our Council through the Four A’s Protocol around an article called Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence, a Harvard Business Review piece. During this segment in the past, I’ve so appreciated hearing the insights, thoughts, and provocations of our Council as they engage in a discussion around something that is connected to who we are as a school. It’s so easy to work with the blinders on, but this moment provides purposeful pause, so we can hear and learn from what leaders in other industries think and wonder. And truthfully, the insights from our Council in the past has influenced program development and have affirmed some of the work we’ve done to connect our students to more authentic experiences. From this session, we’ll add a new component to our program that will take the Council through a series of provocations to help us test the idea that students and entrepreneurs/industry leaders can actually co-work and co-learn in a common space. This is something we already do – as evidenced by some of the Innovation Diploma work last year with the Center for Disease Control, North America Energy Services, Museum of Design Atlanta, and nine other Georgia nonprofits – but it’s something want to amplify and do better. What better time to test that idea than with a council of 21 invested leaders from our community? After a small break, and a salon lunch, which provides yet another moment for our Council to interact with students, faculty, parents and board members around a series of questions, we’ll end the day with a primer in DEEP design thinking, through what we call a Flashlab where both Council members and iD students act as both designers and users in a fast-paced design thinking challenge around disruptive curiosity.
As a designer of both learning and of this day itself, I am feeling excited, nervous, and anxious for Friday to arrive. I have a special place in my heart for COI because for me it symbolizes the beginning of my journey in building and launching Innovation Diploma. In 2013, I had the opportunity to co-lead a group of students through a design thinking challenge around “global competitiveness” and through interviews with council members and a high energy design sprint, our kids came up with some incredible prototypes of what it means for us to more purposefully live out part of our mission to be “globally competitive” and “engaged citizen leaders.” These prototypes and the insights revealed through the interviews and conversations with council members, helped us more fully realize the need for a program like Innovation Diploma. Three years later, we are bringing 25 iD students into the fold as both facilitators and participants – as both teachers and learners. Three years later, we’ve built a program from scratch that has our students developing skills to engage in real-world problems beyond the scope of what could happen in a class room, in a class period. And yet, there is so much room for us to grow and improve. We haven’t even come close to figuring out what is or what should be the right formula (if there even is one) for school. But I can tell you, we’re not afraid to lay our cards on the table and say what next? We’re not afraid to make the next move, to test it out, and even if we fail, know we’ve moved the needle – even just a bit – on what could be.