What can schools learn from 3M, Google & Atlassian? Inspiring curiosity & creativity: Innovation Days

What have the companies 3M, Google & Atlassian got in common?  They all give their employees spaces of time to work on what they are curious about.  They have complete autonomy over how they work, who they work with and what they experiment with.  Ironically, given this freedom, they tend to work on creative solutions that will benefit their company – a win win situation if ever there was one!

This is not a recent development either; 3M employees have had 15% time every week since the 1930s and if you have ever used a Post it / Sticky note you have been the beneficiary of this 15% time.  Remarkably, Google’s famed 20% time, the equivalent of 1 working day per week, has been responsible for 50% of Google’s products including Gmail and Google News.  Finally, Atlassian, an Australian software company, organises a Fed Ex Day every quarter.  This challenges employees to ‘deliver’ new products & prototypes overnight.

This idea, coupled with discovering Josh Stumpenhort’s (@stumpteacher) blog (http://stumpteacher.blogspot.com/) & an idea he implemented led me to planning my own ‘Innovation Day’ for students.  This day is taking place in my school on Thursday 8th March 2012:

  • The ‘Innovation Day’ is open to ALL Year 7 to 10 students (approx 1200 students) who are invited to apply with a project they would like to work on for an entire school day, therfore giving them autonomy over their work.
  • We are starting with a small group of students (approx 20-30) to begin with just to see how successful it is.
  • We are hoping for a wide variety of applicants (musicians, artists, journalists, scientists, actors, sports people, builders etc..)
  • They can work individually or in small groups but must be give details of what the project entails, what resources they will provide and what resources they need from the school
  • The day will end with a ‘show & tell’ session in the school assembly hall in front of the other participants.  What have they created? What worked well? What went wrong etc?
  • If the day is successful we will hopefully try to make it a whole year or whole school day next time.  Obviously, space & resourcing will determine how big it can get

I am delivering the house assemblies next week to promote the day.  After speaking to various students & staff about this, they seem pretty excited about the idea – hopefully this transfers into quite a few applicants!

The tagline for ‘Innovation Day’ is ‘What’s your spark?‘.  In other words, what is your passion?  The poster can found by clicking on the link below (thanks to the work of a fantastic school LSA Rod Marsh):

Innovation Day Poster

I will let you know how this process goes over the next few weeks.  In the meantime, if anyone has heard of other schools doing something similar I would love to get in touch with them or vice versa.

Twitter: @BebbPEteach / email: matthewbebbington@hotmail.com

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4 Responses to What can schools learn from 3M, Google & Atlassian? Inspiring curiosity & creativity: Innovation Days

  1. Tom eaton says:

    Great idea bebbs! Look foward to hearing how this goes. I’ve had experience organising whole school collapsed timetable ‘super learning days’ at my school. They do throw up some challenges in terms of staffing and pupil engagement. Interesting that you have the opportunity to make this entirely optional. Was wondering what other stimulus you gave pupils to interest them?? Did you give them examples of what they could create??? What if more than 30 are up for it?? Would you have to be selective??

    • The guy I got the idea from (@stumpteacher – worth a follow), a teacher in Chicago, did this with an entire year group (approx 200 kids) which I find amazing given the potential difficulties with resources. The whole idea is that the teachers are entirely ‘hands off’ except when needed for prompting or advice so it is completely driven by the students themselves.

      When I run the assemblies next week I will give specific examples from the school in Chicago which you can find here (http://stumpteacher.blogspot.com/2011/03/innovation-day-2011.html) to get the kids’creative juices flowing! I’ve mentioned it to classes in numerous Years (8, 10 & 13) and they all seemed excited by such an opportunity & disbelief ie. ‘So let me get this right Sir, we can work on whatever we like for an entire school day? Me: ‘Yes’. ‘This sounds brilliant..’

      At the moment we are being selective just to see how it goes. Ideally, I would love to get the whole school involved on a given day but given the size of the school (2000) this may be impossible. Perhaps certain years could hold their own ‘Innovation Day’ on certain days which would then only involve 300 kids and therefore make it more manageable.

      I came across a tweet the other day, which I will forward to you (if I can find it) where a teacher in the US gave his students ‘20% time’ in EVERY lesson to work on a long term project that inspires passion, interest and a deeper understanding. These projects were not graded but shared with the class. I think this could be a simple, feasible solution to encourage creativity within lessons without need for a collapsed timetable. Obviously there would have the students would have to be accountable for their project & encouraged to progress by theor teacher. The teacher would therfore be a facilitator of learning & not merely an ‘imparter of knowledge’. Think i’ll blog about this idea in the next few days. Ta Tom!!

      • Tom eaton says:

        Thanks for sending me that mate – so interesting. stumpsie sounds like a bit of a leg end! Already thinking about how I could do something similar at my school. Hope yours goes well – keep us updated!

  2. Pingback: Audience | Opening Doors and Turning On Lights

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