The start of a school year might bring a sense of newness, but also the consideration of the importance of being innovative, of not doing the same thing, and, as the phrase says, of not “recreating the wheel.”
Sometimes, in our spirit and desire for accomplishment, we spend too much time doing what has already been done, or simply making small revisions that don’t need to be made, only making them so we can put our own individual stamp on.
To be fair, innovation doesn’t have to mean creating something entirely new (it is tough to tell how many truly novel ideas are left. . . we often don’t know they even exist until they aren’t novel anymore). Rather, it has to be about making changes that allow us to do something better, differently, or to/for/with a more diverse audience. In any of these cases though, innovation is never about doing the same thing, the same exact way.
Avoiding “wheel recreation” is something important to strive for, and we should never seek out accomplishment simply because. While our sense of accomplishment is one we should cater to, we should also be mindful that true accomplishment occurs when we reach a benchmark that we haven’t in the past, and that hopefully hasn’t been reached by others in the exact same way.
In a conversation with a colleague on Thursday, I was reminded of the importance of not wanting to recreate the wheel as she shared some challenges she is facing with new curriculum design, and the border between vision and reality. We all want to leave our mark on our schools, districts, and organizations, and it is entirely appropriate for us to wonder what that mark will be. This colleague, new to her role, wanted to do a stellar job of curriculum design, without it being the same old thing, and without it feeling disjointed and broken. I confessed I had no easy answers, other than the importance of her voicing her thinking; I shared a number of resources that I thought might be of use, and, importantly, that would allow her to build her own pathway, rather than put her in a situation where she might feel as if she was, in fact, recreating the wheel.
When we talk about innovating, a key question to ask ourselves is “What are we truly doing that is different?” And, if the answer boils down to “nothing” than maybe better to put our creative energy into something else entirely.