Is This Idea Seat Taken?

My most creative thinking occurs while doing the dishes, unpacking groceries or shuttling my kids to and from various sports practices. Mindless, repetitive activity spurs me. These creative thoughts often radiate directly from personal pain points and, when I'm  feeling productive, will transition into dreamy "What if..." scenarios and eventually some tentative problem-solving. It's magic...and fleeting. Soccer practice super shuttles. Self-cleaning refrigerators. Elves that grade essays for tired teachers. World peace through inquiry teaching.

I'll come up with all sorts of potentially disruptive ideas, daydreaming about an honorary doctorate. My next move is deadly. Instead of writing the magical thinking down or pursuing it with any seriousness...I consult my computer. As soon as as I see the long line of "o"s in flash across my screen, my creative thought balloon pops before it even had time to lift off. Apparently, I  quickly confirm, thousands of people around the world have either started non-profits, written books or delivered engaging TED talks about the exact same idea. Who am I to pursue this idea?

In fact, I am willing to bet that the content of this blog post has already been written before, several times over. Pop!

Should we abandon all these unoriginal ideas, assuming they've been reserved like a sweater assertively draped over theater seat ? No. We cannot be intimidated by the fact that we are all iterating and riffing off similar ideas all the time. Perhaps that seat's really not taken; it's a lost sweater or belongs to the person sitting in the seat behind. Or maybe it is taken...but that doesn't mean I cannot sit in the theater, too, right? Right.

seat taken

Upon launching a new organization this year called Inquiry Partners, I've learned to come to peace with iterating on others' great ideas. Inquiry-based instruction is not new. Not even close. I'm in awe of Hattie, Stigler, Dweck, Dewey, Willingham, Mazur, November...and on and on and on. But my take on their work is unique and how I present and communicate inquiry to those who have not heard of it yet...well, that is new. So, until every classroom sings with creativity, hums with student inquiry, and vibrates purpose and joy, I will not rest. Instead, I will learn from the best, iterate and share what I've learned with others.

No seat is taken. Join me.