A Challenge to Education Leaders and Innovators!
The 12 Greatest Innovators of All Time Asked Questions!
The world’s greatest innovations didn’t happen because somebody began a meeting with “Who has an idea for improving this situation?” or “How are we going to increase achievement?” Leaders respond to a crisis with innovative and out of the box thinking. Those innovations exist because disruptive, even radical, transformative, and sometimes uncomfortable questions without easy answers were asked. This talent of innovators is especially true in the field of education.
We can’t all be one of the 12 greatest innovators of all time, but the outcome of outstanding education is young people who can ask the right questions and truly make a difference. Academically smart, globally conscious, problem solvers, innovators and most importantly happy and well rounded young people change the world. Not every child will be famous but there are characteristics of successful people that are inspiring to all of us.
Our greatest gift, in the face of challenges, is to teach children to ask great questions!
Who asked the greatest questions and became the greatest innovators of all time?
- Thomas Edison
One of the most significant innovators and inventors in American history, Edison is perhaps best known for inventing the first long-lasting, commercially practical incandescent light bulb. He was the father of many other breakthroughs, including the first phonograph and the motion picture camera, and he was influential in developing the first economically viable way of distributing light, heat, and power from a central station.
- Steve Jobs
The iconic American entrepreneur and founder of Apple will go down in history as one of the great innovators. As CEO of Apple in the 1980s and again in the late 90s and 2000s, Jobs played a central role in the personal computer revolution and in developing its key products, including the McIntosh, the iPod and the iPhone. Steve Jobs looked at the computer in a new way, leading to the Mac and a personal computer revolution.
- Nikola Tesla
A great inventor, engineer, and futurist, Tesla helped develop the AC electrical delivery system. Infamous for his wild experiments and colorful personality, Tesla ‘s creative work regarding the production and transmission of power was far ahead of his time.
- Bill Gates
One of the great businessman/philanthropists of the last century, Gates founded and built Microsoft into an unmatched software behemoth before leaving to state the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, a multi-billion dollar philanthropic enterprise working to enhance global healthcare and reduce poverty.
- Benjamin Franklin
One of the founding fathers of the United States, Franklin was a brilliant polymath, inventor, political theorist, scientist, statesman, and writer. He had a prodigious scientific mind, and his interests varied widely, but in addition to politics, he is perhaps best known for his experiments with lightning and electricity.
- Leonardo Da Vinci
The original “Renaissance man,” Da Vinci is best known for his paintings (the Last Supper, the Mona Lisa) but he was also a philosopher, engineer, and inventor. He left behind him a collection of extraordinarily prescient drawings depicting future technologies (helicopter, tank, solar power).
- Alexander Graham Bell
A Scottish inventor and engineer, Bell was awarded the US patent for the telephone in 1876. His work on telecommunications, aeronautics, and many other areas (he invented the metal detector) earned him a reputation as one of the great figures of the nineteenth century.
- Sandford Fleming
A Scottish-Canadian innovator and inventor, Fleming used his engineering, surveying, and mapmaking skills to help build the transcontinental railways of the nineteenth century. He was also the inventor of worldwide standard time and the standard times zones used today.
- Marie Curie
The first female winner of the Nobel Prize in 1903 (she won it twice in both physics and chemistry), Curie was a pioneering physicist and chemist who is known for her breakthrough ideas in radioactivity and her discovery of two elements.
- The Wright brothers
Orville & Wilbur Wright invented and flew the world’s first successful airplane in 1903. Their persistence, experimentation, and work on the principles of flight made them legendary inventors and innovators.
- Galileo Galilei
The legendary Italian genius whose breakthrough ideas helped usher in the scientific revolution in the seventeenth century, Galileo is often called the father of modern science. Forced to defend his views of heliocentrism against the Roman inquisition, and spending most of his life under house arrest for heresy, Galileo has become an icon of scientific integrity in the face of religious dogmatism.
- Richard Feynman
One of the great scientists of the twentieth century, Feynman’s breakthrough ideas in Quantum theory helped revolutionise that field.
So what do disruptive questions look and sound like? They usually begin with “how,” “which,” “why” or “if” and are specific without limiting imagination. They focus on generating solutions rather than begging long-winded explanations and place blame, as often-asked ‘close-ended’ questions always do. They awaken the mind rather than put it to sleep.
As education leaders we should also strive to be innovators. We should strive to improve ourselves and look outside the box for solutions, new visions and opportunities. The schools we lead develop young people but they can also serve to develop adults, teachers and new education leaders. We can see problems or we can see challenges. We can stick with old solutions and answers or we can ask questions. Clear deliberate and critical questions make the difference.
Einstein said “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask … for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.”
As an educational leader, how will you inspire change and solve problems by asking good questions?
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