Innovation is a Journey
An authentic hands-on learning tool, Model I activates Henry Ford’s philosophy of learning by doing through habits and actions of innovation.
Lucie Howell is the chief learning officer at The Henry Ford. She is also the institution’s resident voice for Model I, a unique learning framework based on artifacts and stories in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation announced in early 2018. Here, Howell shares how Model I is helping The Henry Ford launch a movement to inspire educators to shape a new generation.
Q: What is Model I and how does it leverage The Henry Ford and its Archive of American Innovation?
A: Model I takes the stories from our Archive of American Innovation and recognizes a theme each innovator experienced. From our steam trains and Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion House to Henry Ford, Rosa Parks and Edison and his light bulb, we asked ourselves, “What are some of the themes that we see rise above? What are the characteristics, habits that traverse, no matter the individual or discipline?” Six habits of an innovator became clear with each story we explored: Innovators challenge the rules, take risks, are empathetic, collaborate, stay curious and learn from failure.
What we also discovered is that these habits are not necessarily innate. They grow with us through our experiences. We want people to use it to develop and practice their habits.
Model I also identifies actions common to the innovator’s process. They uncover connections, define problems, design solutions, optimize through iteration and repeatedly implement. Through our stories and collections, we also recognized that every innovation process is unique. So the way in which an innovator steps into, through, around or past these actions may be very different.
With Model I, we are applying a working framework to the idea that the ability to innovate is in all of us. That there is a common language for understanding innovation that draws on insights from The Henry Ford’s Archive of American Innovation and our study of how people innovate. It’s all about providing the opportunities to educators and learners to make a conscious choice to practice and activate these habits and actions, and realize that innovation is a journey, not a process.
Q: Can you explain how Model I fits within The Henry Ford’s Innovation Project campaign?
A: Undoubtedly, Model I is providing a strong foundational learning platform for The Henry Ford’s experiential learning programs, which is a funding priority of The Innovation Project.
So much of what is interwoven within The Innovation Project, from new exhibitions and learning platforms to future entrepreneurial workspaces and global invention conventions, is using the Model I framework and mission as the driver. It proves to me that Model I has really infiltrated this institution quickly and deeply, because it is easy, adaptable, flexible and works in many places. It gives us a common language to talk about innovation, invention and entrepreneurship.
Model I gives you the framework to connect experiences in our museum with experiences in the classroom. And the moment you have that framework to connect things to, you go from having a passive engagement with history to history becoming an active part of how you view and live life.
Q: What roles have educational partners played in making Model I a reality and in increasing awareness of the new learning tool?
A: We looked at a lot of different potential partners to collaborate with us on Model I. The partnership with Pearson, for example, seemed obvious because they understood the power of The Henry Ford and the Archive of American Innovation. From the beginning, they wanted this project and product to be led by the archive and were very respectful of our content and our need to be the custodians of how that content would be shared. They were eager to provide the platform and offer up a mirror that allowed us to clarify some of our motivations. Having the Pearson lens, so to speak, was very helpful to us.
In 2016, another educational partnership developed when The STEMIE Coalition decided to host its 2018 National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo at The Henry Ford after being blown away by our place during a planning retreat. Immediately after meeting up, we both had this realization that there was so much synergy between our visions, missions and the Model I framework. And that we had a choice. We could either inspire the next generation in competition with one another or we could do it together. We chose to do it together.
To make a change and create a movement, we need to connect with each other’s strengths. That’s why we have also decided to convene annually — 2018 was our first year — with educational partners to talk about what is innovation learning and, as a group, what are our roles and goals in the educational space. Our hope is that we can prompt even more conversations, too, with corporate leadership, K-12 educators and other stakeholders in the future.
Q: We know it’s early in the process, but do you have proof points that show Model I can unleash the potential to innovate?
A: Yes, we do. We conducted a pilot of our new Innovate 101 course we created in collaboration with Pearson to great success. For me, however, success is evident when I share the story of how one of our 2017 Teacher Innovator Award nominees took Model I back to his classroom in New Mexico after he was introduced to the framework. He left The Henry Ford after the awards ceremony and immediately threw out all his plans for the school year and rewrote them based on Model I. He still sends me video clips, snippets from his fourth-graders and text messages. He engaged so deeply and quickly, and for his students, it has created that through-line and brought down the silos between understanding the habits and actions of innovators and activating them in their daily lives.
Q: What will equal success for Model I long term?
A: Success will be how we think, how we approach things and how we do things. We have to have a period of sharing the language and framework explicitly, but the more we practice it, the more it should become implicit — just a part of you that speaks, thinks and acts like an innovator.
On a personal level, this has been one of the most exciting projects of my career. You can just feel it, taste the potential impact that can be made. It’s both thrilling and scary, which means we will have to lean on those Model I habits and actions: We will have to continue to take risks.
By the Numbers
- 96 percentage of students participating in the pilot of Innovate 101, in which Model I is core to student learning, who agreed that the course was relevant to their learning needs
- 454 innovators and entrepreneurs featured on the henry ford’s innovation nation, one of several educational tools helping students understand the model I framework
Invention Convention by the Numbers
- 108,000 students who participated
- 59 percentage of girls who participated
- 21 states represented
- 7 patent awards given to young inventors at the 2018 national invention convention
Who Is Pearson?
The Henry Ford partnered with Pearson, a New York-based global provider of educational courseware, assessments and technology-driven teaching and learning services, to develop its new Innovate Curriculum, which leverages the Model I framework. This new curriculum was introduced in fall 2018 and is accessible at thf.org/education.
What is the Stemie Coalition?
The STEMIE Coalition is a nonprofit umbrella membership organization of youth invention and entrepreneurship programs across the U.S. and globally. It is best known for producing the National Invention Convention and Entrepreneurship Expo. In September 2018, The Henry Ford acquired The STEMIE Coalition to strengthen invention education across the country and around the world. As a result of the acquisition, several members of The STEMIE Coalition became part of The Henry Ford organization, and Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation will now be the permanent home of the National Invention Convention.