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Bridge the Adjacent Possible

posted Jan 17, 2017, 2:48 AM by Michael Reilly
Great article out of MIT recently, talking about how they have modeled the pattern of innovation.  To summarize, the term "adjacent possible" was defined by a researcher named Kaufmann in 2002, meaning that innovation is something that is considered possible, and helped when it was close to something that already existed.  MIT then developed a system of drawing colored marbles to represent the known, the unknown, and the developing probabilities.  

While this article might be a bit too mathy for some, the term itself seems so clear:  innovation can simply be something we decide is possible, with the comfort that it is adjacent to what we know.  Isn't that human nature in general?  What we have found in our program is that it takes a variety of people in a group to bridge the adjacent and possible.

We usually see our most innovative work when one of our "crazy thinkers" has an idea, or sometimes a random person has a unique thought.  The comfort in "going for it" is the bridging to what we know or consider possible, and that's where our planners and detail people come in.  Working alone, whether this be students or teachers, we tend not to get innovative due to too much focus on detail, or too much abstract thought without detail.  Only in working together through complimentary yet opposite strengths do we discover those innovative alleys.

One target that should be considered for innovation by all was set by world leaders this week:  the world economy can generate $12 TRILLION more if we pursue more social endeavors.  That is, helping the less fortunate and challenged can generate more customers!  And you don't have to go to the Sudan or something to be a part of this change.  What WE are doing is part of it: if we can lift more of our kids (38% Free/Reduced lunch at our school) out of poverty, THAT is part of it.  

So, let's get innovative, let's raise our part of the $12 trillion via "bridging the adjacent possible".