I blog on Brain-Based Learning, Metacognition, EdTech, and Social-Emotional Learning. I am the author of the Crush School Series of Books, which help students understand how their brains process information and learn. I also wrote The Power of Three: How to Simplify Your Life to Amplify Your Personal and Professional Success, but be warned that it's meant for adults who want to thrive and are comfortable with four letter words.

Don't Read Educational Books This Summer. Read These Instead.

Don't Read Educational Books. Read Game-Changing Books
Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
— Edward de Bono

You don't become an innovator by reading books on innovation.

You can learn what the process of innovation looks like by reading a book on innovation. It might even give you a starting point to innovate.

But you only become an innovator when you innovate.

Dean Kamen, the inventor of Segway and co-founder of FIRST Robotics, explains that "every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation." But how? What is the process for creating something new or turning something old into an innovation?

Perhaps the author of the Harry Potter series can answer this best. J.K. Rowling believes imagination is what drives all invention and innovation. According to the author, imagination is the "transformative and revelatory capacity to envision that which is not," because it "enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared." 

But how do we see what doesn't exist? How do we find the "that which is not" trail; the Diagon Alley? How do we grow our imagination?

The answer, cheeky as it may sound, is you have to practice imagination; do imaginative things.

One way is to differentiate. Do uncommon things or common things in uncommon ways. The education example I want to use here involves reading.

I'm about to hop on your summer reading list so beware.

if you're a teacher, chances are you've put together a list of books to read this summer or have one or two books you plan to read. You want to learn - and that's great - but what are these books? How many are directly related to education? How many are fiction? How many are non-fiction and seemingly unrelated to something school?

There are many great written-by-educators books on Amazon. I've read a few this year and would recommend them. But here's the thing: If you want to grow your imagination faster, produce more unique and more ideas, and innovate more effectively, read something else.

Don’t read education-related books this summer

This may sound crazy to some of you so let's take a closer look at how ideas form in the human brain.

When studying how the human brain forms original and creative ideas, University of Haifa researchers found that such idea formation requires the simultaneous firing of different neural networks. They observed that the brains of individuals who gave the most creative ideas had "associative" and "conservative" brain regions fire together. You may know "associative" as "diffuse" or "unconscious" thinking and "conservative" as "focused," "conscious," or "analytical" thinking.

Succinctly, the more you can tap into your unconscious while ideating, the better and more original your ideas will be. 

Since drugs can help with that but are the less acceptable way, the question becomes: What gets stored in your unconscious and how do you make it more diverse?

And, if you've been paying attention you know where I'm going here. And I could but I'll just say this: If you read mostly or only education-related books you're severely undercutting your brain's capacity for original thought and... innovation. This is similar to always staying home - not experiencing the outside and fearing change - but you get to know your home really well.

But that's not fair, because most of us want to learn and get better! That's why we focus on getting better at our craft. We've only been encouraged by friends and admins and never told that this approach might limit us! And it's a good one if you want to become an expert!

But if you want to innovate... you know...

So, read what you want and do read an educational book if it's of benefit to you. But throw in a bunch of game-changing books and take notes when your brain unexpectedly fires off an idea related to your classroom, subject, ideology, or education at large. Then, create something new - a lesson, PD session, classroom procedure, technology use, or a new school - anything just a little bit different. You know... innovate. 


In my future posts, I will describe why the educator in me wants to read the books below and how I plan to apply what I learn in my classroom and give you ideas you can apply in yours. Up next: Smartcuts. I'm almost done with it. Sign up here and I'll be back in your inbox with it Tuesday.

Here's the rest of my summer reading list:

  1. Smartcuts by Shane Snow
  2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  3. Brain Rules by John Medina
  4. Contagious by Jonah Berger
  5. Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
  6. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
  7. Unshakeable by Tony Robbins