“Design is no longer just about form anymore but is a method of thinking that can let you to see around corners. And the high tech breakthroughs that do count today are not about speed and performance but about collaboration, conversation and co-creation.”

Bruce Nussbaum

As I write this, I’m lounging in a languid Singapore waiting with great anticipation for the start of the A4LE eXperience Asia. This year’s conference has been designed to bring together architects and educators to explore the latest innovations in education and learning spaces design.

Today I’m thinking about the future of education, and about the future of the learner, as tomorrow I’ll be participating as a panel member with Forum for the Future to explore the future of learning and its environment.

Who is learning for?

As an architect who believes that design is human-centred, I think deeply about the future of schools and learning. For me, it is the future of the learner that is at the heart of this debate. Rather than thinking about what will learning look like, I think who will learning be for?

Historically, the purpose of education (en masse) was to equip students with just enough knowledge to support the Industrial Revolution.

Cynics among us might say that the purpose of (Australian) education today is to furnish students with just enough knowledge to pass the HSC (HELP!).

I believe the purpose of schools is, has been, and always will be, to create curious, engaged and motivated learners who have the skills to make the world a better place.

“The purpose of schools is to create curious, engaged and motivated learners who have the skills to make the world a better place”

Schools of tomorrow

So what will the schools of tomorrow need to provide the learners graduating in 2025?

In a world where work will be placeless, where shops will people-less and warfare is electronic, the graduates of 2025 will need one fundamental skill, and that is the ability to innovate.

Innovation under the microscope

So what is innovation, and how do we harness it to create better learners and better learning environments?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) identified that innovation is “a crucial determinant of competitiveness and national progress”.

Richard Branson, recognised as one of the worlds’ greatest innovators, has one mantra – “A-B-C-D” (Always Be Connecting the Dots)

Connecting the dots, or making the brilliant connections that others don’t, is a skill that all great innovators share.

Edison, Apple and Sharp

If you Google innovation, the most common icon revealed is the lightbulb. In 1879, Edison connected the vacuum to the lightbulb to give us electric light. Edison didn’t just come up with a good idea, he questioned and actioned ideas – a true innovator.

In 2000, Sharp connected the camera to the phone. And while Sharp is recognised as inventing the camera phone, it took Apple to understand that taking invention to innovation is an iterative process.

You need to think and rethink, question and re-question. Ask yourself,

“What is the real problem that I’m trying to solve?” 

Innovation is then defined by your ability to constantly question, build upon and transform your thinking.

Apple has taught us that innovation is not just about having a good idea. It’s about constant curiosity, building upon what you already know,

….thinking differently, inside the box.

Innovation is thinking, it is action, and most importantly it is MINDSET!

Innovation as mindset

WARNING! Innovation Mindset it not for the faint hearted. It’s for the brave and the committed. It is for those who understand that we cannot continue to deliver a 19th century model of education in today’s 21st century world. The good news?

Innovation mindset can be learned!

All you need to do is:



be inspired


seek feedback

solve wicked problems

This process is not unique, it is known as Design Thinking.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is the key to developing “a composite of habits of mind which include curiosity, skepticism, imagination, determination, craftsmanship, collaboration, and self-evaluation.”

Guy Claxton, Winchester University

The idea of a “blueprint for innovation” might sound paradoxical at first, but by making innovative thinking habitual, there’s no limit to the creative problem solving that can take place in your school.

Innovation Mindset in your school will

Break the status quo and overcome obstacles

Build an entrepreneurial mindset and culture of agency that’s responsive to learners, by design

Generate new ideas and build capacity for translating ideas into action

If you would like to know more about how to create an Innovation Mindset in your school, watch out my next posts where I reveal how to hacked learning space with Innovation Mindset

Jayne Harrison is an Entrepreneur, Architect, Design Thinker and Founder of JDH Architects.

Learn more about Jayne at https://www.jdharchitects.com.au

Jayne Harrison, Panel Speaker

Forum for the Future Singapore July 11th 2017