Saturday, August 2, 2014

Motivation to Innovate- or five reasons to risk failure

The lens I most often use to view motivation is Bandura's concept of self efficacy. The idea is that we are more likely to succeed when we believe we can be successful. There is quite a bit of empirical work supporting this construct. More than that self efficacy is the best motivational predictor of academic success.

Recently, however, I've had read personal narratives of failure from teachers who are innovating in their classroom and school. The thing that immediately emerged is that self-efficacy cannot be the prime motivator because they actually do NOT always think they will be successful. Often they actually say "I don't know if it's going to work". In my work on democratic education I actually said "I don't even know what it looks like but I think it is important to do."

So what are some ways to think about the motivation to innovate despite the high probability of failure:

1. Value- while self-efficacy is important we also have to consider the value of our actions. If the value is high enough we may be able to consider failure and the potential personal fallout from it.
2. Long term success- while we may not believe that we have it figured out right now we have a belief in our ability to work it out through trial and error. This is closely connected to the idea of grit or stick-with-it-ness/stick-to-it-ness recently highlighted.
3. Self delusion- you can have self-efficacy that is completely unjustified. Sometimes it is better to believe that you are going to be successful despite best evidence to the contrary.
4. Identity- when individuals assume the identity of an innovator (or even entrepreneur) makes self efficacy for a specific action less important than your sense of competence as an innovator. You believe not that you can do the next step but in your ability to overcome the odds and problem solve.
5. A community of innovators. The knowledge that peers around you will support your efforts, share your experiences and appreciate your willingness to dare.

For me it comes down to "surfer attitude" (temporary name)- this is what I am calling it now. It is the deep understanding that to gain expertise you have to fail, since you are constantly pushing the envelope without quite knowing your limits or whether you can hang on. For me it is all five previous aspects wrapped into one. It is what keeps teachers innovating despite not knowing if they will be ultimately successful.

It's good to be back blogging.
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