Moving Innovation Over the Chasm

I have an office, but when I am at the board office, I usually like to work in the cafeteria. The cafeteria has windows, something my office lacks, but this isn’t the only reason I make the journey up from the basement. I enjoy the conversations that can sometimes ensue with the occasional passerby. Today, that passerby was Rick Pardo. We discussed a version of the Adoption Curve that he shared at a recent PD session. I’ve seen many versions of the Adoption Curve, but what I really like about this particular one is the inclusion of Forrester’s Social Technographic, Maloney’s 16% Rule, and Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point.


I’ve always taken a keen interest in the philosophy behind the Adoption Curve. It helps frame my thoughts and provide perspective in both my professional and personal life. Moreover, knowing where someone resides on this curve often helps me choose a course of action that will help them build forward momentum.

During my discussion with Rick, we talked about what it would take for innovation to catapult over the chasm and reach the tipping point. According to Maloney’s 16% Rule, we need to provide social proof to make that leap. We need to demonstrate to the pragmatists that the innovation has a footing in the real world, and appease the concerns of critics. This is no easy task, by any means, but we both ended our conversation in agreement that PD might be both the hindrance, and a possible path forward.

Training vs. Learning via Katie Martin, Learner-Centered Innovation

In her book Learner-Centered Innovation, Katie Martin draws a distinction between training and learning. Take a moment to visualize the last few PD sessions you attended, now look at the chart. Which side of the chart more accurately reflects the PD that you received? My guess is that your experience was training, not learning. Training is never going to lead innovation over the chasm because it lacks one essential characteristic: it doesn’t empower teachers, and doesn’t lead to the social proof required by Maloney to drive innovation. To move innovation over the chasm, we need learning, not more training.

When we align PD with the learning model, we create opportunities for educators that permeate on a personal, authentic level. Learning begins where people are at, not where we want them to go. Growth is fostered in a supportive environment rooted in a collective desire to improve practice.

When all characteristics of Martin’s learning model converge, the product is teacher empowerment. If an educator is seeking social proof that innovation is working, they need only turn inward. Is this enough to take innovation over the chasm, past the tipping point, and on to the masses? Perhaps not, but I’m challenged to think of a better path forward.

To move innovation over the chasm, we need learning, not more training.

4 comments on “Moving Innovation Over the Chasm

  1. Thanks for this David,
    You’ve pushed my thinking on a number of ideas that have been important to me recently.
    1. Getting out of your office: So many of our office layouts are not conducive to collisions with colleagues and their work. Spending time in a public space provides a level of transparency to your work and can be an invitation to connect. (Not everyone sees the value in this: that’s another story) More at
    2. Forward Momentum: This is something I have been talking about to anyone who’ll listen 🙂 I believe our role is to generate Learning Momentum so when students leave our classrooms at the end of the day, our schools at the end of the year and our systems at the end of high school, they carry on learning. More at
    3. Training v Learning: I agree learning is the way over the chasm. In addition to the role of the PD providers, there is a responsibility on the part of the adult learners to come to PD with Learner/Contributor mindset. Some come to PD with an empty bucket expecting to have it filled (training) and when that doesn’t happen they feel the PD was a waste of time. If they come to the PD ready, willing to learn and/or get satisfaction from contributing, they will leave feeling the PD was valuable. More at
    4. Turn Inward: This is where the magic happens. One word I have been struggling with lately (although I use it all the time) is permission. I still believe we need to let people know they can take risks and try new things, but permission just has an air of power and authority in it. I’ve been looking for an alternative way to let people from the classroom to the boardroom know that they don’t just have permission, but rather that they have a responsibility to continue to grow and improve. Things like modeling, empowering, and supporting – risk-taking, iteration and feedback are what I am trying to sum up in a concise statement. I’ll let you know when it comes to me.
    For my latest thinking on innovation and disruption, have a look at:

    Thanks again David. Really appreciate your thinking here.

    • Hi Patrick, thank you so much for taking the time to not only read my blog, but write this comment. You have some excellent reflections on my most recent post. I like your concept of forward learning. Great to hear that I’ve pushed your thinking this year. I’ll be sure to check out your posts. Thanks for reading, David.

  2. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs – doug — off the record

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