Debbie Millman (author, educator, brand strategist) defines branding using the phrase “deliberate differentiation”. Branding is a critical component of consumer culture. Our consumption of goods, services, ideologies, and other symbolic products, in many ways, defines us. Each of these "products" has an associated brand and our affinity for that brand helps us to identify with and distinguish ourselves from different groups. It is through our consumption (both real and symbolic), we mark ourselves as members of “tribes”1.
In education, my colleagues and I are part of the #teacherprep community (or tribe), but we also belong to specific and (often) unique tribes as well. My institution identifies as a Research Intensive, Land Grant, Public University with a “think and do” mission. We mark ourselves as members of each of these tribes, but differentiate ourselves through our brand. Our brand is ever present and pushes us toward this “deliberate differentiation” which drives us as we make decisions....
Innovative, of course, is a loaded term, however I believe in the teacher preparation community, we have proven ourselves to be on the cutting edge. Our mission-informed decision making process allows us both the structure and flexibility needed to not only continuously improve, but to forecast trends and changes and respond in proactive rather than reactive ways.
One step on the pathway to success is the drive for deliberate differentiation while remaining a member of your tribe(s). Without clearly knowing “who” you are it is exceedingly difficult to define and describe how you are different.
This is why your unique brand is so important. We all have a role to play in the preparation of teachers. What is it that you do that is unique? Identify your brand, use it to drive your decisions and you’ll be on your way to deliberate differentiation.
"Generate new ideas every day, even though 99% will be garbage!"
Some of what you develop will be actionable, others will not. It's about the process mostly...the process helps develop a culture of change (either within your organization or yourself). Change encourages reflection, introspection, and a valuing of evidence. Most people are afraid of big changes. If this is you, start small, test the water and build your case. Incremental change matters too.