Design Thinking

The 1% Revolution: How Incremental Innovation Can Transform Education in the AI Era

Picture this: A classroom where AI-powered tools are seamlessly integrated into the learning process. Where students are not just passive recipients of knowledge, but active participants in their own education. Where teachers are not just instructors, but facilitators of learning. This is not a distant dream, but a reality that is within our grasp—if we’re willing to embrace a new approach to education.

At Designing Schools, we believe that the key to this future lies not in the latest AI updates or technological advancements, but in two simple, yet powerful concepts from the book Atomic Habits: shifting the focus from outcomes to identity, and the power of 1% improvement.


The 1% Revolution: How Incremental Innovation Can Transform Education in the AI Era

Atomic Habits: Shifting the Focus from Outcomes to Identity

Clear advocates for a shift in focus from the traditional focus on outcomes to an emphasis on our evolving identities. He shares that the real power of habits comes from their ability to change the perception we have of ourselves. Each time we engage in a habit that aligns with the person we aspire to be, we reinforce that identity. For example, exercising regularly reinforces the identity of a health-conscious person.

When we consider education traditionally, we’ve been fixated on outcomes like grades and test scores, which can now be done by tools like ChatGPT. What if instead of focusing on test scores we centered our efforts on embodying the identity of who we want to be, ex: an innovative teacher or a committed student? For example, a teacher who integrates digital tools and real world projects into their lessons each day, no matter how small the application, strengthens their identity as an innovative educator. Though each action might seem small in isolation, it can contribute significantly to a teacher’s development and effectiveness over time.

Who dreams of becoming a teacher just to administer standardized tests and check off curriculum boxes? No one. In fact when we ask people, as I do in the opening of every keynote and workshop, these are the kinds of words people share:

Atomic Habits: The Power of 1%

Clear also promotes the idea of becoming 1% better each day. This philosophy embraces tiny, consistent improvements that compound over time. Imagine a teacher spending just 15 minutes each day learning about new educational technologies. That small daily commitment can lead to substantial growth in proficiency over time. It’s an approach that recognizes and leverages the fact that progress is often nonlinear.

Substantial achievements are not usually the result of a single, monumental leap, but rather a series of small, consistent steps taken over time.


The Power of 1% Improvement: A Personal Journey


Let me share with you my own journey. When iPads first made their way into my classroom in 2012, I was teaching history. To be honest, I was skeptical. I couldn’t see how these devices could fit into my teaching methods. However, I decided to take a leap of faith and committed to learning about one new way to use the iPad in my teaching each week.

In the beginning, the changes I made were modest. I began by using the iPad to project presentations, then gradually incorporated interactive quizzes. As I became more adept with the technology, my perspective shifted. The iPad, once seen as a potential distraction, emerged as a diverse tool for enriching my teaching and empowering my students. One day, the school decided to film one of my lessons. It wasn’t a typical lecture about European imperialism. Instead, it was a session where students had agency over their own learning. With the objectives outlined, they worked collaboratively to decide how they wanted to learn, and most importantly, how they wanted to share what they had learned. This video captured the transformative power of technology in education, a testament to the potential of consistent, small improvements. This was a decade ago.


In 2014 I had the privilege of being recruited to the University of Southern California, where I was the Director of Innovative Learning for the Masters in Physician Assistant Program. One of the first projects we evolved was a research paper where students had to research a community in Los Angeles County and write about 13 different indicators from nutrition to housing to education and more. The goal was to build empathy with the communities they were serving. In 2016 we knew papers alone were not the way to do this. (P.S. They aren’t the way to do this in 2023 either).

Using one simple question we evolved a research paper into a documentary by asking, “If this community had a message for healthcare providers what would it be?”


Notice I said evolve, not replace. The research and writing were an integral part, but it was not the final product. 

Here’s a look at what students had to share about their experience. In rewatching this almost a decade later I’m in awe of the moment at 2:37 where the student shares, “The difference between writing a paper and doing a documentary was…”

None of these projects would have been possible without me slowly getting 1% better each day. What started as simply projecting a presentation with an iPad, turned into creating documentaries with iPads.


In 2018 when I returned to the classroom to do my doctorate school was the same. However, every day I had made the effort to become 1% better. So while my program was stagnant, I complimented the research in my dissertation with a documentary and podcast about the importance of evolving teaching and learning for a world with AI. Notice I said compliment, not replace. The writing and research were essential. However, they were not my end product. 

Now, consider the broader implications of the ideas shared in ‘Atomic Habits’. Imagine if everyone had spent the last decade steadily evolving our educational methods alongside the advancements in technology by just 1% every day. How would our classrooms look today, and how well-equipped would we be to harness the power of AI for education? We wouldn’t just have kept pace with the whirlwind of technological advancements. Instead, we would have actively leveraged these advances to evolve our educational experiences and outcomes. By making these small yet consistent improvements, the shocking developments in technology transform into a natural progression of our consistent efforts.

Fast forward to today, and I find myself in a similar position with AI. However, I’ve learned from my experience with iPads that the key is not to make a massive change overnight, but to make consistent, small improvements. So, I’m committing to learning about AI, one small step at a time. Here’s one example. 

Getting 1% Better By Exploring Plugins


Each day I check to see the latest plugins that have been added to ChatGPT. I test any that look interesting with a quick prompt and new on the list is CapCut. If you haven’t used CapCut it is a free, all-in-one video editing app developed by Bytedance, the company behind TikTok. While it is available across all devices, it’s particularly powerful on mobile. I, along with many others, appreciate CapCut for its simplicity and wide array of features, especially the ability to add and customize captions. It also allows you to cut, reverse, change the speed of videos, and apply a variety of effects, filters, and animations. CapCut also provides an extensive library of music and sound effects, making it an ideal platform for creating engaging video content.

And now CapCut has a plugin for ChatGPT allowing you to share an idea using text, that it will turn into a video. In this video I share how I used another plugin alongside CapCut, called Access Link to share a blog post I have and ask CapCut to make it into a 20 second video. This video is a lesson from our online course, “The AI Bootcamp: Unlock Your Human Advantage in an AI-World. We share Access Link, CapCut, and Copywriter. You can learn more about our course here.

The Challenge to Become 1% Better

While the video CapCut created is not one I would use as is, it is definitely an incredible start. Taking 15 minutes to experiment with a plugin is about becoming 1% better, and better positioned to understand the implications of AI in our everyday lives. It was this experiment with CapCut that made me reflect on over a decade of storytelling with video.

Challenging myself to become just 1% better each day when it comes to how we create videos minimizes the surprise I have when I see plugins like CapCut create these types of videos. Challenging ourselves to become 1% better at who we want to be allows us to see what Jane McGonigal calls signals of change. 

“Signals of change could be a news story, a surprising social media post, or something from the world around you. It’s something you’ve never seen before that represents a new way of doing things or a new way of being in reality. You can take a picture of it or take notes about it. It’s not a hypothetical idea or fiction: it’s a real change happening somewhere. Recognizing signals of change, those subtle shifts in behavior, technology, or society, is crucial in developing foresight, allowing us to anticipate and prepare for future trends rather than merely reacting to them.”

Ready to Join the 1% Revolution?

So, are you ready to join the 1% revolution? Start today by identifying one small way you can integrate technology into your teaching. It could be as simple as using an online quiz tool in your next lesson or spending 15 minutes learning about a new educational app. Remember, the goal is not to make a massive change overnight, but to make consistent, small improvements that will compound over time.

From leading in the age of AI to designing lessons, our customized learning experience, ‘The AI Bootcamp: Unlock Your Human Advantage in an AI World,’ equips you with the skills to identify signals of change, practice foresight, develop your AI literacy skills, and apply AI to your area of practice, and much more. The transformations we’re witnessing in our world demand more than just understanding tools like ChatGPT. They call for a fundamental rethinking of how we interact, innovate, and inspire in our daily lives. It’s about redefining the boundaries of how we live, learn, and contribute in an AI-driven world.

I’m Sabba.

I believe that the future should be designed. Not left to chance.

Over the past decade, using design thinking practices I've helped schools and businesses create a culture of innovation where everyone is empowered to move from idea to impact, to address complex challenges and discover opportunities. 

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