The Henry Ford Model i

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Innovation Powered by Perspective. 

To unleash everyone’s potential to innovate, The Henry Ford has developed Model i, a unique learning framework based on artifacts and stories in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation. This remarkable collection provides unprecedented insight into the way people innovate across 300 years of American history.

For over 90 years, our curators and historians have studied its content, curating stories of American ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation which continue to evolve with today’s breakthroughs. It is this experience combined with our decade-long focus on innovation education that provides the expertise behind Model i. The framework consists of two frames: Actions of Innovation and Habits of an Innovator. Together, we use them as a language to describe Innovation Journeys within our collection — and activate learners through their own innovation journeys.

Lean into Learning

We support educators by meeting a critical need — by sharing a universal language for the teaching and learning of innovation that can be applied at every stage of the talent pipeline.

Model i Primer (FREE)

This FREE facilitator guide (Grades 3-12) is your first step. The Model i Primer introduces the actions and habits of innovators, real-life stories and learn-by-doing activities that ignite your students’ innovative minds.

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Innovate Curriculum

Once you’ve conquered the Model i Primer, you’re ready to go deep with our curated curriculum from our historical expertise. These four interactive online courses inspire Middle School students on their own innovation journeys with dynamic videos, digital artifacts and interviews with visionaries.

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Actions of Innovation

Innovation is messy and there’s no one formula, but when we set out to pursue a new idea or solve a new problem, we can learn and act in ways that increase our chances of success. For would-be innovators, this set of guideposts helps to point the way forward.

Actions of Innovation Uncover UNCOVER
Connect with user to identify need, develop insight and gain perspective.

Lesson Plans:
Actions of Innovation Define DEFINE
Use new perspective to provide scope and clarity to the problem.

Lesson Plans:
Actions of Innovation Design DESIGN
Brainstorm solutions and create a prototype for testing that solution.

Lesson Plans:
Actions of Innovation Optimize OPTIMIZE
Use feedback to improve the design through iteration.

Lesson Plans:
Actions of Innovation Implement IMPLEMENT
Take prototype to market, seek new insight and re-enter cycle.

Lesson Plans:
Model I Actions of Innovation Map


Habits of an Innovator

Developing our mindset — the way we see, think and interact with something — turns out to be especially useful for staying motivated and inspired to explore new ideas and overcome challenges.

Challenge the Rules
Turn "can’t" into "can do." Dare to be different.
Habits of an Innovator Take Risks TAKE RISKS
Think BIG. Embrace uncertainty.
Habits of an Innovator Be Empathetic BE EMPATHETIC
Walk in other people's shoes to understand their needs.
Habits of an Innovator Collaborate COLLABORATE
Share what we know. Respect what others bring.
Habits of an Innovator Stay Curious STAY CURIOUS
Learn something new. Ask questions.
Habits of an Innovator Learn From Failure LEARN FROM FAILURE
Be resilient. Use feedback to make improvements.
Model I Habits of an Innovator map


An Innovation Journey

On paper, innovation is a step-by-step process. In reality, it rarely happens that way. However the journey unfolds, we make the best progress when our habits and actions work together. Good habits help to unlock the potential that every action creates. Right actions bring purpose and focus to the habits we have.



As you can see, we have set some initial rules of the road; however, feel free to Collaborate with us as we Optimize. We would love for you to Challenge the Rules that we set out. We only ask that you please run your ideas by us first.

Please email us any questions, comments or new ideas.

Reactivate The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford is facing unprecedented financial challenges due to the impact of our 16-week closure and reduced operations. Please make a donation today.