University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

What is Leapfrogging?

Leapfrogging means to jump over obstacles to achieve goals. It means to develop longterm goals to get ahead of the competition or the present state of the art through innovative, time-and-cost-saving means. Leapfrog denotes leadership created by looking and acting over the horizon. Leapfrog first acts to create proximal futures, and then solidly grounds the most promising futures within the present. This process builds on the work of well-known educational theorists, including Lev Vygotsky, John Dewey and political and organizational theorists, such as Joseph Schumpeter and J. P. Singh, while ever looking toward the future.

A commonly cited example of the leapfrogging process is the jump to wireless technology ocurring in many developing regions which saves governments the cost of deploying expensive landlines to facilitate modern communications. Leapfrogging can also be seen in educational policies in many parts of the world. For example, the growing number of schools and school districts that allow students to use their own personal wireless web devices in schools, often referred to as “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, in the US and elsewhere. Some countries are taking even more ambitious steps toward the future. Exmaples include:

  • South Korea, where remote controlled teaching robots are already being deployed in classrooms to address a shortage of english language teachers,
  • Estonia, already credited with being the country where Skype was created, are preparing to teach computer programing in all school grades to prepare future generations of innovators on the platforms that are increasingly driving economic and social development throughout the world,
  • Singapore, where officials recently announced plans to develop sophisticated artificial intelligence “chat bots” to engage learners in evolving discussions on specific school subjects.

These and many other examples demonstrate how leapfrogging has become a major strategy in promoting leadership in policy planning to avoid catch-up efforts that otherwise portend a high likelihood of continued followership.