"For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate." ~ Margaret Heffernan
The definition of innovation from Merriam-Webster is: the introduction of something new; a new idea, method or device. Innovation in education seems to be a popular topic with boards of education. But what is innovation really? For many, the word conjures up images of computers and technological advances, which is partly true. Innovation, however, can manifest itself in many ways. It could present as alternative furniture, unique school and classroom design, or even alternative and creative timetabling. The difficulty is that the organization looking to innovate must have a culture that promotes and celebrates innovative ideas. In other words employees must be free to create new ideas and to think differently. Without this culture the concept of innovation will only be ever be a "buzz" word.
George Couros has written about innovation in education and describes what he sees as the 8 characteristics of an innovator's mindset. It's an excellent description of what is needed from an individual standpoint when it comes to being an innovator. You can read his post and see the amazing sketchnote from Sylvia Duckworth here. As I read, and re-read George's post I couldn't help but feel something was missing. I tried to put myself into a position of having a new idea or method of doing something in the context of my job and envisioning what the process would look like from start to finish. That's when it hit me. Although George has a great list of characteristics of an innovators's mindset, how does an idea get implemented to the point where it can be considered innovative? How does a school district support innovation? There are so many policies, procedures and bureaucracy that is't hard to imagine an innovative idea actually coming to fruition. That doesn't mean it can't happen, but the culture in the organization is so important. We often hear about Google's 20% time and how innovative ideas come from their employees to use that time for their own projects. It works because the culture created at Google has been established to promote innovation. My guess is, if Google didn't have this culture embedded in the company it might not be where it is today.
I recently read an article called "From Vision to Reality: The Innovation Process" which outlines nicely the innovation process, but more importantly the blockages to innovation. They are:
- Can't do that
- That's stupid
- That's not in the rules
- It's against our policy
- We don't have the budget
- We don't have the time
- We'll never get it approved
- That's not what they're looking for
- You've got to be kidding
I'd love to hear your thoughts on innovation in education, and maybe even an innovative idea you have for you school or classroom.