In 2012, my attendance at the annual CIO Summit in Connecticut inspired this article in which I shared ideas that can enable administrators and educators to foster innovation in the use of instructional and education technologies in their schools. Today I share a shortened version of these tips and techniques, to inspire Partners in Learning readers to get out there and inspire innovation!
- Innovation often comes one step at a time from small changes: Many successful innovations are evolved by combining small improvements and changes to create a new approach to an existing problem. Small innovations, like a change in how content is delivered in the classroom, or how learning outcomes are assessed in one course, can lead to meaningful improvements when scaled up over time.
- Look to unexpected sources: Innovations can come from many places. When you’re looking for new ideas, talk to students and see what they think about a problem you’re working to solve, or browse the Internet for creative ideas and information related to your work. Keep your eyes (and mind) open!
- Be willing to accept failure: Failure is an inevitable part of good innovation. It really shouldn’t have the negative connotation it so often does. If you’re not failing from time to time, then you’re really not trying very hard. In fact, you should really celebrate failure – it means you’ve tried and you’ve learned.
- Look at problems in a different way – change the problem you are trying to solve: Sometimes changing your perspective on a problem can change your approach to solving it and lead to innovation breakthroughs. Take the time to consider the problems you look to solve from multiple angles and dig down to the root cause.
- Consider risks openly: Be open about risks – they are a natural part of innovations. Ideas can look great in the lab yet fail to get adopted for various reasons. For example, a new technology may work well in one course or for one teacher, but not scale up well. It is more productive to be aware and plan for them than to simply ignore their potential.
- Create an innovation lab or other innovation events or places: One way to spur and encourage innovation is to provide specific spaces and/or times to focus on innovation. There’s a reason why big companies like Google, HP, and 3M encourage their employees to spend time innovating, Educational institutions (of all sizes) can certainly benefit from this kind of thinking.
- Create a culture of innovation: Administrators from the top down need to message the acceptance and/or expectation of a culture of innovation. This should be supported through ‘marketing’ to get the message out – discuss it in meetings, mention it in newsletters and broadcast emails, bring it up in dialogue. Reward and celebrate innovation efforts (including the failures that deliver useful information).
Using these approaches and ideas can help innovation become a part of the culture across your institution!