Creating a Culture of Innovation

(CC) Hampton Roads Partnership

What does it take to make innovation part of the culture?  Can innovation thrive in a school?  Can we create a culture that rewards innovation in our students?  What about the teachers – can they be rewarded for innovation?

Steve Tobak recently wrote an article for CBS News entitled How to Create a Culture of Innovation. In this article he listed 5 ways to nurture innovation.  Here is a quote from the article:

Identify them. First, you need to have a process for identifying these young up-and-coming stars. Train your line managers and recruiters on what to look for, and make that an integral part of the management and organizational review process so a short list of names is visible at all management levels. That’s the first step.
Listen to them. If you actually have a dialog with these folks, you’ll learn that they usually have tremendous distaste for the status quo and standard procedures. They probably think the usual rules don’t apply to them. They’ll want to work long hours, but where and when they want. They’ll have a long list of things that “waste their time,” like boring group meetings, having to report their every move, and company events. They’ll want freedom from what they consider to be arbitrary constraints. It’s important to listen, because they need to feel “heard.”
Mentor them. Just because you listened, doesn’t mean you give in. Be flexible if you can, but don’t go too far. You see, they need discipline to realize their potential, but they need to be shown how it will benefit them and the company in the long run. You can’t just say, “This is for your own good” and expect them to comply. They’re higher maintenance than that. You’ve got to show them the big picture, the great things the company intends to accomplish, and connect them to those big goals by giving them as much responsibility as they can handle.
Bet on them. This is really where the rubber meets the road. People who are entrepreneurial and innovative by nature need to take risks, and to do that inside a corporate environment means management has to take risks by betting on them. That doesn’t mean betting the farm without any “adult supervision” or management oversight, but if you can live with a little less communication on what’s going on day to day and keep upper management off their backs, all the better.
Maintain balance. For this kind of culture to work, you can’t have unbridled flexibility and hands-off management. You’ve got to have balance. Imagine a company as a human body. The brain manages everything and organs and cells are specialized to perform unique functions. Everything works in harmony but the endocrine system — hormones — keeps everything regulated and in balance. Otherwise, the system would fail. As the metaphor goes, you’ve got to monitor and regulate the health of the organization so things don’t spiral out of control before you’re even aware that anything’s wrong. To accomplish that, keep a razor-like focus on what’s critical and stay flexible on what isn’t. 

 How does this fit into the classroom? What educational strategies encompass these ideas?

21st Century Skills
It appears to me that this is exactly what we are talking about when we discuss 21st Century Skills.  We talk about student-centric learning environments. This doesn’t mean that the students “run the place.”  It means that the students are placed in situations where they are responsible for making things happen. They are posed problems and they need to find the information and develop the skills to solve those problems.  In essence, we are building entrepreneurs who learn to identify and solve problems.

The same thing holds true with teacher and administrators.  Vicki Davis calls this sort of educator a Teacherpreneur.  Vicki was the only one I had ever heard use the term but upon Googling the term, I found that Kristoffer Kohl talks about them and Barnett Berry talks taks about it in his book, Teaching 2030 and their 4-minute video.

So what do you think?  How can we/should we/do we create a culture of innovation for our students, teachers and administrators?  Does your school have a system in place that will support this work?

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