I have been getting Tech and Learning sent to me for a while now, and I peruse it from time to time. In a recent issue – 37.9 available here: http://www.techlearning.com/resources/0003/creating-a-culture-of-innovation-an-excerpt-from-tl-leader/70561
I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what it takes to create a culture of innovation and so this article attracted my attention. I think the first thing that I noted was that the article was not saying a culture of technology – but instead innovation. I feel as though we can often focus on technology as the innovation but instead we need to be focused more on the mindset.
As I read through the article, there were several things I noted about the examples they shared:
- They allowed the teachers as learners to pick their passion projects and gave them time to pursue them. This is an example of allow the culture to build with a carrot versus a stick.. Ie.. teachers were rewarded with time, resources, and professional respect to pursue the ideas that they were most passionate about.
- Teachers were encouraged to form small groups around big ideas that interested them. They supported each other and built community. This kind of community supports a culture of innovation.
- The leaders were facilitators and did not use top down methods to get change but instead trusted their professional staff and supported them.
- Leaders engaged professional networks – there is an example of connecting teachers interested in robotics with other teachers using similar tools. Again, leader as facilitator and connector not top down management.
- It all came down the fundamental ideas of Diffusion of Innovations. One of the tactics discussed was to go to the laggards – the latest of adopters and get them on the side of innovation, and seeing them change help move the process along. I might disagree with this a bit, in that most diffusion research shows early or late adopters can produce this effect more consistently. However, I believe looking at the influential teachers, no matter their acceptance level of change, is worthwhile effort. Every friend you make, is someone who can drive the innovation process forward.
In the end the article stressed that innovation does not happen by itself and it requires leaders who are working towards creating a culture by trusting their team members and being open their ideas. As servant leaders, they take roles to assist their team in pursuing their interests towards that goal, and the structure they provide creates a safe space for innovation to grow.