Conditions for innovation

What are the right conditions for innovation to take place?  In a previous post I defined innovation as “significant positive growth” so with this in mind what are the right conditions for significant positive growth to take place?  As usual for me the questions start popping up.  What is our metric for growth?  What are the conditions that lets ideas thrive?  What is our measure of success?  Pulling this all together,

How Might We create the conditions for innovation in schools?

As a question it is incredibly nuanced and complex.  If we were to throw this question to a group to discuss, many would start with the road blocks, the items preventing innovation from happening.  While discussing these might railroad the conversation, it can also provide opportunities for greater insight and innovation.  Our roadblocks or constraints can actually allow us to think clearer, to adapt and to respond.  The use of constraints as a springboard for innovation was used for this exact purpose at a recent CoLearn Meetup.  A group of passionate educators and I tackled this design challenge.

How Might We create the conditions for innovation within the current constraints of school?

Our first step was to collectively define innovation.  To prevent groupthink, this was done using a technique from the Google Ventures Sprint process called Working Alone Together.  For those who read my blog, you know my feelings on contribution from everyone when it comes to collaborative activities so individual contribution was a non negotiable.  In the end, we defined innovation as the following:

New, exciting and uncharted improvement as a response to need, blocks or crisis.

How does that definition sit with you?  I personally think it is a good start but has a few areas that you could press on.  Does innovation need to be exciting?  Is disruption what we are striving for?  Not sure on that one.  Improvement and response to need, blocks or crisis sits well with me though.  After we collaboratively defined innovation, we spent time listing the current constraints that schools face.  The interesting element about our group was that there were are a few non educators in the group and it was really refreshing hearing their insights.  Sometimes the edu echo chamber can spin the same thinking around and around and so it was great to see how those in industry perceived the problems and questions education faces.  Here is the list of constraint themes that our group came up with:

Constraints for innovation

  1. System
  2. Mindset
  3. VCE
  4. Culture
  5. Fear
  6. Time
  7. Vision
  8. Religious beliefs

Now these constraints were loose themed titles for the individual thoughts of the group and can be seen as obligatory, cultural and personal.  The list is by no means exhaustive or indeed correct but it was where we landed.  From here our group then discussed what were the environmental conditions required for innovation to thrive.  How would we create the conditions for “new, exciting and uncharted improvement?”  The following list was put forward:

Conditions for innovation

  1. Commitment
  2. Growth mindset
  3. Incentive
  4. Support
  5. Shared vision
  6. Perceived problem
  7. Creativity
  8. Communication
  9. Courage
  10. Process

What do you think of this list?  It is a mixed bag of personal and cultural conditions with process being another key feature.  Did we get it right?  Have we left anything out?  This isn’t where we finished for the night.  We delved into developing innovation plays and there was some interesting learning turned up there.  But I’ll leave that for my next post.  As always thanks for reading.


2 thoughts on “Conditions for innovation

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  1. I’ve just come from working for two days on the concept of Communities of Practice and I think that ‘blockers’ are the same. One of the things that really come out of the process for me was that people will never buy into something that is completely foreign. Fine by the end of the process, the change may have evolved to considerable transformation, to get buy in there needs to be an element of reason and familiarity. Like an organ transplant, if the body considers it foreign it will simply reject it. Need to start to context and work from there in my opinion.

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