Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Measure, Target, and Prudence: Thoughts about Innovation and Schools

Schools are historically slow to change and wary of innovation.  Innovation alone doesn't guarantee better results, especially in schools that do not establish clear benchmarks for success and/or do not collect data to evaluate progress.  In those schools, broad, innovative, initiatives risk having no clear connection to the mission and vision of success.

Here are a few other thoughts I have about schools and innovation.

  • Schools serve their families' most valuable commodity - the children.  Much like handling priceless art, a great deal of care and prudence is demanded in working with children.  Significant changes in how that is delivered should go through a thorough review so that when asked, "Why?" the school can clearly articulate the reasons for the change and how those reasons relate to student success.
  • The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" still applies.  If your school is measuring results and are achieving great success, there is not going to be much traction to change.
  • If a change is needed, try to preserve as much of what was working as possible and incorporate those items into the innovation.
  • Target your innovation.  Seek to make changes in areas that are not achieving the results you are expecting.
  • What is innovative at your school is relative to what your school currently does.  The innovation isn't necessarily doing something nobody else is doing, but to adjust how you operate.
  • Just because someone else is doing it, doesn't mean you must do it also.  Do you remember trying to convince mom to do something because, "everyone else is doing it?"  What did she say?  Probably something like, "If everyone else jumped off a bridge, does that mean you need to also?"  Schools are similar in many ways, but no two schools are exactly alike.  What works well at one school does not mean it will automatically work at yours.  This is where a prudent and mission focused approach to innovation pays dividends.
  • When you add an element to your school's program, you are, by default  doing something new.  These are great opportunities to demonstrate your commitment to being innovative.  Once you establish positive results with the new program, explore how any operational elements can be applied to other areas of the school.  If you make a possible link between an older method that could be enhanced with the approach being used in your new program, you have built in credibility and data to reinforce the possible change.     
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