In The Innovator’s DNA, one of the five secrets of innovation is ASSOCIATING – connecting seemingly disparate ideas, from various fields, in new and compelling ways.
Recently, Booz & Company released their 2012 Global Innovation 1000. In their research and study, they found that the majority of new ideas are generated in relatively traditional ways:
- Direct customer observation
- Traditional market research
- Feedback from sales and customer support
In terms of converting ideas into implementable offerings, they show that internal means appear to rule supreme:
- Proof of concept work
- Rapid/virtual prototyping and preference testing
- Advanced development review teams
There is a discipline to front-end innovation. As I’ve cited before, many innovation leaders say that innovation is a combination of creativity and discipline. In the next breath, most say that humans are naturally creative; our critical work in schools is to help them grow in these natural capacities and exercise those “muscles.” To be creative is in everyone, particularly those who practice creating things of value! Where we fall short in the magic combination is more in the discipline of regularly practicing the skills of creativity development. We’re not strategic and process-committed enough to sustain innovation.
In our schools, how much are we committing to these studied, effective processes:
- Direct customer observation? Do our schools purposefully observe the ways that people learn best – our children learners and our adult learners? Is this a function that we embed into the daily life of our schools? Are we studying the skills and content that prove most valuable in life after formal schooling?
- Traditional market research? Do we study the brain research? Do we study the practices that are leading to the most successful learning for different kinds of learners? How do all members of a school community even know the market in which they live and work everyday? Do we understand the search internal and the search external for what works? Do we examine other fields for insights about innovation and advancement in practice? Do we listen to what business and culture say learners need to be able to do in 2040?
- Feedback from sales and customer support? Do we purposefully and intentionally SEEK feedback from students, parents, alums, faculty, business, government, NGO, social entrepreneurs, etc.? On a regular and consistent basis and show that we are listening and using the feedback to improve practice?
- Proof of concept work? How are we systemically studying the innovative concepts that some teachers are implementing? Are the innovations working? For whom? In what conditions?
- Rapid/virtual prototyping and preference testing? How are we embedding into our daily habits the lessons from design that prove the value of rapid, iterative prototyping and using fast failures to improve and further develop? What are our cycles of trial and implementation and redesign in schools? Do we support student rapid prototyping and promote risk taking? Do our assessment strategies promote such or do they cause reticence and fear of failure?
- Advanced development review teams? How are we meaningfully establishing and empowering such teams in our schools? Are we creating hybrid research-practitioners that are serving as R&D within, between, and among schools? Do we build and nurture and maintain the feedback loops within our own schools?
Education should be on that Booz & Company list! We should be leading the way! We have to plan for doing so. We have to innovate our purpose and raise our trajectory. I know we can do it…with the discipline it takes.