Thursday, August 1, 2013

Innovation: New Practices That Produce Better Outcomes

The first day of school is still over two weeks away, but our admin team is off and running. Yesterday, we held our first administrative meeting of the 2013-2014 school year.  To say I am in awe of the collective talent within the LASD team is an understatement.  As we were welcoming three new principals to our team, we spent more time than usual getting to know each other, sharing stories, and discussing our goals for the year.  Principals shared incredible thoughts around the risks they are planning to take, the hopes they have for their students and the commitments they are making to their staff and school communities.  While each principal spoke to the unique needs of their school, there were common themes woven throughout all of the shared stories.  Some of the common themes were centered around creating, questioning, sustaining, reinventing, taking risks, modeling failure and innovating,  As our meeting continued we explored many of these themes in greater depth, including innovation.

Innovation has become the latest “buzz” word in education.  There are exciting changes happening in schools across the nation, and many practices are being identified as innovative, but how are we defining innovation? Are we taking the time to understand innovation?  Unfortunately, It seems that many people equate innovation with either technology or the newest shiny invention and yet, there is so much more to innovation.  As Peter Denning  & Robert Dunham describe in their book, The Innovator’s Way, invention is the fun part of innovation but it doesn’t always lead to innovation.  The authors define innovation as “new practices adopted by a community that produces better results.”   This simple distinction opens new insights into how to cause innovation.  Reframing innovation as a personal skill, means that it is something that can be developed through practice and extended into organizations.  Peter then goes on to describe the eight personal practices  that all successful innovators perform:  sensing, envisioning, offering, adopting, sustaining, executing, leading, and embodying.  The outcomes from each of these skills are essential for true innovation.  

Only as we begin to more fully understand innovation, are we able to correctly identify those new practices that will produce better outcomes for students.  These are the practices that we should focus on adopting, even if they don’t include the latest shiny educational toy or gadget.  It is exciting to work with such a dedicated team of administrators who are willing to reflect and develop their own personal skills to ensure we are providing the most innovative learning experiences for our students.  The next time you read about the latest “innovative” educational practice, I encourage you to question what outcomes are improved as a result of the new practice. We certainly are.

Contributed by Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships

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