Schools and organisations which say they are looking to innovate and find new models for education are just as often to be found resorting to re-naming their head of IT as ‘Head of Innovation’ and sticking motivational posters on the staffroom wall which talk about ‘impossible is nothing’, but offer nothing more than flim-flam.
5 ways to truly create a culture of innovation in your school
So, when you’ve still got to deliver high grade exam results, how do you start to create a culture which delivers new ideas and new ways to implement them? Well, you could do worse than follow these:
1) Be obvious about innovation
Start demanding of your team that they look for ways to innovate. Make finding new routes to educational excellence part of the core of the organisation. Talk endlessly of reinvention and even, if you must, talk of disruption. Just never stop banging on about it – and make sure everyone knows you mean it.
2) Set aside time
Google, famously, set aside time in their workers’ schedules for them to think about things other than their jobs. Easier said than done in education, but it’s vital to set aside thinking time to find ways to do things better – even if its only finding 15 minutes at the end of a staff meeting for one of the team to showcase a new response to an old problem.
3) Don’t micro-manage innovation
Creating the space for innovation is great – but don’t dive in too early and try and make it part of your school’s brand. Adopting new ideas for the sheer kudos of it, without thinking about how they can be properly integrated can kill an idea for ever. Staff will grunt ‘we tried that once’ every time an idea even vaguely similar crops up. So allow time to test theories and think through ideas and the ways in which they can be adopted.
For ideas as to how to deliver that, try Intuit’s Catalyst Toolkit, a guide that was made available to all employees and the public and which includes self-serve ingredients for cooking up innovation.
4) Measure success
As Tony Blair used to say, ‘What’s right is what works’. The only true test in this environment is educational outcomes – and that’s playing a long game. Measure the improvements that new ideas are supposed to bring. In the end, that’s how well students do, but there’s lots of things to measure ahead of that (consumption, understanding, attendance) which are pretty strong indicators as to whether you’re on the right track.
5) Give rewards
Rewarding innovation is vital, but financial incentives will create division in the staffroom. Give ‘worthless’ rewards insteads – have ceremonies where you note the strides individuals have taken, but reward them with low-grade prizes. Validate their invention, but don’t create disharmony amongst those who are still at the coalface and delivering your core work every day.
If you can get some of these embedded, you’ll be on the way to new approaches to old problems, and modernising the way you improve students’ prospects.
Source: Mia MacMeekin