In Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World, Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler wrote, “If you don’t disrupt yourself someone else will.” While this statement is not an absolute, it is certainly a proverbial truth. It is applicable to innovation in education as well as to any other entrepreneurial endeavor.
Today’s education space is one of tremendous innovation and entrepreneurship. This doesn’t mean we should abandon every practice or tradition, and given that education is a collective social good, it doesn’t even mean that every learning organization needs to be deeply innovative and entrepreneurial. There is plenty of room for different types of learning organizations from kindergarten through higher education, and also in the massive education space that lies beyond these formal organizations.
However, if you aspire to lead an innovative and entrepreneurial organization, you will probably need to make a few changes, both in yourself and in your organization. There are plenty of ways to nurture a culture of innovation, and the tips that follow are only a few of them. Think of these tips as a way to get yourself started, not a recipe that you will follow to the letter. Not a single one of them is something you can do and check off as if you were completing a to-do list. Each one takes time, organizational and individual soul-searching, persistence, a thick skin, and a fervent commitment to the task.
|Celebrate Innovation and Entrepreneurship|
Don’t just talk about innovation and entrepreneurship. Celebrate missional in- novations. Lift them up. Encourage the qualities of the entrepreneur and innovator among people in your organization. Back up your encouragement with the necessary resources so that people feel confident about engaging in innovative and entrepreneurial activities.
Ensure that support for innovation comes from the very top. While the highest- ranking people in your organization don’t need to lead the way, they do need to be seen to be as endorsing innovative efforts, and they need to celebrate entrepreneurial people and projects. This means those in authority need to give people space to be innovative. Entrepreneurs and innovators wither with micromanagement. In- stead, they need support, accountability, encouragement, celebration, and empowerment.
Find People Who Are Passionate About Possibility
Hire or raise up people who are passionate about being deeply informed about the possibilities. C. E. M. Joad wrote, “The height of originality is skill in concealing origins.” Great innovators do not just benchmark from and imitate similar organizations. That is often a trait of the uncertain and insecure. However, great innovators and entrepreneurs do study and learn from varied sources, even ones over- looked by most others working in a given field.
Ideation and innovation are both fueled by a deep and broad sense of the possibilities. There is a certain breed of person who craves exploring and discovering possibilities. Sometimes such people appear to be obsessed with discovering diverse sources, models, examples, and frameworks. They read and observe; they connect. They seem to know that they are building a deep well of insights from which they can draw when they begin to innovate.
These people are valuable to have around if you want a culture of innovation.
Match Entrepreneurs with People Who Get Things Done
Match entrepreneurs, innovators, and educational entrepreneurs with people who love being part of innovation and who are great at making things happen and attending to the details. Don’t make the mistake of adding detail people who are intimidated, overwhelmed, or even defensive about innovation, as that simply will not work out. Sometimes a person with an entrepreneurial bent is also someone with an eye for detail and a drive for impeccable completion, but this is not always the case. However, if you can match your innovators with people who have an eye for detail along with a taste for innovation and the drive to get things done and do them well, watch out! This can be a powerful combination.
Include Systems Thinkers
When you start to innovate, all sorts of things can be affected. Therefore it is extremely valuable to have people who understand all parts of the operation. These are people who sometimes live between the gaps of various offices and departments in an organization. At minimum, they think about how these groups interact, clash, connect, and impact one another organization. These people get under the hood. They want to know all aspects of the operation, and they don’t just play or dabble. They dig deep, but they don’t mis- take their digging for full-scale expertise. They are vitally important resources, be- cause they provide an understanding of what will work and what will not, or they lead the way toward conditions in which something new can work.
Oftentimes, the organization obsessed with specialists and tidy divisions of labor overlooks the wisdom of systems thinkers, with disastrous results. Systems thinkers see things that others just don’t see. If a systems thinker has a track record of using his or her capacity for systems thinking to get things done well, trust the person with it.
And if you find an innovator who is also a systems thinker, grab that person and empower him or her. Many leaders who try to reorganize systems in an organization often do so with a narrow understanding of the implications. Yet, if you pair that leader with an entrepreneurial systems thinker, and that leader has the open- ness and humility to listen and learn from such a thinker, it can empower that leader to reshape the organization or aspects of the organization in incredible ways.