The last month was a busy professional development month! I attended a few conferences, both face-to-face and via Twitter. What struck me : innovation! I saw the words “innovation” and “innovative” come up time and time again in session titles, conversations, tweets. Sometimes, I said to myself : “Wow, this is great!” And other times, I caught myself thinking : “And, why is this innovative?” From there I began to reflect on what is innovation in education. We hear it often, we want to be innovative or innovators, but really, what is innovation, what is it to be innovative?
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, innovative means : “introducing or using new ideas or methods or having new ideas about how something can be done.” Hmmm...
Awhile back, George Couros published a series of great blog posts he titled Leading innovative Change Series. Theses posts were/are surely great food for thoughts as I try to define innovation. I feel confident I have an “innovator’s mindset”. Then, does it mean that my ideas are innovative? (... not always!, I can assure you of that!) So, my question still remains, when I am asked to come up with an innovative idea, an innovative project, how do i now it’s innovative? Because it’s a new idea? Because I am using an old idea differently to change how something can be done? Because I have the characteristics of an innovator?
I recently had this discussion about innovation with a colleague. As we talked about what we considered innovating... or not so much, she said that thought something could be innovative for someone but not for someone else. Can it? If a school puts together a project that has been done elsewhere, but is new and creative for that particular school, is it innovative? Can innovation in education be specific (to schools, districts) and general (trends, leading ideas by influential people)? Continuing my reflection, I came across this blog post : Pursuing “Elegant Solutions” in Education. This post is a few years old, but this section of the post caught my attention :
“David Neeleman, founde of Jet Blue says, “Innovation is trying to figure out a way to do something better than it’s ever been done before.”
Read that carefully. He didn’t say we must do it better, but that we must try to do it better. Innovation in this way is a process, not a destination. Every educator I know is capable of trying to figure out how to do something better than its ever been done before. Most educators are constantly tinkering with their instruction methods, plans, etc. They are innovating. Professional Learning Communities try to do things better. Schools try to do things better. Doing things better provides solutions to problems.
Matthew says, “…when I refer to innovation, I mean solving the problem of how to something better than ever.”
I guess if we try, we can all be innovative in our own path...
As I write this post, I am still struggling to define my concept of an innovative idea, an innovative project, being innovative : I don’t feel I have measurable criterias. Maybe my reflective answers lie in the idea that “innovation … is a process, not a destination” and that innovation is a “creative collaboration”. Then, I think I might have innovative ideas waiting to be nourished, cared for, so they can grow and blossom in many different colors...
I would love to hear from you on this. What is innovation? How do you know your idea, your project is or might be innovative?
If you are interested, some further reading to fuel your thoughts on innovation :