If we really cared about innovation…what would we do to promote it?

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Peter Sperry 5 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #178315

    Here are some thought starters. What would you add?


    In School

    …we would let children go with their parents to work and have childcare and tutors available there.

    …we would focus on helping children discover rather than on teaching them.

    …we would eliminate standardized tests completely in favor of the essay, the presentation, the model.

    At Work
    …we would end the distinction between working and learning activities.

    …we would embrace noble failures rather than worship success.

    …we would work and learn in whatever setting feels natural to us.

    In Our Communities

    …we would make the outdoors more accessible and safe.

    …we would have free, safe libraries and learning labs everywhere.

    In The World

    …we would unlock the data and use it – to end poverty, sickness, inequality and social repression.

  • #178323

    Peter Sperry

    1. We would recognize the critical role of foundational knowledge to innovators and provide rigerous, tested, education in the basics. Pablo Picasso, the greatest art innovator of his generation, had nothing but contempt for artists who jumped into cubism or post modernism without first learning to draw. His admonition was to “master the rules of painting so you will know how to break them artistically”. Look at the history of great innovators in any field and the overwhelming majority of them were recogonized masters of the existing craft. They needed such credability in order to secure the resources to go beyond.

    2. Maintain copious, detailed records of past efforts regardless of success or failure. Edison explained that he never failed in the search for the most efficient filliment for light bulbs. He simply identified 10,000 substances which didn’t work. GE innovators 100 years later have a record of which substences to ignore as they seek to improve lighting. Innovation should not be an excuse for repeating past mistakes.

    3. Conduct through after action reviews of all efforts to record why they succeeded or failed. Reward success. Recognize and praise noble efforts which fail for unforeseable reasons beyond control of the innovators. Identify issues unsuccessful innovators should have been able to anticipate or which they simply failed to control.

    4. Be very public in providing innovators behind noble failures an opportunity to try again or take on a different project. Be equally public in denying these opportunities to sloppy innovators who failed to plan or control their projects.

    5. Measure and reward innovation based on whether positive results are derived from purposful action or luck and the dgree to which they can be replicated by those who follow.

  • #178321

    Henry Brown

    Additions, or in some cases clarifications….

    At Work

    … Reward learning activities

    … Management spends more time showing the relationships between learning and productivity

    In School

    … More involvement by EVERYONE in learning (parents, community leaders, workforce “leaders”)

    … measure results based on individual goals

    In Our Communities

    … Advertise the resources available

  • #178319

    Mark Hammer

    Maybe it’s the Canadian in me (sorry, eh?), but prudence is a very important aspect of “innovation”. Perhaps that is included or implicit in what you wrote, Danielle, but for folks like me it needs making explicit. There is nothing particularly virtuous or even necessary about constant change. Recognizing when change is needed, now there’s a skill I wish we all had (myself included).

    Indeed, for some 80 years or more, now, cognitive psychology has emphasized that the first, and perhaps most critical step, to problem-solving (and that’s what innovation is, or ought to be) is defining what the problem is. (see Karl Duncker, and “functional fixedness”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_fixedness ). And within organizations, defining the problem commences with knowing that there is one which requires a solution. Innovation should not be solutions in search of a problem, but the recognition of important-enough problems, and their creative solution.

    So, encouraging innovation requires a certain propensity to reflect, and to adopt “the big picture” when doing so, in order to both know when it is prudent to innovate and to avoid the conceptual traps that Duncker noted several generations back.

    Both Peter’s and Henry’s posts allude to a few other critical aspects:

    1) encouraging such reflection, perspective-taking, and intervention, by documenting and actively remembering past instances of innovation, and failures to innovate;

    2) giving tacit and explicit permission to try something new.

    Encouragement without permission is like saying “My door is always open” and leaving it open just a crack, is if to say “My door is always open, but I’m really busy right now, so please don’t bug me”. And permission without encouragement tends to result in very little off-line cogitation, and insufficient preparation.

  • #178317

    Agree – study foundational work, review and evaluate past success and failure, exercise prudence.

    But I still think the #1 priority is to stop censoring, controlling, dictating, overthinking, regulating — just stop. Let the inner child free. That young person inside each adult has the important ideas we cannot even fathom.

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