Developing an Organizational Mindset of Innovation

In my previous post Innovation as MIndset, I identified five school constructs that must be negotiated when the goal is to build an organizational culture of innovation.  

Understanding how each impacts school change requires thoughtful leadership.  And that falls on everyone in a school - not just administrators.  Moving forward in a significant way requires shared and distributed leadership, and that includes administrators, teachers, staff, and students.

Here are some suggestions for developing actionable next steps that can help school leaders begin building an innovation mindset in your school or district.

1. School Community:  Develop strategies for leading the community and not just the school.  What can be done to establish the school system as the educational thought leader in the community?  Are library facilities open for community members after hours?  Does the school offer courses for the community?  Are events at the school shared online with the community?  Is there something as simple as an evening speaker series that helps to build understanding of education trends, possibilities and innovations?  How can the school district be positioned in the school community as a leader and innovator?  How can the school position innovation as an expectation that the school community has for the school and will support.

2. School Culture:  As part of the school culture, develop the capacity for incubating ideas.  Start by creating a Chief Innovation Officer position whose responsibility it is to take ideas to reality.   From there, develop a school incubation hub by studying what businesses do to be innovative - make it an actual physical location with a staff that serves as a launch pad for the ideas of educators.  Develop a tolerance for iteration and failure/success that leads to a system for nurturing and growing ideas.

3. School Climate:  There are many real and immediate pressures on schools that require time and resources, but there should always be time for developing innovative practice.  Set aside time and resources to support innovation.  Failing to allocate time and dollars sends a clear message about how your school values innovation.  Find the time, find the dollars.  If you don’t, you’re not serious.

4. School Vision:  Mission and vision statements are things for school Web sites.  Instead, create a manifesto that clearly defines the expectations for the student learning experience and declares them to the community and school.  Write ten statements about the intersection of students and learning that provide a framework for the innovative application of time, people, and resources to learning.  This should be both a declaration and invitation into the expedition of learning that the school offers.  Make the statements big and bold, and write them broad enough for others to fill in their own creative meaning and interpretations.

5. School Language:  Ideas are the raw material of innovation.  Begin creating a new innovation vocabulary by introducing and using words from the design process.  Use words like empathy, ideation, prototyping, and iteration to create a language capable of supporting creativity and innovation.  

There are many pathways to become innovative.  Every organization has innovative people, but it is more difficult to have an organizational landscape that is developed and shaped to support an innovative approach and mindset.  What would you add as strategies to become more innovative as an organization?


David Jakes is a recognized leader in the educational technology field, David Jakes focuses on the increased need to develop agile, 21st Century, personalized, and digitally-enhanced learning environments. Based in Chicago, David works with the architectural firm of CannonDesign where he is a Digital Designer and Strategist for The Third Teacher+ and Cannon’s K-12 education practice.  David’s thought leadership encompasses digital storytelling, cloud-based learning environments and their relationship to physical learning spaces, mobile learning, the use and impact of social media in education and how organizations engage in change and improvement.  Before his current position with Cannon, David spent almost three decades in education as a teacher, technologist, administrator, designer and storyteller.  David is a frequent presenter at national and international educational technology conferences where he speaks about the power and promise of a new expedition for learning, and the roles that all educators have in shaping that journey.  

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