Getting to Scale

The idea of innovation is popular in education right now. Moonshot thinking, often called 10X thinking, is making its way into education circles and everyone is jumping on board to come up with innovative ideas. Too often, the ideas never make it past a pilot phase because of the roadblocks that stem from systems that inhibit teachers and other staff members from scaling the idea across the organization. Over the years, I’ve watched ideas die as they’ve been taken into committee. The innovation journey is filled with pitfalls and requires hard work and dedication to get to results.

Another issue is that education as a whole hasn’t adopted a design thinking model that promotes the development of great ideas that can scale. Other industries that I’ve learned from have a process that they use to develop and nurture ideas as they scale across the organization. Eric Ries in The Lean Startupshares a process that entrepreneurs use to create successful businesses. Using a Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop, teams are able to rapidly build a minimally viable product, measure results and learn from the experience to continue to grow the product.


So how do we get beyond having pockets of innovation and excellence in our organizations? In Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, Robert Sutton provides inside accounts and research from other industries that will help your organization nurture and scale innovations.

Below are a few tips that will help you achieve excellence:

1.     Reach out to other industries in your area and talk with them about how the innovation cycle works. I recently met with someone from the computer industry who works with the agile model of innovation. The agile model is a lean startup model with specific roles for team members that enable them to move quickly with innovations. With a project structure of design, tweek, repeat, launch, and improve, teams get to results faster.

2.     Focus on bringing together the right team members. Committees talk about what to do next. Teams get work done. Foster the idea of team work and allow teams to take ownership of their work. Too much oversight is the fastest way to kill an innovation. It’s also a good idea to mix teams and allow them to learn from each other.

3.     Give the gift of time to teams. Ideas like Google’s 20% time have taken off in many industries with positive results. Teams need to have time to work together, develop prototypes, and discuss results.

4.     Remove roadblocks for teams. In the agile model, this is the scrum master role. Excessive forms and procedures are often created because of a few people who did something wrong. Flip that model and give teams freedom to tackle work without having to ask for permission.

5.     Make a list of things that you should strategically abandon in your organization. You’ll free up time and develop a focus on what’s important.

Summer is a great time to catch up on reading and explore topics that will give you insights into how to do the hard work of innovation and successfully scale initiatives. Additional books that I recommend for summer reading include:

Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World by Tina Seelig
Work Rules: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Take time this summer to reflect on current initiatives and put a plan in place to take action and see your organization’s ideas scale.

Donna Teuber is the team leader for technology integration in South Carolina’s Richland School District Two, a Project RED Signature District with 1:1 computing in grades 3-12 impacting 21,000 students. Technology leadership has been key to the success of the Richland Two initiative, and Donna has created a Technology Leadership program to provide school administrators with the tools to lead the initiative at their schools, as well as leading the R2 Innovates! innovation incubator which provides teams of teachers with the training and resources that they need to implement innovative practices.  


Related toolkits

Learn more now with materials from these toolkit and resource collections: