Four ways to build the courage to innovate

How do we get other educators to build within themselves the courage to be positive change agents? Here are four ways:

  1. Build innovation into the DNA of the culture. If schools (or other institutions) wait for the innovation savior, all is lost. Innovation needs to be top-down and grassroots at the same time. It must start with vision. It must progress with realistic, not bureaucratic rationale.
  2. Must become a “learning organization.” Peter Senge writes in his landmark The Fifth Discipline how organizations suffer learning disabilities. Among these are the ideas that failure is a negative event, and believing that disparate areas (buildings, teams, staffs) are unconnected. A true learning organization relies not just on a few innovators to take the heat off of others, but instead encourages open dialogue that empowers all of the mechanisms to be innovative and successful together. To me, this is the book schools should build PLCs around.
  3. Stop being a slave to political masters. The schools who really innovate trust in their own vision and sense of ethics, and end up surpassing political expectations. Politics is not our organization, it is simply a contributing factor. We have far more control over our own innovation than we do control over the politics. Politics change, but our educational mission does not.
  4. See the forest for the trees. Yes, data can be helpful, but data is not reality. It does not arrive at our school hungry and wearing yesterday’s clothes. Data generally does not teach us what we do not already know. Data should be used to verify patterns seen by practitioners in the field, not replace them. When education becomes a numbers game, there are absolutely no winners. Sports proves to us every day that statistics mean very little. The favorite loses frequently. The streak ends. The win percentage of a coach does not with the game, the players do. So goes education. It’s about people, not product.
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