Re-invention: Don’t Be Afraid To Innovate Your Innovations

We’ve all heard terms like reinvent the wheel or reinvent yourself, but seldom do we consider the importance of understanding and considering reinvention as we move to make our educational institutions and organizations more creative and innovative.

Probably because we often only see reinvention as starting over, beginning anew, or pulling the shambles back together again.

However, there is another side to re-invention that is important for us to internalize when it comes to innovation. As Rogers shares in his work, Diffusion of Innovation, reinvention is the “degree to which an innovation is changed or modified by a user in the process of its adoption and implementation.”

Which means, we have to be much more open to owning the innovations and inventions that we are attempting to incorporate and integrate into our organizations. We have to be more open to remixing and reinventing those innovations that we engage in implementing and adopting.

Too often we try to conform in order to make the innovation work, instead of conforming the innovation to make it work for us. We tend to work for it, instead of the other way around.  

And just as often, we try to overlay a new and novel innovation that worked somewhere else, believing, without understanding the obstacles, difficulties and complexities that they overcame, that it will work in the same manner in our organization.

That will almost always be a false assumption…

Each organization has different people with different mindsets and abilities. People who are at different places in their learning and understandings. Each organization has its own culture, environment and ecosystem that has its affect and effect on any type of innovative implementation or adoption.

Which means that any inventive or innovative change will engage and diffuse differently from one organization to another.

Which is why re-invention should be seen as a necessary component in becoming a more creative and innovative organization. Especially as we consider embracing and engaging any type of invention or innovation. First, changes and tweaks are necessary during the adoption process. Second, we need to be able to own and understand the invention or innovation in a way that leads to successful acceptance and adoption.

Approaching any invention or innovation with this mindset, prepares people for the uncertainty and unpredictability that will occur during the process of experimenting, implementing, accepting and adopting.

As you consider the importance of reinvention, add to it the research of Berman and McLaughlin from Diffusion of Innovations, “Discontinuance happened less often because the re-invented innovations better fit a school’s circumstances. This investigation disclosed that a rather high degree of re-invention occurred. The innovations and the schools engaged in a kind of mutually influencing interaction, as the new idea and the school moved closer to each other. Usually, the school changed very little, and the innovation substantially.”

Which is something we have to weigh…

First, are we changing and re-inventing the innovation to own it and make it more our own to fit our needs and circumstances? Or, are we changing the innovation because we are unsure and unwilling to venture into the uncertainty and unknowns that it is taking us into?

We have to be very aware of both sides. To make sure that we are making and creating changes (re-inventing) for the right reasons. Not because of such things as avoidance…

The goal is to make sure that the invention or innovation is meeting the needs that exist in your organization, that it is solving the problem or issue you are facing. Sometimes we are afraid to tinker with something because we don’t want to upset the integrity of it. The problem is that, sticking to that mindset, we are adopting an innovation that does not truly provide the value we seek for the problem or issue we are trying to solve. We have to be willing to make necessary tweaks and changes in order that it does what we ultimately need and want it to do and accomplish.

So as you look to engage in any new invention or innovation, Everett Rogers provides several reasons in Diffusion of Innovation on why re-invention occurs:

  1. “Innovations that are relatively more complex and difficult to understand are more likely to be re-invented.”
  2. “Re-invention can occur because of an adopter’s lack of full knowledge about the innovation.”
  3. “An innovation that is an abstract concept or that is a tool with many applications is more likely to be re-invented.”
  4. “When an innovation is implemented in order to solve a wide range of users’ problems, re-invention is more likely to occur.”
  5. “Local pride of ownership of an innovation may also be a cause of re-invention.”
  6. “Re-invention may occur because a change agency encourages its clients to modify an innovation.”

As you look to make your organization more creative and innovative, don’t be afraid to upset the flow of an invention or innovation. Don’t be afraid to tinker, tweak, modify and transform an innovation to meet your demands and needs. It is not as much about the integrity of an innovation, as it is about providing the value you seek in solving a problem. Everything is a remix, so don’t be afraid to remix and recreate an invention or innovation to fit your needs.  Innovation is not just in implementing, it is about adopting.

Remember, any invention or innovation that does not add value, will not be adopted or accepted in most cases, anyway.

So, don’t be afraid to deconstruct, reconstruct, remix and re-invent.

As an invention or innovation circulates, flows and disseminates throughout your organization…don’t be afraid to make changes that best fit your people and organization. Too often, we fail to engage important innovations because we spend our time trying to force a round peg into a square hole.

Don’t be afraid to innovate your innovations.

“Recognition of the existence of re-invention brings into focus a different view of adoption behavior. Instead of simply accepting or rejecting an innovation as a fixed idea, potential adopters on many occasions are active participants in the adoption and diffusion process, struggling to give their own unique meaning to the innovation as it is applied in their local context. Adoption of an innovation is thus a process of social construction.”  -Everett Rogers Diffusion of Innovation


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