“Innovation isn’t a managerial seminar or analytic exercise. Innovators act. They do. They test. They respect results.” -Michael Schrage ‘The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More Than Good Ideas’
Running an educational institution such as a school or district is not the same as running a business, and vice versa. But there is a lot that they can learn from each other. Especially in this new age of high-paced change and disruptive thinking and innovation. Whether in business or education, you have to be able to multitask your thinking, in regards to keeping focused in the present while having your sights set on the future. It is necessary, if we are to sustain any type of creative and innovative effectiveness and relevance as we move forward.
It is this kind of thinking that we have seen from such creative and innovative companies such as Google, Intuit, Amazon, Apple, Nike, Toyota, etc. Companies that have built up creative and innovative environments and cultures that have allowed them to engage this advantage in a sustained manner. Companies that have continually delighted us in expected and unexpected offerings and their big ideas year after year.
But, according to Michael Schrage in his book, ‘The Innovator’s Hypothesis’ it is not just their big ideas that have allowed these companies to continually deliver in creative and innovative ways. He shares that, “Successful innovators don’t just celebrate the innovations they offer; they internally prize the experiments and experimentation that made innovation possible.”
Which is something that educators and our educational institutions may want to heed moving into the future, especially if we to keep pace with the rapidity of innovative changes that are surrounding and enveloping us.
The idea of full scale vs. small scale. The big idea vs. implementation.
When you look at these companies that have remained successful in being creative and innovative for long periods of time, according to Michael Schrage, they don’t just rely on big ideas to fuel their innovation efforts, rather they are continually implementing small scale experiments to determine the worth and value of those big ideas.
Big ideas have to prove themselves, otherwise they aren’t worth implementing.
Which is often at odds with the approach taken in education. Usually a big idea is determined at a leadership level, which leads to strategizing and planning on how to implement this big idea, then the big idea is unveiled and implemented. It is often a full scale approach. There is little if any experiments incorporated to determine the value and worth of implementing the big idea. To determine if it has the weight that leads to full scale adoption across the organization.
It is often an ‘all eggs in one basket’ approach to a big idea.
And while their may have been some research appropriated to support the implementation of the big idea. It is research that usually lacks the frontline data that would be provided from small scale experiments within your current environment and culture. And most often, it is a top-down approach that fails to incorporate voice and understandings from all levels of the organization, which inevitably fails to engage clarity and commitment at scale.
Full scale implementation without small scale experimentation can lead to not only frustration at all levels of an organization, it can be depleting to our resources, time, and efforts. Ultimately, diminishing our creative and innovative ‘ROI’ (Return On Investment).
So as we work to build up the creative and innovative capacity of our organizations, we may well want to heed our approach.
Full scale implementation or small scale experimentation?
“Experimentation is undervalued and unappreciated wherever words speak louder than actions.” -Michael Schrage ‘The Innovator’s Hypothesis’
Quotes and references from…
Schrage, Michael. The Innovator’s Hypothesis: How Cheap Experiments Are Worth More Than Good Ideas. 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.