Improvement is something every organisation has to do.

Innovation on the other hand is often viewed as a luxury, “we’d like to innovate, but we just don’t have the time…”. Indeed, 91% of leaders say that innovation is a priority to them but, 51% struggle with it. Could the culture of our schools be the main culprit?

Innovation is associated with high-performance

It feels like everything has become outcome-focused, commoditised — in part due to the data-driven expectations thrust upon us. Thankfully, great organisation continue to find a way to be innovative because they make time to prioritise it within their culture. It’s not seen as a luxury or a bolt-on, it’s just the way it is — a result of an investment decision made by leadership that drives standards, shapes norms, values, culture and legacy.

The difference between improvement and innovation

  • Improvement is to do with creating or upgrading a product, system or policy and the success of that improvement is then measured simply by its impact — better results, higher standards. Improvement therefore is mostly always concerned with one thing only – the product.
  • Innovation on the other hand is interested in two things, the product yes, but the process too. Innovation is interested in the way in which improvement takes place and, moreover how people are involved in the process.

The innovative leader is as interested in the way an improvement comes about as they are in the end product itself. Why? Because they appreciate the inherent value of the process and how it benefits their employees and high-performance culture. They always see innovation as a superior experience over improvement because it calls for collaboration, cooperation, team work, the sharing of good practice, communication and distributed leadership – all considered invaluable by-products of the process (in addition to whatever is being created as the end product).

Innovation delivers many benefits, not just product. How can this be achieved..?

  1. Create opportunity for employees to engage with talented colleagues and other stakeholders in powerful, blue-sky thinking that has both product and process in mind
  2. Demonstrate a discipline and commitment toward prioritising innovation
  3. Cultivate a high-performnace culture that banishes the stifling mentality of ‘improving for inspection’ and replace it with a more positive, productive and innovative approach

Dedication in this direction will yield many long-term benefits in addition to quick-wins too as the ROI of this approach is instantaneous. It can be done and, as an example,we help organisations establish practical frameworks to ensure that innovation happens both formally and informally on a regular cadence and that all staff are equally engaged in the process.

Image courtesy of bplanet at