When we think of innovation, we usually think of industry disrupting tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix. But innovation isn’t isolated to the technology industries; there are opportunities for innovation in every industry, from software and telecommunications, to health care and education.
While technology seems like a natural breeding ground for innovation, the reality is that innovation is baked into the cultures of these organisations. Technology evolves quickly, which means to become a successful tech company — whether you’re building software-as-a-service (SaaS) or developing mobile devices — your entire organisation has to be agile and keep up with rapid changes in the industry.
So how do we build innovation cultures in industries like education where the pace of change seems much slower?
The first step is to understand that it is the change-resistant industries that probably need innovation the most. However, we are in a period calling for new approaches to education that prepare students to enter the modern workforce.
Here are a few ways to create an organisational culture wherein innovation can thrive –
- Embrace experimentation
By definition innovation is discovering new ways to do things, which requires creativity and experimentation. This means that innovation cultures can’t be risk averse; instead, innovators take risks testing new methodologies and ideas, then they toss out the ones that don’t work and move forward with the ones that do. And this is where top-down bureaucracy-heavy organisations struggle because they are designed to impose structure that discourages innovative exploration.
2. Start at the top
Innovation does not usually thrive in top-down, bureaucracy-heavy organisations. For these organisations, the solution is often to invite distributed leadership that values innovation and champions ideas from every level of the organisation. While innovation doesn’t always come from the top, if it is not valued by leadership, efforts to innovate are likely to die before they even get to the brainstorming phase.
3. Encourage collaboration
Collaboration is absolutely crucial in an innovation culture. Not only do you have to remain open to ideas coming from any area of the organisation, staff members need to be prepared to work with others in the exploration of new ideas. In fact, this process of collaborative exploration needs to become part of the cultural ethos, all in the essence of finding new ways to serve students and customers.
The challenge with innovating in some schools and academies is that the more traditional structures of these organisations resist change. However, with leadership willing to shake things up for the better, and a team committed to making new discoveries together, innovation can become the heartbeat of high-performance, culture-driven organisations.