In my last post I outlined Tannis’ 7 rules on innovation.  I said that the next post would be about removing barriers to innovation, but that’s actually jumping the gun a bit.  If you’ve just landed a job with innovation in your job title, the first steps are figuring out what your institution means when they say they want innovation.

  1. Find out what people at your institution care about when they say they want innovation.  This should be obvious, but chances are different stakeholders (the Deans, the President, the CIO, the faculty) all have different ideas as to what is innovation and what they want.  Innovation is a relative construct, and within an institution there will be small, medium, and large understandings as to what will constitute innovation.  Rather than impose your view, you will need to work with their’s, but without losing sight of where you think the institution needs to go, of course. This requires doing a good job of #2.
  2. Develop a clear vision for innovation based on what you learn about the institution.  Articulating a vision for innovation is a key step in making sure that the path that emerges is meaningful and relevant to the institution.  For example, there is a temptation to jump on the latest and greatest ed tech buzz (eg. mobile learning, e-portfolios) and roll it out as an institutional must-do innovation. But if mobile learning or e-portfolios makes no sense at your institution because of the types of programs, students, professions etc, don’t do it.  This doesn’t mean that you have to abandon it completely – this leads us to #3.
  3. Distinguish between institutional innovation and program level innovation initiatives.   In my last post I cautioned against flagship innovation initiatives, which are often rolled out and positioned as institutional must-do projects.  Flagship initiatives aren’t necessarily bad, but you will want to make sure that you are sensitive to innovation initiatives that might only make sense to one or two programs.  For example, moving all your history students to a tablet program probably doesn’t make any sense, but for your medical program it might be a no-brainer.  Program level initiatives also have the advantage of snowballing into other programs in more of a grassroots way, which is good for buy-in.
  4. Look for opportunities for convergence of smaller initiatives.  The method to the madness with flagship initiatives is that you are introducing a big, broad bucket of options that faculties will be able to identify with.  The risk with this approach is that it is a) too big of a bucket for faculty to see how flagship program will solve their immediate problems; and b) so broad that it intimidates or disengages since faculty feel like the learning curve is too big.  I’m a big fan of converging separate, smaller initiatives gradually. For example, a WordPress initiative can converge nicely with a tablet initiative into a bigger bucket called mobile learning, rather than starting with mobile learning and trying to have faculties understand all the options in that bucket.

Next post:  Next steps in Creating a Culture of innovation – Removing Barriers