So You Think You Want to Innovate?

A bold process to reimagine the structure and purpose of school. A multi-year strategy to “go blended” across the state. A new district request for proposal (RFP) inviting school teams to personalize learning experiences for students. Even casual water cooler conversations about how we might just reconfigure the existing time, talent and resources we have to create better outcomes for kids. What do each of these scenarios have in common? They all fall within the broad definition of “innovation.” Despite the potential promise contained within these ideas, though, none is likely to produce lasting success without one secret ingredient: an organizational culture that explicitly promotes and rewards the creative risk-taking that enables innovation to thrive. But what exactly is innovation culture, and how can we build it?
These were the motivating questions that led our two organizations, 2Revolutions and The Learning Accelerator, to set out to find some answers. We are pleased to publish the results of our initial efforts: So You Think You Think You Want to Innovate? Emerging Lessons and a New Tool for State and District Leaders Working to Build a Culture of Innovation.
We’re excited to share what we’ve learned so far. The new publication starts by providing context on what we believe culture of innovation is and how we can think about it. We deliberately focused on states and districts, but we think the insights are valuable to schools, teams, and a variety of education organizations. Based on our research—through interviews both inside and outside of the education sector—we identified the following seven factors that influence innovation culture: Leadership; Communication; Resource Allocation; Structure & Process; Capacity; Policy Environment; and Learning Agenda.  Each of these concepts is further broken down into three to seven subfactors that we believe constitute healthy and effective innovation culture.  The tool is for use by organizations that are already building—or just beginning to build — a culture of innovation.
While this is hopefully helpful information and analysis, we tried to push ourselves to respond to the “So what?” challenge.  State and district leaders are incredibly busy, so what would need to be true for this work to be truly helpful?  With that in mind, we worked to translate our research and experience into an easy-to-use self-assessment tool that provides leaders with the opportunity to take stock of their current readiness to innovate and help them begin to glean patterns of behavior that illuminate how their organization handles the important question of building innovation culture.
At the same time, we’re not deluded into thinking we’ve cracked the culture of innovation nut.  We know this is just a start. Our hope is that this will be a helpful framework for leaders who recognize that building and sustaining a culture of innovation is important to their vision, but who may not be sure what next steps to take. We aspire that the tool be wielded in the hands of many who, like ourselves, have the ambition to grow our sector towards excellence and radically improve the learning experience of youth.  We’re eager for our colleagues across the industry to start using the new framework and to share with us what’s working, what’s not and what’s still missing. And we want to capture even more examples as we move forward, so we can share them with all of you. Let us know what you think.

Download So You Think You Want to Innovate?



Todd Kern is Founder and Principal at 2Revolutions.

lisa duty

Lisa Duty is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator. Follow Lisa on

twitter at @LisaDuty1.

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