Innovation, Innovation, Innovation!

December 4, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in spotlight | Leave a comment

Don Richardson is Director of Innovation Management Strategy for the Business Architecture, Platforms and Solutions Group at Microsoft.
He presented  a picture of industry trends and insights about innovation systems. There are many analogies that we can  make in the schooling system.

Innovation  is a CEO’s #1 priority.
•    In the current age companies cant compete on costs alone.
•    Research suggests innovation comes from a number of places but that 46% in any company is internally generated. In order from:
1.    Employees
2.    Business partners
3.    Customers
4.    Consultants
5.    Competitors
•    Big question for leaders is are we managing employees well enough to allow innovation to flourish?

I immediately thought of the culture that leadership engenders in our schools? Are leaders aware enough to build open and transparent cultures where  experimentation and innovation are fostered amongst staff and students?

Paradoxically perhaps, innovation needs a process or framework shared across an organization so it can flourish. This sometimes seems antithetical to creativity. Creativity V Structure
However process and transparency provide an execution vehicle for creativity. They balance creative freedom with quantifiable structure and ensure objective and timely decisions.

Open Innovation is the notion that the presence of smart people outside your own company pose an opportunity. Internal efforts can be multiplied many times through the embrace of other’s ideas and inspiration.

The innovation process is sometimes seen as a funnel. At the widest end, in strategizing, it allows as many as possible to participate.  As innovation is delivered, it may involve fewer people.
The mantra  is Engage,  Evolve,  Evaluate, Execute.
The best ideas may often come from an individual, but  they are grown by team collaboration.
Many companies use a simple proforma to capture ideas. The process can be digitized and an individual has anonymity until they are ready to have their idea published. Such ideas can then be tracked through a life cycle, and can be released to be worked on individually or by a whole team.
There are a raft of other considerations: incentives, workspace, score systems, business case development, idea definition, portfolio analytics and innovation management.
It was fascinating to learn of this coherence in delivering innovation.

An example of open innovation possible with the internet is – T shirt design, where people compete to come up with the best captions for shirts.

I readily thought of examples closer to home in NZ. Last Thursday on the Wellington Loop Innovation Tour, Brian Colhoun of Silverstripe, gave every Principal and teacher on the tour a CD  which contained everything required to build a Silverstripe website. In giving away this intellectual property he said: “Give this to your most innovative and creative ICT literate students.  Tell them to make use of it and then get them to come and tell us what they have done! We will find work for them!”

“Even the giants can learn to think small”
All individuals can drive innovation.

Our schools are full of potential innovators. It is our responsibility to be innovators ourselves but more importantly to  enable the younger innovators  in our schools to flourish.


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