As independent schools, it is unlikely that we're going to pursue patents for innovative processes, products, and the like. For-profit companies tend to use patent filings as a measure of how innovative they are, but as Steve Jobs once said, "Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. [...] It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led and how much you get it." (quoted in Financial Times, June 15, 2012, p 3)
The willingness to take risks is an inherent part of an innovative culture. For all the talk that we're producing in schools about being innovative, have we truly reached the point where we are a community of risk-takers? In some schools (very few, I would posit), yes, but I would argue that most schools aren't there yet. That's not a criticism; it's meant to be a gut-check. How ready is your school for innovation? For risk? For frequent failure? For amazing success when an innovation works out? It's emotional!
The strategy head of corporate technology at Siemens says that "[Innovation] is not as easily calculated as planning things in other parts of your business. You cannot be sure how things are going to work out" (3). Given that schools plan around--and reward--a culture of reliability, how ready are we to engage something that we can't plan for all that well?
Money and Resources
Schools must be willing to commit money and resources to research and projects, without knowing whether they will pan out. Where will those dollars come from? The operating budget? Fundraising? Grants? Is there a process in place for this? (See Planning, above). What if the project couldn't "produce" something for up to five years? Would the school still invest time, money, and other resources in it? An even bigger question: how many schools have access to dollars that can be seen as expendable, in this economy?
I'm all for innovation in schools; I support it; I applaud it; I wish to see more of it. I'm simply providing a gut check, given the relentless rhetoric out there of "Innovation, Innovation, Innovation!" (Imagine it as a chant at a rock concert). There is much here to be lauded, but, from a cultural and organizational design perspective, how equipped/aligned are we, as schools, to handle innovation?
To my mind, this represents the discussion we should be having right now, in board rooms and in faculty lounges, but also together.