I've been thinking recently about idea networks and knowledge networks.
An idea network is not the same as a knowledge network. A knowledge network is more akin to a knowledge center, a repository of items that folks wish to search with the intent of finding hard data/info that can be used. It be social, also, because that approach may be useful in locating or identifying existing knowledge. By contrast, an idea network is more of a community consultation space that facilitates/encourages connection and dialogue among people of diverse backgrounds and experiences who are looking to test an idea that they might have or to listen for weak signals to determine what ideas are beginning to take shape. There is a place for both networks, but they really serve different purposes.
I'm interested in idea networks because I'm interested in school cultures, especially schools that are trying to align their cultures for innovation. That's really the hard part, isn't it? Talking about innovation and intentionally aligning one's school culture for innovation are different things altogether.
If they're serious about innovation, one of the first questions that TTAFI (pronounced "taffy", trying-to-align-for-innovation) schools ought to wrestle with is where they will source their ideas.
You may be thinking that the raison d'être of innovative schools is to produce ideas in-house. Not really. There's a difference between being an inventive school and an innovative school. An inventive school is one that first discovers or happens upon an idea (process, product, etc.) while an innovative school first brings that invention into practice in a way that has societal impact.
So, if you're a TTAFI school, you could produce ideas in-house...and be limited by it because you're not engaged in the work of innovation, but invention. What you do with it--the action stage--is what defines an innovative school. And it's easier to get to the action stage if your school espouses idea networking.
For example, if you're a TTAFI school, have you considered what percentage of your innovative ideas (as opposed to inventions) you'd like to see come from internal sources and/or external sources? If you're truly interested in being innovative, it would make sense to allow the external sourcing of many of these ideas, in the spirit of "open innovation." After all, do you want to spend the time inventing something or putting it into action, creating impact that is societal (whether within your own community or in an even greater context)? Again, that's the difference between an inventive school and an innovative school: impact.
All of that brings me to this question: if you're a TTAFI school or a self-professed "innovative school," is your professional development program reflective of an idea network? Or is it more of a closed-circuit knowledge center? Consider the cultural difference(s).