Change, Innovation and Leadership

It’s not often that I find resources that push the limits of our paradigm of school leadership, but Jonathan Martin shares some takeaways from a new book, The Innovator’s DNA, that offer an opportunity to reflect on our own leadership and that of the organizations we call schools. I haven’t read the book yet, but Jonathan’s takeaways allowed me to reconnect with some of the work I did for my dissertation only a few years ago. I studied my school leadership team, working to uncover how they conceptualized education in the 21st century and how they acted upon that conceptualization. From the recommendation section:

The recommendations focus on the development of second-order change responsibilities as outlined by Marzano, et al. (2005). By applying theories of change (Marzano, et al., 2005; Argyris and Schon, 1974; Heifetz, 1994), the findings propose the changes in teaching and learning described in the literature and espoused by the study participants are of the second-order. This conclusion is important because without leadership responsibilities that match the specific kind of change required, innovation will likely fail (Marzano, et al. 2005). Therefore, the development of second-order change responsibilities is essential for the participants to succeed with their efforts to bring about the change they envision. Because of the nature of change, the recommendations do not detail specific steps for implementation. It is suggested the recommendations be discussed and applied within the context of each leader’s story. While some may seek detailed action steps, it is important to reiterate there is no blueprint for addressing the challenges of reinventing education. (p 133)

While I arrived at some recommendations specific to my context, I really connected with the “innovation” ideas Jonathan shared from The Innovator’s DNA. As I reflect on Jonathan’s takeaways, I see how much more work school leaders need to do if we desire to reinvent the way we lead, teach and learn. And we must change!

Please go read Jonathan’s post for his detailed thinking, but here is his list of takeaways.

  1. Own as Principal the role of Innovator-in-Chief: You can’t delegate innovation.
  2. Make your practice of “active innovation” visible.
  3. Create complementary teams.
  4. Observe closely what other schools are doing.
  5. Arrange for employee swaps.
  6. Ask Why?
  7. Seek out people who “had invented something, held deep expertise in a particular knowledge area, and demonstrated a passion to change the world.”
  8. Remember that ”innovators want to work with and for other innovators.”
  9. Embed innovation as an “explicit, consistent element of performance reviews.”
  10. ”Develop formal and informal processes to facilitate knowledge exchanges.”
  11. Network externally.
  12. Practice Beta testing and prototyping.
  13. Build many small, diverse teams for projects.
  14. Communicate and reinforce that Innovation is everyone’s job.
  15. Make innovation an explicit core value of your school.
  16. “Give more time for innovation.”
  17. Create “a safe space for others to innovate.”
  18. Model your risk taking and your learning from failure.

As with the Framework for 21st Century School Leadership shared yesterday, this list of takeaways can be a powerful self-reflection tool. What are our strengths? Weaknesses? As individuals. As organizations. I’m glad I was able to read Jonathan’s post, and I’m looking forward to reading The Innovator’s DNA.


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