Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Deep conversations: becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable

We had our first R&D meeting of the 2016-17 school year today.  The focus of R&D for this year is leading innovation from the middle - this means growing teachers' skills so that they can be innovators in their own classrooms.  We read and discussed a couple of articles from the Harvard Business Review, the first of which was about innovation being everyone's job.  This was an interesting read because the article was about how managers often discourage innovation as they want people to follow procedures and stay within guidelines - despite the fact that organizations need innovation.  The article states:
Great organizations don't depend on a small number of exclusive people to come up with innovations.  Instead they create a culture in which every employee is encouraged and empowered to innovate.
The steps to build a culture of innovation are as follows:
  1. Identify and implement some immediate innovation in your own area - make them happen quickly to show innovation is successful
  2. This leads to confidence - so now work together to identify a more ambitious innovation.
  3. To make innovation stick you have to encourage people to develop and experiment with new ideas.
The second article we read is about the importance of diversity.  Research has shown that thinking with people who are similar to you hurts the rate of innovation, whereas thinking with people who are different from you  improves the quality of decisions by nearly 50%.  Diversity means many things: people who cooperate and people who challenge, introverts and extroverts, a variety of backgrounds, a range of experience and seniority - basically to form innovative teams you have to be intentional deliberate in putting together a diverse team.  While these teams can produce intense discomfort at first, eventually the conversations that emerge in such teams are more interesting and more challenging.  The author concludes:
To learn something new you have to be uncomfortable.  Our organizations are paying a high price for letting us work with only those we feel most comfortable with.  When assumptions aren't challenged, when questions aren't posed, when new ideas aren't thoroughly considered ... you don't invent a new solution to an old problem.
Photo Credit: Philippe Put via Compfight cc

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