Friday, July 21, 2017

Creating a culture of innovation

If you've been a regular reader you will know I'm thinking about teams. Next year I'll be coaching all the tech integration coaches, 5 in the elementary school, 3 in the middle and 3 in the high school.  We have 2 campuses - elementary and secondary - so the tech coaches almost never meet together - and I'm wondering how viable it is to consider them as a team.  I want to - but I don't want to force extra meetings on everyone.  One thing I am determined to do, however, is to run Cognitive Coaching sessions every Monday for all to attend, basically for practice and honing their skills as coaches, as well as perhaps sharing some new ideas, since all our coaches are at different stages of their training.  Anyway, with all this on my mind, it was great to get this week's Dialogic Learning newsletter from Tom Barrett, where he shared a link to an article about the 7 most important hires for creating a culture of innovation.  I like articles like this because it makes me reflect on what role I'm playing in the team - as well as what role I could potentially play.

The article is basically about workplace culture, which is something I was also mulling over this week.  A great culture is important for job satisfaction, and building a great culture depends on employing the right people - or more importantly the right combination of people.  Here are the roles that are important for creating this culture:
  1. The Gardener - this is the person who takes on the role of seeding, nurturing, inspiring and cultivating ideas.  At ASB I'm thinking this was largely the role of the members of the R&D department.
  2. The Sage - described as a wise veteran who has been through the trenches before.  In a school context I'm thinking this could be an administrator, for example an assistant principal, who is still very connected with the actual classroom experience that teachers are living every day.  It's the job of the sage to remind the rest of the admin to focus on the culture.
  3. The Empathizer - someone who understands and is in-tune with the (classroom) experience and  whose role is to help people to make it better.  I'm thinking this role is actually vital if you are a tech coach, and I'm guessing that in a school context this person would not be a member of the admin whose role it is to evaluate.
  4. The Talent Guru - this role is described as "reinventing the company’s policies to match the company’s cultural values and employees’ personal values. Most importantly, talent gurus create the narrative that defines how a company aligns its actions (the what) with its values (the how)."  I'm thinking about this role holistically, not just in terms of our tech team here, but more in terms of a school's mission and values - and how they are actually brought to life, recognised and celebrated within a school.  I think teachers are also be talent gurus within their own classrooms.
  5. The Dean - this is the person who is responsible for professional development to keep the talent within the school learning and growing.  I'd say this was a vital role that is taken on by our Teaching and Learning Coordinator, but also on a smaller scale by all of our tech integration coaches as they foster collaboration and creativity.
  6. The Storyteller - all of us can be storytellers, sharing what we do with the world.  There are many ways to do this, of course, such as through the school website, newsletters, publications and so on.  Many of the R&D team have published their stories in the various Future Forwards (see previous posts about our Future Forwards publications here).
  7. The Questioner - creativity and innovation are more likely to happen when a school or organisation values diversity.  Rather than hiring people who are similar to current employees, it's useful to seek out those who think differently or who have had different experiences.  In my opinion, a school that encourages people to ask questions about what they are doing, how they are doing it and why they are doing it, is likely to foster a culture of innovation.
I've written before about the projected growth of international schools worldwide, and how great schools need to attract, develop and retain excellent teachers.  Clearly one way to do this is to focus on the culture.  Some of these roles did resonate with me as being important in schools.  For myself I think I take on all these roles at various times, but the role of questioner really struck a chord:  I'm constantly asking myself and others "Is this the best way?  Can we do this better?"  Do any of these roles resonate with you as well?  Are there other roles that are equally important for fostering creativity and innovation at your school?

Photo Credit: daystar297 Flickr via Compfight cc

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