Educators have to “be the change” they want to see in schools across the world.  We have to explore ways to transform our practice and support each other’s efforts in change.  We must partner with our students, parents, local and global communities in new ways.  Rather than pointing fingers, making excuses and complaining about things that are beyond our control, energies need to be spent making changes in classrooms, getting results, sharing our successes and scaling the work.

As educators it is our moral imperative to take the initiative in our own situations, supported by whatever resources, research, and ideas we can acquire.  This is what George Couros refers to as “in the box” innovation.  We have to put our own oar in the water and row while simultaneously setting the stage and conditions for success until our “new future system” can take shape, but how do we do that?

Vijay Govindarajan, innovation guru suggests the way to lead innovation is through the Three-Box Solution.  This includes:  (1) Forget the past (2) Manage the present (3) Create the future.  By balancing these areas of focus, leaders can resolve the inherent tension of innovating a new model while running a high-performing school district at the same time.  

Below are ideas adapted for education from Govindarajan’s Simple Framework for Leading Innovation.

Forget the past:  Let go of values & practices that fuel factory model education

Our ability to build the future day by day begins here.  Create space and structures for new nonlinear ideas; let go of the past practices, habits, activities, and attitudes.  Establish formal “opportunities” to study new ideas, champion ideas of maverick thinkers, and anticipate the need for an orderly process of experimentation.

(Example:  Use Katie Martin’s exercise called Significant Learning from her book Learner Centered Innovation to begin a conversation about past experiences and beliefs to allow a team to co-create ideas around future possibilities. Create Communities of Practice who come together to study topics that interest them.  Plan an experience that touches the heart, soul, and mind of educators while intentionally looking to the future to figure out what we should stop doing from our past. Establish cross-functional teams to audit practices and processes that are getting in the way of the future vision such as grading practices, homework, salutatorian/valedictorian, weighted grades, hoop jumping paperwork, pointless meetings, etc…)

Manage the Present:  Optimize the current model

Keep the focus on student needs.  Analyze data, set challenging goals, create a culture of continuous improvement.  Use linear innovations within the existing model to improve outcomes for students.

(Example:  As leaders work with teams to co-create the six enabling conditions that will foster collective efficacy  Support collaboration through professional learning communities and communities of practice across your organization. Co-develop continuous improvement plans.  Create opportunities to rethink and experiment with professional learning and professional development opportunities for educators because until our learning experiences are changed, we can’t expect transformational classroom learning experiences to change.  Joe Sanfileppo, Superintendent and co-author of Hacking Leadership created a new model for professional development based on the Hero’s Journey.  Explore the Leap, Pull, Play framework for innovative professional learning.  Jump in on opportunities such as Powerful Learning Practice or Will Richardson’s Modern Learners to see the possibilities with other connected educators.)

Create the Future:  Build a new model

The nonlinear future is built mainly by experimentation that tests assumptions and resolves uncertainties.  It’s not always obvious which ideas to pursue first.  We need methods to gauge value & prioritize with a willingness to take calculated risks.

(Example:  A great example of this is Mentor School District in Ohio.  They were able to create a new professional learning experience through the creation of Catalyst  , an incubation site for learning innovative pedagogy supported by instructional coaching.  Scaling the work at Catalyst sparked the development of Paradigm, a learning space for both adults and students to reimagine the learning experience. XQ Schools also reflects creative ways to rethink high school and design for tomorrow’s learners.  This month High Aims School Districts in Cincinnati, Ohio are going to work to build new scheduling models through a creative design process with Dayton’s IACT Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation at Art Street)