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Innovation or Creativity?

I’ve been reading a lot recently on the topic of innovation. I believe we are using the word “innovation” to mean many different things. When engaging with colleagues around clarity on what we mean by innovation, I believe most people look at innovation as a euphemism for “new” or “creative.”

One of the bigger challenges when discussing the concept of innovation has to do with what we are really hoping for. Are we merely seeking something “new” because we don’t “like” the old? Are we tired? Are we bored? What is the purpose of innovation?

For me, I often get into dialogues around this concept because I want innovation to equal effectiveness. We often fall short of talking about what is effective or what are we wanting to accomplish with this new paradigm or idea. Many times, I have seen upper level administrators run towards a “shiny new object” because they heard something new at a conference or from a colleague, or from their boss.

When I coach these professionals, I will often ask them “how will you know the new thing is working? What benchmark are you trying to change? How long will you try this new concept before moving on to something else?” Most times, I don’t get very good answers.

There is a famous adage “begin with the end in mind.” If we are going to look to something being truly innovative, we have to ground it in benchmarking and research. We have to know what we are striving for. Otherwise we will continue to just spin our wheels with new things for our educators to figure out and disrupt their lives with, and have not much to show for it.

A mentor once said “don’t run away from something, run towards something.” If we are going to innovate, we must understand what we are running towards. We must assess that change over many years, and then we must see if there is external validity. Just because it works in our school, or on our campus, doesn’t mean it will work everywhere. The unique needs of each school will dictate whether a creative or new paradigm works or not.

What do you think?

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