Innovating from Scarcity

In a tour of innovation and next practices this week in Alabama, I had the opportunity to see a number of great programs supported by thoughtful professionals and supportive systems. Schools in Huntsville, Hoover, and Mountain Brook were all a part of my listening tour. I have over 100 pictures of incredible learning in action (happy to share). Each picture pushed my optimism about how a new generation of learning is possible if we frame our work in a way that support the future needs of self, community, and the world. 


While talking with some great hosts including @missfplunkett, @jrichardson30, and @suzanbrandt, I realized (not because they were doing it) that innovation is often forced into spaces of strength for schools, and when innovative practice are initiated in spaces of strength, there is great resistance, and this resistance often repels innovation from taking hold. It seems like the innovators that exist in every system would be better off looking for a place of demand, scarcity, and/or limitation to introduce innovation into the system. 


For some schools, they may need more creative learning spaces, while others may need a way to engage more kids in learning. Beyond this, there are limitations in some schools when it comes to teachers, so innovative virtual opportunities may make sense. Scarcity with support staff may lend itself to a school or parent worker program where they get paid solid wages and benefits. Demand for workers at a company could lend itself to an innovative school apprenticeship program housed in the business. There are so many opportunities to gain trust around innovation when we start with first order innovation change. 


Once a system sees the power of the innovation spirit, then it can dig deeper into the systems that are current strengths and begin to future proof them. It is only with innovation trust and successes that education leaders can push into the core of learning systems with the commitment of most of the members of the larger system. 


What if each level of learning.....classroom, building, district created a list of first order innovation and second order innovation before the end of the year, and set goals to tackle these systems that support the growth of kids in the next school year. I believe if we did that, we would have some many more examples in all of our places of learning to showcase and share with the marketplace of ideas for education.