Friday, July 24, 2009

Innovation Comfort Zones and Schools

Innovation require a person to move into a new dimension. This dimension requires a person to disassociate from past experiences. Past experiences are the comfort zone and comfort zones are in effect conformity zones. When a person conforms the person remains static. The norm is the conformity which is the comfort zone. Introduction of a new method, idea and or system into a comfort zone creates anxiety, stress and fear. Sameness is safe, is effortless and is comfortable.
Innovation is disruptive. Innovation rips at the individual patterns woven from past experiences. To lead innovation is to take people a significant distance from their past experiences to enable perspective based questions. However in today's environment of continuous disruption leaders must not allow new comfort zones to be established. Continuous disruption requires continuous Innovation which requires continual disassociation from the past.



Working within an innovative project requires continual changing of perspectives and establishing flexible and future focussed mindsets. Each individual in an innovative project needs a mindset to enable ongoing and continuous disruption. 'Past Experiences Comfort Zone' is a syndrome that counteracts innovation.

Leading educators from traditional methodologies requires the removal of comfort zones. Educators have been comfortable within a similar zone of teaching since the start of public education. The slate tablet may have changed few times, class sizes have grow and shrink but the situation hasn't changed. Education is still operating within the behaviourist sphere. Workers to the left and academics to the right. The filtering system remains and the poor struggle. This comfort zone in education is a trap and a refuge. Educators have been comfortable in this zone despite the growing ineffectualness of the zone. Collective innovation within educational systems has been in large a dismal failure. Schools have been great places in facilitating comfort zones and poor places for establishing continual innovation. Educational systems have focussed on restructuring which results schools moving from one comfort zone to another comfort zone. The result is that the demands society is placing on schools and innovative response has been insufficient. Schools are fundamentally frozen by comfort. Any innovation is greeted with scepticism and a collective fight. Innovation vs Classroom: Classroom wins.



The question is;
'How do leaders lead teachers to explore their outer limits of capability within a innovative project without the retraction to the core past practices and ultimately return to the sameness-comfort zone?”.

The answer is;
1.Create inertia. Leaders must be strongly determination.
2.Create a vision. Leaders must create a vision. The vision has to be communicated and continually refered to.
3.Create problems. New problems need to be created and solve by creative methods. A new problem cannot be solved by past solutions. New problems require new solutions.
4.Introduction of monitoring methods. Effective monitoring will manage innovation. Policies and procedures restrains Innovation. Innovation cannot be regulated. Policies and procedures cannot be created prior to the innovation. Policies and procedures establish the norm and then the comfort zone. Policies and procedures do not encourage risk. Innovation requires risk. Risk needs effective monitoring. Monitoring enables questioning and then answers. Policies and procedures should only be introduced as answers to questions generated by monitoring.
5.Creativity: Establish what is possible and look for opportunity. Look forward and not to the past for what is possible. Visions and Creativity are symbiotic.
6.Experiment with something different. Keep bringing in new ideas, new technologies, new methods. Do not all the comfort zone to creep in. Difference enables risk which enables innovation.
7.Stretch individual abilities to meet the needs of the innovative project. The project will fail if individual do not extend themselves past past experiences.
8.Challenge: Executive and managers must challenge each member of the project team to stretch their individual capacities and to ensure comfort zones are not being established.
9.Intellectual honesty: Drill down any substantiated claims that counter innovative progress to establish self-challenge.
10.Focus on the edge: Do not focus on the core focus on the edge.
Education systems, schools and teachers should be the driving force of innovation in a society and not the comfort zone for ineffective practices. Schools should be future focussed, not fearful of failure, encourage risk taking, create new problems and create new solutions. Teachers should view students as customers. The needs for innovation to be a key reason for schools to exist is more important than ever. For schools to succeed in the innovation space, a methodical approach to monitoring the innovation process is requires not the maintenance of policies and procedures that underpins structural change.