Tuesday, 7 March 2017

The Three (Silent) P's of Innovation

This past Sunday many of us participated in session two of the Innovator’s Mindset Massively Open Online Course (#IMMOOC).  It is thrilling, honestly, to be participating in a community of educators who will give up their Sunday evening to learn.  Clearly there is a desire from those of us in education to receive Professional Development differently.  Lots of the conversation in the back channel revolved around alternative ways to deliver messages to staff.  

One of the the ways of delivering staff learning that Matt and I have experience with is a “March Madness” approach.  
Not that March Madness...
We can’t claim credit for this particular format, as there are many schools who dabble in this type of staff learning.  In a nutshell, various topics of learning are offered throughout the month.  Each staff member is expected to sign up and attend at least one learning session however nothing stops someone from participating in all of the sessions.  In the end, this delivery really respects the time of staff members, as they choose an afternoon that fits with their schedule.  As well, staff are given choice in what they learn about, allowing them the most professional growth.  One final pro-tip, you don’t have to do this type of learning in March only!  

Like most of the participants in the #IMMOOC, Matt and I spend our time multitasking while watching the video chat.  I’m watching the back channel and twitter, texting various participants when good ideas get thrown around and trying to pay attention to the speakers.  Matt and I have also started collaborating on a “Brain Dump” document while we listen, which we look back on often during the week.

This week, a big idea jumped out at us.  We’ve started calling it the Three Silent P’s of Innovation.  Permission, Protection, Policies.  If you are an administrator or leader within a school who wants to drive innovation, know that these three P’s are what teachers are worried about the most.

First of all, PERMISSION.  Teachers want to know that they have permission to try something new.  They want to feel encouraged to think outside the box.  Try this, the next time you are addressing your staff; look them all in the eye and say “You have my permission to try whatever crazy idea you have to improve learning in your class”.  If a teacher wants to try something new and different that would be good for students, why would they ever NOT be supported?

Second, PROTECTION.  It’s hard to try something new.  It’s uncomfortable, to put yourself out there with an idea that might ultimately fail.  Teachers who are looking to innovate want to know that it’s okay to make a mistake.  They want to know they have support.  Tell them, “If this doesn’t work, you won’t get in trouble.  You are supported!”

Finally, POLICY.  Actually, the navigation of policy.  Nothing will stop a big idea faster than thinking about the checklists of policies that need to be satisfied in order to enact that big idea.  Policy is important, it keeps us out of trouble (see above).  As a leader of teachers, navigating that policy for us will ultimately help us do more.  Be the bridge between the innovation that is trying to happen and the policy that already exists.  

This seems like a call to action...and maybe it is.  If you are an educational leader, an administrator, a program leader, the leader of a course or grade team, let the people you work with know they have the permission to dream, the protection to try and your help in navigating the policies that can often get in the way.  But the conversations needs to go both ways too.  If you are a teacher who wants to try something new, keep your leaders in the loop.  They would like nothing more than to support you in your journey, but that can’t happen if they don’t know your vision.  

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