Helping schools set up a culture focused on bolstering innovation is the focus of a new report.
A new report from 2Revolutions, EDUCAUSE, and Next Generation Learning Challenges has proposed a highly detailed framework for building and sustaining a culture of innovation in higher education.
“Building a Culture of Innovation in Higher Education: Design & Practice for Leaders” is a higher education follow-up to a similar K-12 report from 2Revolutions and The Learning Accelerator in 2014, which explained the factors and importance of innovation culture. It also shared a self-assessment tool that educational leaders can use to better build innovation culture.
This new publication aims to build on that methodology to be a valuable resource for universities, colleges, community colleges, not-for-profits, and other organizations that serve postsecondary institutions by providing best practices for catalyzing, enabling and sustaining innovation culture.
The report focuses on helping schools “think creatively and strategically about how to use technology to personalize and strengthen roadmap markers” for an increasingly diverse pool of students that expect a measurable return on their investment of time and money spent on pursing a degree.
According to the report, a culture of innovation is defined as “nurturing an environment that continually introduces new ideas or ways of thinking, then translates them into action to solve specific problems or seize new opportunities.” Though it can be difficult to replace tried and true approaches with untested ones, the report stresses that analysis and experimentation are key in our shifting higher education landscape.
(Next page: The report’s keys for creating an effective innovation culture)
The report identifies seven key factors when it comes to catalyzing, enabling, and sustaining an effective culture of innovation over time. Once the policy makers at an institution determine their objectives, they can use the detailed factors and their sub-topics to assess themselves on where they are when it comes to building an innovation culture.
The first factor for building innovation culture is leadership, a catalyst. Positive leadership entails clearly developing vision, purpose, permission, routine, urgency, trade-offs, and humility.
Communication is the next key factor for catalyzing innovation culture. In order to communicate innovation effectively, it is imperative that messages are clear, framed, championed, engaging, transparent, and frequent.
Moving into enabling, the third key factor in building innovation culture is resource allocation. Institutions need to properly invest in professional development so that their teams are prepared to execute innovation, allocate enough time for innovation teams to work effectively, and spend precious dollars and resources in a way that demonstrates dedication to shifting the culture.
The next key factor for enabling innovation is enabling structure & process. Organizations need light structures that are deliberately designed to support and allow for ongoing innovation, clear and consistent processes for promoting, supporting and rewarding innovation, and to get into the habit of continual innovation.
Capacity for innovation is the next key area of enabling innovation culture. Teams must develop a “growth mindset” that develops a tolerance for risk or even failure, gain the proper knowledge and skills for executing innovation effectively, and support new individuals, teams and opportunities for innovation.
When it comes to sustaining innovation culture, the sixth key factor is policy environment. Policy makers need to set up an environment where innovation is not prevented or even just acceptable, but instead work to actively promote, support and reward risk-taking by removing any barriers and leveraging and incentivizing enablers whenever possible.
Finally, the seventh key factor for sustaining a culture of innovation is creating a learning agenda. Leaders need to develop testable hypotheses when it comes to identifying and overcoming barriers to innovation, immediately test new ideas on a small group to allow for quick and actionable feedback, measure outcomes in a way that gives a clear sense of whether or not goals are being met, and managing change by continually striving to improve programs over time.
Once a school has taken the time to think over all of these important factors, the report notes that they need to analyze exactly how far along they are, as well as discuss targeting barriers and priorities with faculty and staff in order to construct tangible solutions for progress.
For a thorough breakdown of every key factor and even every sub-category, read Holly Morris and Bryan Setser’s “Building a Culture of Innovation in Higher Education: Design & Practice for Leaders” here.