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What is Innovation?

Is this innovation? Maybe, maybe not.

The "I" word is one that gets thrown around quite a bit. One need only scan through a Facebook news feed, or listen to the radio or a podcast for a short time, and I'll bet you hear it at some point: Innovation. We now solidly find ourselves in the 21st Century. I bristle when I hear language like "21st Century Skills" thrown around. It's not something far off in the distance anymore, it's here! 

And, innovation goes hand in hand with that. But, (and you may have been looking for something different in this post) Innovation isn't (necessarily) what you see in that photo above. 

Today, I was writing my annual report for LSA. Different from years past, I spent a bit of time working to define the work of LSA as it stands today, as it has shifted in some clear ways since its founding in 1977. I described LSA as having the role of "Innovator". I am glad that I gave myself the space to explain, in the context of LSA, what that really means, because I think when some hear the terms "innovate", or "innovator", their minds turn quickly to flashy technology. Might that tool be part of an innovation? Yes, it might. But, it also may not. 

Innovation, in my mind, is developing fresh ways to use the tools available to achieve the mission. It's about being responsive to what's available, but at it's core, it means being true to the core values and mission of an organization. You may say, but if what's been done in the past still works, why change it? Perhaps the answer is not throwing out a past practice completely, but instead looking for ways to achieve the goal with increased efficiency or impact. Perhaps the problems have changed slightly, as they tend to, and new tools and approaches are needed. 

If you've been thinking about innovation, but are a bit critical because it often seems that praised innovations involve glomming on to the next flashy thing to be released, or you see too many innovations pushed aside for the next big thing, you are not alone. I've been in that boat, too, and I am wary of the term, bandied about, potentially recklessly. Still, there's a value in innovation, and LSA will always strive to be an Innovator. Below are two tools that I've been using in the recent past as I explore innovation:

  • If you were at the Elementary/Secondary keynote at our 2016 Annual Conference, you know that Bernard Bull recently published a book: Missional Moonshots: Insight and Inspiration for Educational Innovation. This text offers concrete ways to explore innovation in your setting. I recommend it for use with your team!
  • As I do many mornings, I sifted through my blog reel for some bits of inspiration and came across an article TODAY that linked directly to this idea of innovation, but this time more on the organizational level. Check out Be Leaderly's article, "Three Ways to Grow a Culture of Innovation at Work"

What do you think? Do you have any ideas or resources to share about innovation? Come chat with us on our Facebook page (LSA NY (Lutheran Schools Association), or on twitter. Our handle is LSANewYork.

Happy mission-minded innovating!

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