Friday, December 16, 2011

Innovation yes, but not here please

Just about every organisation on earth has a business plan that claims to embrace innovation or welcome change. It's very easy to use buzzwords like these in strategic documents but another thing altogether to really encourage innovative thinking. The difficulty is that innovation is disruptive and means that we have to reassess our comfortable routines. New ideas lead to change, insecurity and the fear of not being able to adapt. The easiest strategy therefore is to dismiss the innovative ideas as impractical, too expensive or unrealistic and continue with business is usual.

This is the topic of an article on Psyblog called Why people secretly fear creative ideas. We are all creatures of comfort and once we're found a good strategy that works well enough we tend to stick to it. We tend not to welcome criticism of these routines and certainly not ideas that may force us to completely change the way we work. The article cites a study that showed how teachers tend to dislike creative pupils since they challenge the rules and ask too many questions. That applies in most organisations.

"... the more uncertain people feel, the harder they find it to recognise a truly creative idea. So as a society we end up sticking our heads in the sand and carrying on doing the same old things we've been doing all along, just to avoid feeling uncertain."

I think almost all of us who work with net-based learning and the use of technology in education recognize this scenario. In an already cash-strapped education sector the idea of radical change in the way we teach, the structures we've trusted for so long and the institutions we work for is rather frightening. It's going to cost a lot of money, take a lot of time and force us to revise many of our most deeply imprinted beliefs. The really worrying problem is the longer we delay and deny the more disruptive the change will be when it finally comes.


  1. Hello Alistair

    I am a member of LINKEDIN Innovation Management Group. Congratulations on your comment on the Ps magazine article.
    I try to make any organisation I am helping innovate by loosening the formality and power that we all add to the authority formally given to positions. This increases confidence in members and so allows informal problem soving through the friendship networks. I expect that this new organisation culture and climate yields innovation ie creation and management of new value.
    I am also a Lecturer in the University of Ballarat where we feel all the same pressures of underfunding and repetitive solutions delivered by a bureacracy in the same way again and again. It is usually a new building ie low risk part of the organisation technical system.
    I also though welcome the chance to communicate with you. In Ballarat one of our community organisations called CHAF is running a course on Biomass energy off campus from your University Linnaeus. I am a member of CHAF (Central Highlands Agribusiness Forum). Th Tutor of the course is Andrew Lang the Pacific Australasia Member of the World Bioenergy Association.
    So a small world
    I will join your corridor.

    David Flynn
    B App Sc Technology in Metallurgy

  2. Thanks for your comments David. Tweet me your e-mail - @alacre.