Yesterday I was writing a chapter of the new book dealing with innovation in schools. This singular point stuck out:
Innovation is hard because it is about the future, and most predictions about the future turn out to be wrong. This creates the highest level of risk for organizations that have to commit large amounts of resources, make big bets, on what will happen a long way into the future; think NASA and plans for going to Mars. What happens to all of that human and financial capital if someone comes along and figures out a better rocket engine? What happens if electrical car designers are wrong and we go hydrogen? These are enormous risks.
Schools are fortunate in this regard. We actually have a fairly low exposure to being extremely wrong on what the future looks like IF we become vastly more flexible and fluid in what we do and how we do it. The main job of schools is to prepare students for the future, and if schools were to become infinitely adaptive and rapidly innovative, we would be part of the real-time development of the future, not the storytellers of the past. Schools are a knowledge-based industry, so all we have to do is keep up with the pace and management of knowledge. The amount of capital risk is pretty low; we just have to continually upgrade what we are supposed to be good at: managing knowledge.
The good news for schools is that if we become really good at innovation, our positions as preparers of each future generation will be pretty much guaranteed forever. There will always be a future and there will always be a next generation to prepare (at least we hope so, and if not, then all bets are off). The bad news for schools is that if we fail to become good innovators, we will quickly become marginalized, if not largely irrelevant. Implementing this future may be hard, but the decision to do it should be ridiculously easy as it is by far the least risky of options.