Great question: If the mandate is for innovation, how much should best practice drive that?

A great question posed by @gcouros, deserves an answer that required more than 140 characters.

Why is there a mandate for innovation?
At the heart of the word ‘innovation’ is ‘nova’ – making things new, systems, ideas and products. The history of humanity is ‘nova’ – products, ideas and processes that change and (mostly) improve our individual and collective lives.

It’s almost cliché to talk about the pace of change, yet this is a reality. Technological and scientific discoveries are changing our lives and making many aspects of what was considered normal, now to be defunct. Innovation is the open door to improving our lives, it takes knowledge and ideas and turns them into action.

In an age of uncertainty due to the financial crisis, the changing employment landscape and increasing number of new, and also obsolete markets, the key message is innovate or be quickly irrelevant. Unless school education embraces a culture of innovation school becomes mechanical and students are not given the tools to think differently about solutions for their world.

What’s the challenge with best practice?
The term ‘best practice’ is often used within the context of a methodology that can be applied and helps to achieve the desired outcomes. It is a reflective practice developed by an accumulation of past experiences and analysed data and can be a formulaic response. ‘Best practice’ looks to what has worked previously, but doesn’t necessarily bring solutions to future problems.

The challenge for educators is that there is immense data that has informed what is considered to be ‘best practice’ for how learning occurs. This information can provide knowledge to help inform the future, but alone is insufficient. Innovation can start with this knowledge, but then adds intuition within the context of a vision to ultimately achieve implementation.

So, how much should best practice drive innovation?
For our young people to be equipped for success in an unknown future, one that requires new solutions to new problems, then a best practice approach alone can only improve the current state of play.

As futurist Joel Barker stated, ‘we manage within paradigm and lead between paradigms’.  Best practice shapes management, how we do things and how can we improve what we do. Innovation, however, looks to the new paradigm and is inextricably linked to visionary leadership, intuition and risk.

Thanks for the question, George.


One thought on “Great question: If the mandate is for innovation, how much should best practice drive that?

  1. Yes, isn’t it interesting too to consider that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Innovation itself is not new. So critically exploring which aspects of “best practice” fuel innovation and which aspects hinder it is very worthwhile. Doing this retrospectively and trying to gain an understanding of what types of thinking lead to innovation is helpful in minimising risky experimentation in education.


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