We placed our hand luggage in the overhead lockers and sat down one by one in the row of three seats. It had been a long day but worth the trip. It had all gone to plan. Not even Shaun being stopped for a search in the airport had delayed the ‘3Amigos’ from their adventure of discovery. Now, admittedly a day trip to Newcastle might not be everyone’s idea of an adventure, but for three headteachers from Suffolk it had been more than a day out. For Anna, Shaun and me, it had been a successful research trip. Who would have known that reading the ’20 Outstanding Schools – Excelling Against the Odds’ would have led to this journey? It had been good for us to see a school working in a similar context to ours and to compare similarities and look for areas that they could learn from to improve their situation. As we flew back home the review began. Comparing similarities and differences we started to plan how they could innovate to improve our situation back home in their own schools.
Innovation is not just a magic elixir reserved for the anointed ones. Anyone can innovate providing that you follow the recipe. There are two stages to innovating.
Purpose – Why you are doing it and what you are trying to achieve
Problem – What is best practice? What are your shortfalls? What are you trying to solve?
Pinpoint – What does your customer actually need?
The flight to Newcastle was all part of our review. Looking at what is being done and how successful is it can help you to see either what you are missing or what everyone is missing.
James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner man, saw a problem. He looked at what every vacuum cleaner manufacturer was doing, even the best and saw that there was a problem – bags. They hindered the suction and they needed emptying or throwing away. Only by reviewing the best on offer was he able to get a full picture. The same review of current best practice and what each part entails, aids our journey of discovery, dissatisfaction with the status quo and desire to improve.
So, what are you trying to innovate at the moment? Maybe on lockdown you are trying to adapt what you offer. Maybe you are looking to increase or improve. Look at those in the arena
What are they offering?
What does each part do?
What is the best practice?
Where are their weaknesses?
What can you use or adapt?
Where is there a gap that you can exploit?
But if you are truly going to innovate, look beyond your arena and into diverse arenas. What can you learn from them that you can innovate into your service or product?
A simple example of this is how Everyday Leader has adapted its one to one coaching during lockdown. We looked at what are other businesses using for meeting people? What is good practice? What can they do? Can I adapt or use it for coaching? Now, even on lockdown, we offer Zoom coaching that allows us to meet with people and share documents and help them plan.
Create an Alloy
If you are leader in education, what can I learn from business or charitable organisation’s best practice? If you are in business, is there anything in education’s best practice that will help me? As a leader, look at what leaders are doing in other arenas to yours. What is having impact? How can I use or adapt it? Metal workers have known for years by mixing metals you can create an alloy that can offer new properties that can best suit it for a new circumstance.
The ability as a leader to create an alloy, to adapt and adopt from different situations is a valuable skill for innovation. But it starts with knowing what is out there, what is best practice, what properties sit at the core and then adapting and adopting the right ones to your circumstance.
Where is the best practice? Go on an adventure to find it, to help you innovate. Just probably not on a plane at the moment.