Innovation is a word that we all now use: “schools must innovate in order to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world”. But before we start something, we should know WHY. Jeffery Phillips, writing on the Innovation Excellence blog site notes five key factors that are driving that need to innovate; my commentary is to tie these directly to education.
- Falling trade barriers: as Philips notes, trade barriers continue to decrease, in spite of challenging financial conditions. For schools, decreasing barriers to international commerce are reflected in the number of foreign students who want to study in America and can afford it, and an increase in competition from foreign education programs that can buy, import, or develop expertise in the most efficient models of education.
- Increasing rate of change: nowhere is this more critical than in knowledge-based industries, of which schools lie at the heart. Five years ago smart phones did not exist, and two years ago tablet computers (read iPad) had just been announced. The best information we have is that be the year 2020 the sum of human knowledge will double every year. We are in the knowledge-transfer business and the rate of change in our core business has gone vertical.
- Customer expectation increase: consumers have leveraged social media and connectivity and are vastly more introspective and inspective than they were even a decade ago. Word of mouth is a very different animal when one mouth can instantly reach hundreds, thousands, or millions of ears. Families rightly expect that their children are going to get into college at a minimum, and a good enough college that graduate school is a very real future option. Real value is increasingly at the heart of major purchasing decisions.
- Increasing access to information: As Philips notes, almost everyone has the same access to information as everyone else. School used to be the place where a segment of the population went to get information; no more. Now the value of merely possessing information has gone almost to zero; customer satisfaction will be found in how that information is used to leverage some higher level of value.
- Decreasing cost of entry: Through the use of technology, which is vanishingly cheap relative to the cost of training, hiring, developing, and retaining teachers, the cost of knowledge creation and transfer is plummeting. As Philips says “anyone can enter and sell in any market.” The cost of opening a “school” may be as low as buying a computer and advertising on the Internet. Those that create value in those markets will succeed and those that do not will fail, regardless of past performance.
These are give good reasons that drive us to embrace innovation. They are clear, easy to understand, objectively measurable, and present across market segments. School leaders should increasingly include this type of discussion in their externally-focused, value-driven strategic plans.