Three Horizons of Innovation: Important Framework for Schools

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Three Horizons of Innovation: Important Framework for Schools

Innovation is a simple word.  Gets thrown around a lot.  We all want to be innovative.  The fact is that true innovation, the creation and implementation of new ideas that bring true value to our organizations, is hard.  Real innovation will always get stuck on the back burner as we are overwhelmed by the stress of day-to-day obligations.  We need a sustainable framework that will help weave innovation best practices into our cultural DNA. One such framework I have found, presented in a three-blog series by Paul Hobcraft, is the Three Horizon model.  I think it is a good one for school leaders to reflect and build on.

I am going to post three blogs, one for each of these three horizons, as each presents important opportunities for schools to grab NOW.  The key is that we can’t engage these three horizons in sequence; to some extent we have to devote attention to all three at all times, though with appropriate levels of resources.

According to Paul: (Paul’s statement of the horizon is in quotes; the following commentary is mine.)

Horizon One represents the company’s core businesses today. This first horizon involves implementing innovations that improve your current operations. Your aim is to keep extending and defending your core business and this is done more though an incremental approach to improve on your existing business.”

Horizon One is our most familiar; it is where we look for efficiency and improvement in our core current programs.  Because it is familiar to our core, these improvements should not be disruptive and should translate directly to increased value as perceived by our client families.  Our core business is the creation and management of knowledge, and Horizon One innovations will largely be those that ensure that we continue to keep pace with that core business in a rapidly changing external environment.

What might some of these look like?  My first advice is to look to your vision statement, and ensure that your vision is firmly embraced by everyone at the school and firmly embedded in every program you provide. Schools that commit to global learning should build strong and pervasive, externally focused, and sustainable global learning opportunities for their students, not just in the high school, but also across grade level and discipline.  Schools that commit to leading edge technology should ensure that investment in programs like 1:1 actually change how student and teacher-learners access and process knowledge in the classroom.  Schools that state an emphasis on creativity should get rid of hard-copy texts and pay their own teachers to create curricula.  Schools that value collaborative learning need to align their daily schedules so both students and teachers have time to engage in true intra-school and inter-school collaborative learning opportunities.

The major shift that schools have to adopt with respect to Horizon One innovation is the speed of innovation.  In the past, these changes may have taken 3-5 years from initiation to adoption.  External stresses linked to technology, blended learning, social media, market demographics, and the economy require that at least some of these innovations will have to move much more quickly, or the school risks being relegated to the sidelines in its own core area of focus: transfer of knowledge.

My next post will look at Horizon Two, which deals with how bright lights at school are adapted into the core business.



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By | 2012-08-03T16:37:03+00:00 August 3rd, 2012|Governance and leadership, Innovation in Education|2 Comments

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  1. paul4innovating August 4, 2012 at 7:25 am - Reply

    Grant, Glad you have picked up on the Three Horizons and apply this to Schools, there is some opening interest in public services as well. It can be a most useful frame methodology to combine, seek out and allocate.

    In my opinion Horizon two is critical for school transitions, it is where you begin to gravitate, to move through change, based on some future thoughts but ‘grounded’ in the present. A tough zone (h2) to navigate but it provides the link.

    Will enjoy reading your thoughts as they evolve

    • glichtman August 4, 2012 at 2:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Paul, and for your frequent useful posts on innovation. Will post some thoughts about H2 today if I can peel away from the Olympics!. I agree H2 is toughest for schools, particularly those that have been successful in the past; most schools have little upside to take H2-type risks.

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