“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Anne Ritchie
This common proverb outlines the greatest issue facing innovative leaders today: the difference between implementing an innovative idea and developing an innovative culture. The former is akin to giving a man a fish, while truly developing an innovating culture is feeding for a lifetime. In the previous two articles in this series, we looked at how to effectively communicate a vision and the innovation cycle. In this article, we focus on how to develop an innovative culture.
Much has been written about creating a culture of innovation. Perhaps, this is so because it is really quite difficult to accomplish. Of particular concern, there seems to be very few schools that are have innovation built into their working cultures. Therefore, creating an innovative culture within Christian education requires leaders to be courageous, embrace change, and become a cheerleader.
Creating innovative cultures requires leaders that are courageous. Many Christian schools are risk averse; therefore, they are innovation averse. Innovating requires courage. Developing an innovative culture requires exponentially more courage. Boards, colleagues, faculty, parents, and, even students need to be challenged to change. This requires courage.
Our schools exist because parents choose to send their students to our school. Conversely, our schools close when parents choose another school. While this seems obvious, it is the main reason many Christian schools are unable to create innovative cultures. There is a real fear that parents will choose another school if we stray from or a true satisfaction with the status quo.
Be courageous! Your school will not grow or improve until you have the courage to permit and promote innovation.
Likewise, innovative cultures are cultures that embrace change whether it is curriculum, procedures, or policy. Everyone in the organization is seeking ways to improve. In fact, if ideas are not being generated by every employee within your organization, your culture is not innovative.
One of the best ways to embrace change is to routinely listen to the constituents within your school. When leaders listen, people will feel comfortable sharing ideas. Listening promotes value, interest, devotion, and innovation.
Become a Cheerleader
Innovative cultures are inherently happy cultures. What do you celebrate? We celebrate what we value. If you value conservative, risk averse thinking, you will communicate this in what you celebrate. However, if you truly value innovation, you will cheer when your organization courageously embraces change, even if the result is less than perfect or failure altogether.
As I grow as a leader, I am learning that becoming a cheerleader is essential for the promotion of innovation. I naturally have a vision for the future and have personally embraced an innovative philosophy. I have implemented several innovative programs, yet I’ve learned that not until the core of my school community feels supported and valued, an innovative culture will not emerge.
Perhaps, the proverb at the beginning could be restated as such: Give an organization an innovative idea, feed it for a season. Teach an organization to innovate, feed it for a lifetime.
Be courageous. Teach your school to embrace change. Celebrate progress. The results are worth the risk and the effort because they will make an eternal impact.