What Makes Innovation Sustainable?

The term “innovation” doesn’t mean much unless it is definable and sustainable. That’s why I appreciated recent comments by Ted Fujimoto of Landmark Consulting, which is a firm dedicated to scaling innovations in learning.

Successful innovations are ones that have broad impact, he says. Many of the great innovative practices and activities that happen in schools today don’t last and fail to have major impact. Why? They are created in a system and environment that is toxic for them. “Individual innovations have limited impact unless combined with a cohesively designed set of innovations to make a system,” says Fujimoto.

Innovations can be sustained, he says, when 1) communities manage to change the system and their environment to be aligned and supportive of implementing innovations; and 2) a group creates a whole-school design that cohesively bundles a system of innovations.

Examples? Napa County with “NapaLearns” transformed all K-12 schools across their districts into deeper learning using the New Tech Network design (see Tuesday’s blogpost).

The Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at University of Indianapolis, Innovative Schools of Delaware, and the state of Arkansas continue to be examples of organizations and agencies that are helping communities across their states cultivate conditions to support and implement deeper learning whole-school designs in partnership with whole-school replication networks.

One last key point. Creation of whole school design can and does occur in both the district and charter sectors. In fact, most of Fujimoto’s scaling work has been done with district schools. This goes back to an element of chartering critical to its origins–that it be the “R & D” sector for all public education. Regretfully, we’ve not cultivated that common ground over the last 25 years–but we can now. More on that next week.