Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Price of Innovation and Change

Innovation and change isn't free, but I believe the value is worth the cost.

For example, do you risk a broken computer by letting young children use them?  Or do you simply not purchase computers because you anticipate that children will break them? Computers break and accidents happen. It's true that we need protocols and routines that help to protect computers because computers cost money, and if we're spending all the money on broken computers, we won't have money for new tools and equipment.

Hence, how might we want to evaluate the problem. First, I'm interested in the typical ratio of computer use to  computer damage.  For example for 100 hours of typical computer use, what is the fraction of expected damage?  I'm sure technology folk have all kinds of data on that, and if you know it please share.

Next, I'm interested in how people deal with damaged equipment issues.  Obviously if you publicly humiliate those that accidentally break  the computers, others may fear trial or use--why risk it? It's not as if teachers instantly become wealthier, more beautiful or more popular for using tech.  In fact, quite the opposite is true, teachers who push the margins for new ideas and innovation often spend their own money and work late into the evening so they can keep pace with the expected work while innovating too.

Those who try new ideas pay the price of time.  Systems reluctant to support innovation may scrutinize standardized test scores, time on task and student performance to be ready to punish or dismiss a teacher who is innovating, but not making the grade with regard to traditional teaching/long-held classroom expectations.  Hence teachers in those systems have to work about twice as many hours to both try new ideas and do all the existing work too.  Many at higher education and industry are setting aside time for innovation incubation--open ended experimentation and entrepreneurship to solve existing problems or bring their organizations into the future.  In these places, it isn't expected that those trying out new ideas do all the old ones too. But in schools, it's often the case that new ideas cost the price of time.

Innovation creates failure more often than it creates promise, yet if no one tries anything new organizations won't move forward.  How failure is embraced and looked at makes a big difference when it comes to how innovation and change is met in an organization.  Innovation and change does cost mistakes, but we all know that mistakes are stepping stones to learning and success.

Innovation and change has a price and leads to the question, "How much are you willing to spend?"