Jason Lembke

I recently attended the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEPFI) conference in Indianapolis. At the closing general session Andrew Zolli, the curator/exec director at Poptech delivered a thought-provoking presentation on what innovation really is.

Zolli defined innovation as: the creation of new forms of value, in anticipation of future demand, in a way that creates systemic change.

In his view, innovative organizations consistently display the following processes and practices:

  1. Make all accountable for innovation.
  2. Place A LOT of small "bets"...be very good at incremental change.
  3. Invest in those closest to the stakeholder.
  4. Leverage innovation from outside.
  5. Copy best practices sparingly...look beyond what was "done last time"
  6. Actively cultivate internal and external networks.
  7. Embrace cognitive diversity.
  8. Systematically scan for weak signals.
  9. Build highly differentiated partnerships outside of your industry/circles.

He also spoke about "the future" and how people perceive it. He showed two images of what the future was supposed to look like published from the 1910s. One illustrated a small city inside a sphere rolling down what resembled the Great Wall of China. The other illustrated a city that was dotted with electrical transistors. His point? They were created by the best and brightest minds of the time. His explanation of how they were off track was that people take trends (at the time electricity and mass transit were becoming mainstream) and amplify them into "the future."

Think about that in the context of what we know today. Will technology rule the future? Quite possibly. Will it continue to be at its current pace of disruption? Perhaps.

I read more and more about how Apple and others have lost their ability to innovate. Is that true or are we addicted to the speed of change?

We don't have the ability to predict the future. What we do have, as thought leaders in K12 design, are the tools to ask the right questions and seek more meaningful solutions.

How cool is that?

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