May 2017

The Job of Innovation

March 21, 2017

By Michael B. Horn

Innovation is all the rage.

Corporations boast chief innovation officers, innovation training, and fancy slogans that appear in TV ads.

In the field of education, innovation is quite the fad, too. School heads, edtech vendors, conference attendees, and others proclaim their innovation strategies or fret about the innovation around them — or do both simultaneously. All too often, educators seem to think they should be innovating for its own sake or out of a sense of obligation.

“Disruptive innovation” — a form of innovation that brings significant change to long-held cultural and organizational practices and assumptions — has its own overexposure problem within the broader innovation meme. As its architect, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen, points out, the phrase is often misused — which has the effect of reducing it to a trendy buzzword that loses its practical and predictive meaning. When almost every school initiative is described as “disruptive,” we have a real problem.

In such a landscape, how should educators think about innovation? What does true disruptive innovation look like? More important, why should we care?


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