Innovation is defined as making changes in something established by introducing new methods, ideas or products. The very definition of innovation allows us to glean what problems an innovator might encounter as they strive to do things differently.
Trying to change the way things have always been done provides would-be innovators first of all with a political challenge, for persuading colleagues that change is both necessary and beneficial is no easy task.
Every single educational institution is governed and shaped by macro- and micro-politics. Innovators will find hurdles in both spheres, but it is the micro-politicking that takes place in the staff room, among colleagues, that worries me the most.
Simon Baddeley and Kim Jones very effectively described political behaviour within organisations using their Owl, Fox, Donkey and Sheep model. It is really difficult to read their evocative descriptions and not come away having mentally ascribed each of your colleagues to one of their zoological categories. You should try it, if only for fun.
However, when it comes to innovation, I would describe just two different categories of people: Chimps and Ants.
I am a Chimp
Chimps are innovators by nature. Always tinkering with sticks and stones trying figure out new and better ways to get to those tasty termites… figuratively speaking, of course.
Chimps are those teachers committed to their jobs and their schools, permanently striving to develop themselves professionally for the benefit of their pupils. Teaching is their vocation: Chimps live to teach.
Chimps are likely to discuss lesson strategies and outcomes at break with colleagues or online and ask themselves searching questions about the effectiveness of their practice.
Chimps are likely to partner with other teachers and engage in mutually beneficial lesson observations and to actively seek student feedback to inform their future lesson planning.
Chimps are not afraid to try to put new thinking into practice. Chimps are not afraid of failure, they see it as a learning opportunity.
I am an Ant
Ants work hard to preserve the status quo react adversely when their single files are disrupted by stick-wielding chimps… again, figuratively speaking.
Ants are those teachers who teach for a living and see professional development as a chore and another hoop to jump through.
Ants are as likely to ridicule and taunt Chimps at break as they are likely to deride and blame their own students for their inability to do well in their subjects.
Ants prefer to do things the old-fashioned way and rely on experience, not as the seed of innovation, but rather as the justification for their own indolence.
Ants loathe innovation because changing the way you do things is too much effort. Ants fear being derided and ridiculed by other Ants, they fear failure.
Think you’re more of a Chimp? Think I don’t like Ants? Think again. We can all be Chimps or Ants at different times, depending on our circumstances. We tend to be Chimp-like when it comes to our own innovative ideas, but Ant-like when considering the ideas of others.
Many thanks to Ryan Berry for his fantastic photo titled New Ideas Are… Encouraged