Innovation from the Middle

Like the majority of government organizations, many school districts operate as Theory X companies – hierarchical, highly supervised, and compliance oriented. If your educational institution is not one of these, consider yourself fortunate. It is very likely do to your enlightened district leadership. Clayton Christensen believes that as an identity-laden industry, education will innovate very slowly. So far history has proven his theory.

In my experience, sustaining innovation (as opposed to disruptive innovation) comes from the middle. In their article in HBR on Stealth Innovation Paddy Miller and Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg give some great examples and explanations as to why this happens.

The important takeaway for me is that although the innovation did not occur at the top of the hierarchy, the innovator upon being discovered was celebrated and not chastised for “working outside of his or her assigned purview”. You will be amazed at how much progress can be made, if only the middle has the autonomy to innovate.

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