ARTICLE | Maret Staron, Manager, TAFE NSW ICVET
Second in a series of articles highlighting the findings of the research report by Marie Jasinski, Innovate and Integrate: Embedding innovative practices (2006). The research was funded by the Australian Flexible Learning Framework. For full research report (243 pages) go to the Innovate and integrate home page
How do we transform new ideas into value creating outcomes – into value adding products, processes and services? How do we leap the chasms that often stop new ideas and practices becoming the norm?
This article focuses on 3 key components influencing the uptake of innovation – the innovation itself, the innovators and adopters, and the organisation.
It was questions such as these that drove Marie Jasinski to undertake extensive research into embedding innovation and the barriers that often stop us getting there.
- Adoption – decision to engage
- Diffusion – spreading the word
- Implementation – utilisation
- Embedding – to fix or set securely; integrate as core practice by critical mass.
We sadly farewelled Marie in January of this year. (Tribute LINK?) Her legacy lives on through the impact she has had on so many people and the research that she has conducted. Innovation, creativity and people were her passion. As Marie Jasinski stated in her research ‘we are not alone’ - education and training sectors all over the world are facing the common challenge of identifying how to transition ‘innovative practice’ to ‘everyday practice’.
Marie found that to date, most research has extensively explored the first three stages of innovation. There is little practical research around the fourth stage, ie. embedding innovation so that it becomes a core practice within the organisation.
The research uncovered a common and consistent message for successfully embedding innovation. It must:
- Have a clear vision for e-learning
- Be driven by champions
- Be explored from multiple perspectives
- Involve a range of stakeholders over a period of time
- Have committed support, and
- There is no one way to do it.
In other words, innovation is about systemic change – it requires an integrated, strategic approach across all areas of the organisation. To do this effectively, three key components should be considered in whole-of-organisation endeavours:
- The innovation –types of innovation, attributes, market need, benefits, pedagogical impact.
- The innovators and adopters –human factors including beliefs, attitudes, readiness, collaboration, personal impact, relationships.
- The organisation –culture and systems, including infrastructure, leadership, commitment, provision of appropriate support.
In relation to the innovation itself, you need to consider:
- What innovation practices are surviving now? Organisations need some tracking device to identify what people are actually using, as it gives a guide to what is ‘embeddable’.
- The purpose of the innovation? Is it to complement existing practices (incremental) or is it to build a new core (radical)?
- What decision making tools will we use to guide selection and determine degree of commitment to embed? Useful tools are:
- Adams model of attributes – newness, ideation, application and benefit. (p 34 of research report) These help ascertain ‘embedabiity’.
- Rogers five factors – compatibility, observability, relative advantage and trialability. (p 33 of research report) These have most impact on an individual’s decision to adopt an innovation. .
Innovation is about ideas and the transformation of those ideas into value creating outcomes – into products, processes and services. Innovations include breakthrough ideas that lead to new products or services, and incremental ideas which improve the way processes are undertaken, or products are manufactured. Innovation is about the creation of new knowledge and the use of that knowledge
(National Innovation Website 2006).
Incremental innovation seeks to improve the systems that already exist, making them better, faster and cheaper. This is sometimes called ‘Market Pull’ Innovation.
Radical innovation is more focused on new technologies, new business models and breakthrough businesses. This is sometimes called ‘Technology Push’ Innovation.
Incremental innovations complementing existing practice are more likely to be adopted and embedded than radical approaches.
There are three categories or types of innovation:
- Readily adopted – which aligns well with Roger’s 5 attributes. These innovations have minimum impact beyond the local context
- Challenging – which have high ratings for risk, disruption, scope and complexity. They require changing other systems within the organisation.
- Undercover – these have no profile beyond local groups and no official support.
While classifying innovation into these categories is still at the early stages of investigation, the research found that two-thirds of the innovations investigated in this study were not ‘readily adopted’, implying that there are many barriers (or ‘chasms’) impeding the process of change. Innovators and adopters are critical in informing decisions to be made and processes to be changed.
Embedding innovation requires adoption by a critical mass – these are the mainstream adopters.
Three ‘chasms’ (or divides) were identified in the research literature search as barriers to mainstream adoption of an e-learning innovation:
- A chasm between early and mainstream adopters - each have different reasons to adopt and different expectations, so momentum can be lost if these differences are not addressed (Jasinski cites Moore 1999).
(Marie Jasinski 2006. Reprinted with permission. Adapted from Moore 1999. )
- A support structure chasm - mainstream adopters need different support to early adopters, yet support systems are set up for early adopters. Mainstream adopter support includes shared decision making, peer support, a focus on teaching and learning, and highly ‘adoptable’ use of technology. Mainstream adopters are not so enamoured with the technology and are looking for practical solutions to real problems, where as early adopters tend to focus more on exploring the technology and may not be good role models for mainstream adopters (Jasinski cites Geoghegan 1995, Forsyth 2004, Lambe 2003, Nutley et al 2002, White 2002). Yet early adopters are often targeted to take on this role.
(Marie Jasinski 2006. Reprinted with permission)
- A technology-pedagogy chasm - e-learning technologies are adopted at a faster rate and are more advanced than e-learning pedagogies. This highlights the need to have sound underpinning pedagogy, as technology use tends to sustain rather than alter exiting patterns of teaching practice. Technology will do nothing to improve ineffective teaching. E-learning innovation may be less about the ‘e’ and more about the ‘learning’ (Jasinski cites Elgort 2005, Cuban et al 2001, Geoghegan 1995). This has implications for:
- Modelling good practice
- Initial teacher training
- Ensuring that e-learning initiatives are based on sound pedagogical foundations.
(Marie Jasinski 2006. Reprinted with permission.)
In her research, Marie Jasinski asks - what sort of organisation enables this complex process of embedding practices to be realised?
It’s a complex (rather than simple) system that enables innovation to thrive. The organisation needs to be:
- Largely self organised
- Networked and highly connected
- Have interactions that are fluid and interdependent
- With flexibility to embrace both radical and incremental changes.
(Carlisle and McMillan 2006)
If an organisation is too stable, there is resistance to change. If it is too unstable, there may be disintegration.
Innovation requires both exploration and utilisation and these may require different roles, talents, ways of doing things and different support system requirements. Organisations must be flexible enough to respond to what is required at any point in time as there will be an iteration between the need to explore and the need to utilise. Both are important for meeting current and future needs.
Embedding an innovation is about consistent utilisation in everyday practice and this infers stability – the need for robust systems and processes which identifies:
- What needs to be done
- Who is responsible
- How the embedding process is best supported.
‘RIPPLES’ implementation model
The acronym RIPPLES stands for: resources, infrastructure, people, policies, learning, evaluation, support. For a full description of these components of the model, refer to the research report (pp 44 – 49). The model was developed by Dr Daniel Surry, Associate Professor, Instructional Design and Development, University of South Alabama and David Ensminger, Clinical Assistant Professor, School Technology program, Loyola University, Chicago.
This is a model to help senior decision makers in the implementation of web-based learning in the higher education sector. The model was tested in the vocational education and training (VET) context. Dr Surry designed, administered and analysed the VET survey results. Results of the survey indicated that:
- RIPPLES is a viable and practical implementation model for VET.
- It identified:
- a focus on learning outcomes as the key enabler of innovative e-learning practice and
- technology infrastructure as the key barrier
- support as a pressing need
- All seven components of the model were considered important to an embedding process, reinforcing a key theme emerging from the literature that several key components must be aligned for an innovation to move forward.
Other interesting results of the survey were that:
- While 86% of respondents rated themselves as being much more or somewhat more innovative than the average person, 44.7 % indicated they were using innovative e-learning practices and techniques to a very high or high extent in their delivery
- Of the 53.1% who believed their organisation in general was extremely or somewhat innovative, only 25.7% believed their organisation was using innovative practices to a very high or high extent.
In summary, individual respondents perceived themselves to be more innovative than the organisation they worked in and using more innovative practices than their organisation as a whole. As Marie herself asked, what do you make of that?
Marie concludes that the RIPPLES model aligned well with the intent of the research. It proved to be a very useful framework for analysing the barriers, enablers and other factors impacting on embedding innovation in VET.
Embedding innovation - we're not alone! ARTICLE | Maret Staron, December eZine 2007