Tuesday, March 29, 2005
We need mavericks!
A 'prickly customer'!
If your aim is to fit in well and to do what is expected of you, you are guaranteed to end up doing mediocre job. I fear too many teachers and principals have opted for this option, and ERO visits give you full credit for complying. In essence you have, as the song goes, ‘sold your soul to the company store!’
The future requires almost the opposite qualities. If you hate timetables and resent authority, you are a potential winner for your workplace. This is what has emerged from research which specifically set out to find out who has the potential to be an innovative thinker. People talk a lot about the importance of innovation but do they really understand what kind of people are innovative thinkers?
Innovations can show up in unexpected places but it seems you are either the stubborn devil; who tells it as it is like – or the model worker who doesn’t complain. Conscientious workers, who do things on time, are less likely to come up with inventive ideas, than the difficult person whose chaotic ‘modus operandi’ dismays his colleagues.
Those who thrive on change, who think of new ways to do things, are the ones to watch. These are the ‘change agents’ who organizations ought to crying out for.
Nor do the best ideas come from the top, far from it. Innovative organizations ask for, and act on, suggestions from those who do the work, or even from outside the organization itself. And innovation is not the same as creativity – innovation is about pushing ideas to fruition rather than dreaming them up and dropping them.
Organizations might want to recruit innovative thinkers, but do they really want non- conformists on board? Those who understand the importance of innovation say that the risk of not having them is even greater. It is not like as in the ‘olden days’, when you could ‘churn’ out the same products, now companies that do not innovate die. And by definition you have to be difficult in order to innovate because it is about challenging the ‘status quo’.
The problem is that these people are all too often seen as troublemakers and are seen as a risk to those who want to keep doing what they have learnt; such people do not like those who break the rules.
Ironically, difficult innovative people need their more conformist colleagues to query their ideas and to help put them into action; they also need colleagues who look after them as they are not much good at internal politics! And having too many ‘change agents’ (continually arguing the toss) might as ineffective as having too few!
To survive organizations have to take on and listen to brilliant mavericks. Mavericks ought not to be required to fit in to the organization, but are there to help everyone see things through ‘new eyes’. What is required is an evolving culture that makes changing current ways of doing things permissible, because taking no risks is the riskiest thing you can do.
Those who ‘lead’ organizations need to act as mentors to such innovative people, to keep the staff ‘roughly on track’, but also encouraging them to break free from conventional thinking when an opportunity arises.
Seems to me we need this kind of leadership, and valuing of innovative thinkers, in our schools.
Our schools are full of people who, to ‘succeed,’ have had to comply, when we really need creative innovative thinkers. If we continue to fit in with imposed constraints and requirements, we will all pay the price.None more so than the creative students, on whom the future will depend to solve answers to question not yet being asked.
Who are these ‘prickly’, but innovative, thinkers in your school – and is anybody listening?