Leadership and innovation discussed at conference

January 15, 2016

Innovation was a key concern and topic of discussion with relevance to RDI.

Representation from the Rural Development Institute brought back substantial information from a recent conference.

Learning to lead from experiences

Gary Noli and Rodger Broome, from Utah Valley University, identified key elements of a leader. They referred to them as LEAP – involving Legitimate, Ethical, Affective and Persistent elements. Leaders are people continually expanding their skills, knowledge, and experience. Legitimate element refers to one’s power of position and job, and attention to details at the macro levels. Ethical element refers to character, values, and abilities to address dilemma and conflict. Affective element refers to ability to create and advance vision, instill passion, and make others feel accepted. Persistent element refers to not giving up on righteous plans and being resistant to various setbacks and opportunities. Together these four elements need to be addressed holistically, from teaching and preparing leaders with experiences. It is this combination of teaching and experiencing these speakers advocate are missing from the more textbook formulaic notions of graduating leaders.

These elements can be equally meaningful to innovators, where they too are becoming leaders as they commercialize their idea and bring it to market. Yet there are many paths of innovation, often built on successive set-backs, unequivocal determination, coupled with vision and relentless expectancy. Innovators can move beyond this model when they too share their knowledge and insight from their teaching and many experiences through mentorship.

Building networks for higher impact

Scott Strother and Leandra Fernadez, from Carnegie Foundation for the advancement of teaching, involve over 100 faculty from 43 colleges across 14 states to continually improve their science curriculum. Carnegie advocates for the use of improvement science to accelerate how a field learns to improve. Improvement science deploys rapid tests of change to guide the development, revision and continued fine-tuning of new tools, processes, work roles and relationships. In what seems as an annual cycle, teaching faculty identify changes in practices that affect the impact in the classroom and they identify content that is not working. The more troubled content is identified and then revised. A revising process is where willing faculty use design thinking of plan, do, review, and act. Here plan requires a clear problem statement and predictions of the impact on student learning resulting from proposed changes. “Do,” means the changes are initiated and impact reviewed among a small test group of faculty and students. Finally after determining what works or has desired impact, this leads to changes across the curriculum and improvements are then shared with all faculty.

Daniel Grassick, University of Alberta doctoral candidate, sees parallels with ‘maker space’ in schools and communities. Here students are invited to bring in ideas to make something and take steps to achieve their goal.While it may lead to a corresponding product or item, it can equally lead to other solutions and ideas. He is most interested in how best to teach this creative problem solving process. He and others are using design thinking, an iterative process of planning, doing, reviewing and action. Prototyping is central to moving from concept to something concrete. He shifts from constructivism to constructionism.

Central to the science of advancement and design thinking for maker space is collaborating with colleagues. Both hold promise and insight for the Rural Policy Learning Commons and for framing the Brandon University ‘innovation zone’ with the 3-D printers and RDI’s rural innovation in Manitoba project. These presenters suggest that building a network of interested faculty, students and others in a participatory process of engagement is most meaningful when an individual’s voice and ideas are considered and incorporated. This increases their own agency and leads to greater buy-in and continued commitment and sustained involvement.

Bill Ashton, Director, Rural Development Institute. From 14th Annual Education Conference, Hawaii.

2016 Hawaii Ed Conference