Slightly changing things to make them more efficient, or even more effective is not innovation.
Getting better at what you already do is not innovation.
Innovation is doing something different than what you are already doing. It takes time. It takes the courage to lead your way through the unknown. It also take incredible thinking ability.
Innovation is the ultimate in critical thinking.
The skills of critical thinking are directly involved in innovation. They are so closely aligned that I wonder if institutions that are not innovating have a existential deficit in critical thinking ability? If one is not operating with strong critical thinking, what are they using: rote actions? superficial thinking? Perhaps they are just paralyzed with fear.
Critical thinking and innovation involve:
Scanning the environment, looking at reality as it is, not as we wish it to be.
Using empathy to put oneself in others' roles and others' realities, like our students' or our parents'. Empathy is what allow us to consider a situation from a new angle and to be open to accepting a new idea.
Finding patterns and connecting the dots between them. Are you hearing the same ideas, the same reactions, the same frustrations from place to place?
Deconstructing a bigger picture of what we see into component parts, searching for unstated and unexplored assumptions, bias, stereotypes, underdeveloped aspects. It is in changing, switching, developing these component parts that a new approach, method or product is born.
Questioning deeply is the driving force of innovation and of critical thinking. One must learn to separate what you are seeing from what you are used to seeing or want to see. Learning to question what is before you, and why it is so, deepens one's ability to understand things at a fundamental and poignant level.
Generating scenarios and implications based on reorganizing component inputs in a situation requires the skills of analysis and synthesis over the span of time. To do this well, one needs to be able to imagine sequenced outcomes into the future. One also must be able to think clearly, detaching from one's own beliefs or biases.
Evaluating and deciding is the last step in critical thinking and innovation. After options are generated and a prediction of their outcomes is determined, imagined and evaluated best we can, we must decide. We must act. Critical thinking moves us to a decision and action. Acting, too, is a result of thinking that connects or intellectual analysis with our role and responsibility in a situation. Not acting denies our responsibility to act. So working through discomfort and fear are necessary for us to fulfill our responsibility. We must think our way through the fear as much and as persistently as we think our way through to the right approach.
Innovation is not slow, steady improvement of the same old thing. It is more like busting the concrete rocks of automatic thinking and routine, habitual behavior. It is about seeing things in a new way and owning one's full responsibility.