Theoretically, I’m in the process of starting a new job that is focused on encouraging e-learning and innovation within a university context. I’m still reading some of the different literature but the following quotes resonate with me around this position and how it is likely to evolve.

The purpose and place of “idea” departments

McLuhan and how innovation roles/departments are isolation wards

In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.

This is a real danger for the new position as it sits outside the organisational structures in which the vast majority of learning and teaching occurs. Especially when this presents barriers to the following.

Innovation is fostered by information gathered from new connections; from insights gained by journeys into other disciplines or places; from active, collegial networks and fluid, open boundaries. Innovation arises from ongoing circles of exchange, where information is not just accumulated or stored, but created. Knowledge is generated anew from connections that weren’t there before. — Margaret Wheatley

New: The following quote mirrors, to some extent, the McLuhan quote. It’s taken from a Clay Shirky post on the future of newspapers

Leadership becomes faith-based, while employees who have the temerity to suggest that what seems to be happening is in fact happening are herded into Innovation Departments, where they can be ignored en masse. This shunting aside of the realists in favor of the fabulists has different effects on different industries at different times.

The importance of failure

Woody Allen on failure

If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.

Edwin Land

The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.

Thomas Watson Sr

Success is on the far side of failure.

Innovation ain’t logical

Einstein on the connection between innovation and logic

Innovation is not the product of logical thought, although the result is tied to logical structure.

Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried. — Frank Tyger

That so few now dare to eccentric marks the chief danger of our time — John Stuart Mill

Solutions look for problems

And one I find particularly appropriate for e-learning.

We are surrounded by engineers’ folleys: too many technical solutions still looking for problems to solve.

The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions. — Anthony Jay

Pattern entrainment

As pattern matching intelligences human beings decision making is based on a first-fit pattern match with past experience. One of the reasons horseless carriage innovations.

The importance of creativity and what it is

Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted. — George Kneller

Along similar lines

It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date. — Roger von Oech

Of course, management is always important.

It isn’t the incompetent who destroy an organisation. The incompetent never get in a position to destroy it. It is those who achieved something and want to rest upon their achievements who are forever clogging things up. — F. M. Young

Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating the future. — James Bertrand

Open and closed

A quote from John Cleese on open and close modes, I see some connections with the Model 1 and Model 2 behaviours observed by Argyris.

We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don’t waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the “closed” mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the “open” mode—to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.

Argyris identifies attempts to “maximise winning and minimise losing” and “minimise generating or expressing negative feelings” as being key governing variables in Model 1 behaviour – the dominant model used in most organisations.

The things we fear most in organizations—fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances—re the primary sources of creativity. — Margaret Wheatley

The achievement of excellence can only occur if the organization promotes a culture of creative dissatisfaction. — Lawrence Miller

Difficulties of innovation

Also an aspect of pattern entrainment.

And of course, Machiavelli’s quote

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.