The DeHavilland Blog

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What’s the motivation?



Bellwether Partners recently released Pull and Push: Strengthening Demand for Innovation in Education, third in a series of reports on fostering innovation in the K-12 market. There’s lots of talk about creating the conditions for change and lots of references to market development (complete with the obligatory references to Moore’s Crossing the Chasm), but this report is all but useless when it comes to plotting a path forward to productive change.

The reason? While it offers a hat-tip to the numerous and substantial barriers in the system (such as the fact that there are several people in any decision-making process who are unable to say yes but have the power to say no), it completely ignores the idea of motivation.

Even if you were to make purchasing or adoption easier, why would anybody do it? You’re ensuring more work for yourself, and the risk/reward ratio is heavily tilted to the downside: If you succeed there’s no upside (more pay, promotion, etc.), and if you fail there’s plenty of downside.

Instead, the authors, like so many others before them, fall back on demands: policymakers must do x, we need to ensure that educators do y, and so on – completely avoiding the question of why anyone would pursue risky change when the system is completely focused on preventing change.

If you want to create innovation, focus first on motivation – in fact, creating a motivation system would be the most effective innovation you could develop in the K-12 space.

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