« YouTube for scientific dissemination | Blog home | Online surveys in educational and social research: Self-learning resources and tools »

business learning training articles new learning business training opportunities finance learning training deposit money learning making training art loan learning training deposits make learning your training home good income learning outcome training issue medicine learning training drugs market learning money training trends self learning roof training repairing market learning training online secure skin learning training tools wedding learning training jewellery newspaper learning for training magazine geo learning training places business learning training design Car learning and training Jips production learning training business ladies learning cosmetics training sector sport learning and training fat burn vat learning insurance training price fitness learning training program furniture learning at training home which learning insurance training firms new learning devoloping training technology healthy learning training nutrition dress learning training up company learning training income insurance learning and training life dream learning training home create learning new training business individual learning loan training form cooking learning training ingredients which learning firms training is good choosing learning most training efficient business comment learning on training goods technology learning training business secret learning of training business company learning training redirects credits learning in training business guide learning for training business cheap learning insurance training tips selling learning training abroad protein learning training diets improve learning your training home security learning training importance
This entry complements the earlier blog about the British perspectives on innovation in education. Recently NESTA (The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) produced an interesting report analysing the innovation systems in six ‘low innovation’ sectors.
  • Policy & Research Unit. (2007). Hidden innovation: How Innovation happens in six 'low innovation' sectors. UK, London: NESTA. URL

Education, together with oil production, construction, retail banking, civil legal services and rehabilitation of offenders, is among those six.

The British report examines whether these sectors really perform so poor in innovation or whether traditional indicators (e.g., investment in R&D) do not capture all of the innovation that takes place in these sectors. While there is some evidence that some innovation processes in education are ‘hidden’ and traditional performance metrics probably fail to capture a broad variety of local development-led innovations in schools, the flaws in the innovation system are also obvious.

The main ideas from this report about the 'hidden innovation' and innovation system in education are summarised in this blog.

Understanding hidden innovation

Traditional indicators, based on a model of science-based innovation led by formal R&D, become increasingly less relevant. Many sectors are more dependent on ‘hidden innovation’ – the innovation activities that are not reflected in traditional indicators (patents, R&D investments) and not explicit in innovation policies.

Main characteristics of hidden innovation

  • Innovation is not synonymous with research. It is more developmental, based around individual projects/problems and conducted in response to specific issues.
  • Networks and collaboration are important to innovation. Innovation doesn’t happen in a linear way and move from ‘laboratory to marketplace’. It rarely happens at one time in one place or within a single business or organisation. Collaborations between doers and users (business, suppliers, clients, etc.) generate the majority of successful innovations. Contemporary innovation is a complex and interactive process that involves multiple feedbacks and interactions. It is an increasingly global process.
  • Innovation depends heavily on the ability to draw on a ‘hinterland’ of related sectors and suppliers. Innovation relies heavily on ‘absorptive capacity’ - a business’s ability to identify, assimilate, combine in a new ways and exploit existing knowledge from a wider environment, including its networks. The use, adoption and exploitation of existing technology is often more important than new-to-the-world invention. “This process has been called ‘innovation without research’ and echoes the recent emphasis on ‘open innovation’; that firms should better utilise ideas from outside sources rather than always seeking to invent for themselves” (p. 17). Innovation often involves melding existing technologies and matching those with organisational change to deliver innovative services. Organisational innovation is important of itself and to extract maximum benefit from other innovations.
  • ‘Being innovative’ can mean many different things: (a) generator of new ideas; (b) developer of ideas into operational innovations; (c) fast follower and adopter of innovations developed elsewhere; or (d) transmitter and supplier of innovations to others.

Four types of hidden innovation

  • Type I: Innovation based on science and technology, but excluded from traditional indicators.
  • Type II: Innovation without a major scientific and technological basis, such as new forms of organisations, business models and processes.
  • Type III: Innovation arising from the novel combination of existing technologies and processes, such as eBanking services.
  • Type IV: Incremental locally-developed small-scale innovations that take place ‘under the radar’ of many organisations and individuals and often go unnoticed even within a sector, such as everyday classroom innovations.

Policy and innovation

Hidden innovation is often more about absorbing ideas than creating new ones – and is greatly affected by non-innovation policies. Four different layers of policy impact on innovation:

  • Traditional innovation policy.
  • Policy that indirectly supports hidden innovation – often these are actions by government that already support hidden innovation, frequently by establishing or supporting intermediary organisations or networks (e.g., in education, sectoral innovation units, educational research brokerage agencies, intelligence-sharing platforms initiated and supported by government).
  • Innovation by government in sectors where it has a substantial presence, i.e. when government itself can act in more innovative ways.
  • Non-innovation policy that supports or blocks innovation by affecting ‘framework conditions’, as taxation, skills and regulation, and wider political conditions.

Despite their influence on innovation, the policies that shape these conditions are rarely considered ‘innovation policy’. The report makes the final argument that “Innovation policy needs to become more like innovation itself” (p. 27).

Hidden innovation in education

Research and innovation in education

“Increased innovation is required to improve educational achievement and foster the desire for continued learning irrespective of class, race or gender” (p. 52).

  • “Only a small proportion of educational research has a direct impact on everyday classroom practice and school management. In particular, there is a generally acknowledged and longstanding gap between university-based academic research and classroom application. This is institutionalised by the separation of academic research in universities from professional practice in schools. Academia still tends to value formal research knowledge published in academic journals, while schools value informal knowledge embodied in practice” (p. 55).
  • However, education “does have a research capacity, in the research conducted or funded by governments, national agencies, intermediary organisations, and the research conducted in universities” (p. 54).
  • Innovation is hidden in education because it is not normally driven by abstract research and evaluation, but centrally-led reforms and local developmental work.

Retrospective of educational innovation in England

  • Over the past decade, most changes have been centrally-led, with few locally-developed innovations being diffused more widely. Innovation has been framed by centrally-led reforms to improve standards. These changes were radical (changed structures) and incremental (drew on previous knowledge about best practices).
  • Recent government policies encourage innovation to further improve standards. A new system is described as ‘disciplined innovation’. ”This combines local and national elements with some local innovation that can be taken-up by collaborative networks or federations of schools” (p. 53). These include innovative teaching forms and practices supported centrally by government, such as personalised learning, ICT in teaching, learning and school management.
  • Innovation often remains localised, incremental, and focused on processes and organisation. “There is a large volume of relatively small-scale but valuable innovation in the way schools organise themselves, the curriculum they offer and the way they deliver it. <..> Descriptions of these locally-developed innovations are often available on websites such as the DfES Standards site, TeacherNet, the Innovation Unit and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. However, such innovations are rarely actively diffused through the system. In many cases they do not even spread throughout an organisation; teachers commonly report that they haven’t shared their own innovations (for example, a novel way of teaching a particular topic) with colleagues in the same school” (p. 53). (eR)
  • Intermediary organisations are supporting partnerships and collaborations for innovation: D&R Networks and Networked Learning Communities. “The emerging system of innovation is increasingly relying on partnerships and collaborations between schools. These are often supported by intermediary organisations such as the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT).Practitioners consistently cite these opportunities for collaborative development and learning from their peers as being more effective than any other form of continuing professional development (CPD)” (p. 53).

Impact of ‘hidden’ on outputs

Centrally-led initiatives have had a mixed impact on real and perceived opportunities for innovation:

  • “A preference for centrally-led initiatives has lessened the real and perceived opportunities for teachers and schools to experiment with, and adopt, more radical new practices or forms of organisation” (p. 54). The National curriculum is perceived to be too prescriptive with little space for local flexibility.
  • “Despite the relative increase in collaborations, there remains a lack of mechanisms for the diffusion of innovations developed at the local level, and relatively few schools have been involved in organised collaborations” (p. 54).

Designing future system for innovation in education

  • Metrics could be based on outputs of intellectual property and the factors that help to develop new practices.
  • Innovation could be increased by supporting more developmental work led by teachers and schools. “Development-led experimentation by teachers that might lead to formal research work, rather than the other way around” (p. 56). (sic! eR)
  • “Strengthening of the intermediary ‘market’ in innovation would improve the generation and diffusion of new ideas. <…> Offering more of the available budget for educational research to consortia of schools engaged in D&R with other partners could have a significant effect” (p. 56).