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Innovation Talent Development: New Solutions to Emerging Challenges and Opportunities

Leadership Abstract

July 2013, Volume 26, Number 7

By Jamie Justice

A global recession of large scale proportion, skyrocketing energy costs, and other economic and social issues have had a significant impact on America. As a result of these and other factors, a new learning climate is emerging that places demands on all levels of education. Educators must consider how practical solutions that address these changes can and should be included in both secondary and higher education curricula. Seven components of this new learning climate directly affect colleges and schools:

  1. Technology
  2. Engagement
  3. Emerging Occupations
  4. Budgets
  5. Innovation
  6. Learning Gaps
  7. Globalization

Emergent Learning and Envisioneering

Other challenges to the status quo of higher education are coming from a rapidly growing market segment that includes learners who are seeking alternative forms of credentialing. They are looking outside of traditional education models to opportunities such as corporate training universities, prior learning assessments, competency-based forms of education, and the emerging massive open online courses as viable opportunities. These new opportunities pose major challenges to the traditional school and college system, and will further drive the need for innovation and transformation of our full P-20 education system.

Envisioneering is a process of developing the capacity of education leadership to creatively respond and adapt to growing challenges and emerging opportunities, and transform the American system of education. Envisioneering concepts provide a renewed application of problem solving skills to specifically target the challenges by chunking them and developing a new cadre of innovators to face each challenge directly. Envisioneering focuses on reinvigorating the American innovator and generating new opportunities through the application of innovation principles and system understanding.

Envisioneers will find new ways of doing things. From renewed engagement and personal ownership of learning, they will provide new solutions, systems, and products to benefit the whole of society. Envisioneers will be engaged learners and leaders who provide the vision for a new future that emerges from a redesigned and transformed education system. This article proposes that envisioneering practice and envisioneering centers hold promise for addressing the various challenges facing our institutions and the students and communities we serve.

Responding to Global Issues at the Local Level

The issues are broad and highly complex, but actions can be taken at state and local levels to help address challenges associated with the economy, globalization, technology, and education reform. Some innovative approaches may include:

A Deliberate Investment in Developing Innovation Talent and Capacity

  • Create or expand on new uses of technology, instructional innovation, and other best practices currently used by faculty innovators.
  • Identify content developers, subject matter experts, and project managers, and lead faculty and staff innovators to develop new innovations and content solutions.
  • Create an incentive system that provides opportunity for faculty and staff to benefit from new practices and solutions created by faculty either personally or to their respective program area budgets.
  • Create programs to train and develop innovators to focus on new solutions, applications of proven approaches, and ways to manage change.

A New Focus on Service

  • Provide innovative learning content in multiple formats that are engaging and easy to access.
  • Create and maintain innovation teams charged with identifying best practice, suggesting new methods, and creating and trying new education solutions.
  • Establish centralized technology training programs to enable faculty and staff to adapt and adopt technology more rapidly in support of the instructional program.
  • Provide services to support faculty- and staff-developed content faculty and staff; manage content repositories for local, state, and global distribution; manage revenues; support sales of education products; and develop projects designed by faculty and staff.
  • Create collaboration agreements with universities, colleges, secondary education, and business and industry to identify new technologies, innovative programs, and solutions for education.

A Systemic and Broad Investment in Developing Innovation Capacity

  • Create a centralized Envisioneering Center to coordinate and promote innovations and respond to global challenges that impact the students and the community.
  • Establish research and development team(s) responsible for identifying cutting-edge technologies and assessing their value and usability, along with a creative investment plan for revenue in support of the educational mission.

A Redesigned Investment in Learning

  • Establish centralized programs to create new learning content, manage intellectual property and budgets, and design a mechanism for developing new programs and promoting innovation at all levels.
  • Establish student learning initiatives focused on identifying innovation in the education system that improves student engagement, persistence, and success.
  • Create an efficient and standardized systemwide approach to curriculum development, and use it to evaluate current programs, eliminate those that are no longer viable, and reallocate funds to current and new high-wage, high-demand, high-skill programs.

Envisioneering Center

The creation of an Innovation Learning Exchange as part of a custom Envisioneering Center will provide research and development, support, and leadership to innovation teams, and coordinate and implement innovative solutions for schools and colleges in ways never offered before. The Envisioneering Center will assist with the creation and management of intellectual property, develop new revenue models, promote content sharing, promote innovation and new solutions, initiate national exposure to new markets, facilitate content creation, and support services.  

The primary role of the Center will be to support the integration of new innovations and efficiency models that help colleges and schools meet the challenges of the new learning climate. The following provides a greater overview of the role and operation of this Envioneering Center concept.

Vision. The Envisioneering Center provides a new and proactive response to emerging technologies that are adapted, researched, and refined to increase student engagement and maximize student access to advancing technologies and emerging occupations.  

Mission. The Envisioneering Center is an application center for concept development, content creation, research and development, and independent study to foster innovation talent and capacity in a new way and with new approaches. The Envisioneering Center will focus on seven key constructs: innovation capacity and talent, technology, engagement, emerging occupations, research and development, learning gaps, and globalization.

Envisioneering Center Goals and Objectives

The goal and focus for all Envisioneering Center models is to lead and support colleges and schools in the adaptation, adoption, creation, and integration of innovative technologies that expand student access and increase student engagement, persistence, and success; respond to new and emerging occupations; and help maximize limited budgets.

The various Envisioneering Center models will develop the capacity to meet the following objectives.

Phase I: Envisioneering Center Innovation Programs

Innovation Capacity

  • Invest in development of innovation talent and innovation capacity through activities such as schools for innovators, customized training programs for developing innovation skills, and applications of innovation best practice.
  • Invest in faculty to research and develop new technology skills with software and hardware applications, and create learning content for use in classrooms and online.
  • Provide facilities for faculty team-based research, conceptualization, training, and content development focused on key constructs.

Innovation Development

  • Provide staff support services for intellectual property management, licensing, commercializing, and promoting branded education and learning products for revenue generation.
  • Establish and maintain a distribution network for Center-created learning content.
  • Provide seminars, webinars, conferences, and other information dissemination events focused on key constructs.
  • Publish papers, journals, newsletters, or announcements to promote use of innovation and technology to support student engagement.
  • Support and promote innovative faculty and staff through an ongoing innovations team comprised of faculty from across all disciplines.

Innovation Talent

  • Establish an Innovator Awards program to recognize faculty and staff in accordance with a criterion-based review of applications.
  • Provide content development services such as audio and video recording services for special projects.
  • Provide instructional design and support services for content creation in common topic areas.
  • Provide project management, storyboard creation, and content development services for projects developed through the Center.
  • Identify and validate new innovations and technologies.

Phase II: Envisioneering Center Programs and Facilities

The Envisioneering Center concept goes beyond innovation talent and into concept incubation and development. Centers will focus on creation of prototypes, projects, and product incubation, and will ultimately provide facilities to enable creation of new concept models whether physical or conceptual.

Phase II Envisioneering Centers will provide technical training in areas such as design, problem solving, business planning, prototyping, and, in some cases, foundational competencies. Facilities will be designed to enable a variety of setups and activities to support innovation, and will be equipped with cutting edge presentation and computer technology that supports a wide variety of design elements and training experiences. Facilities may be co-leased with business and industry to develop their innovation talent, products, or capacities. The ultimate design of Envisioneering Centers will be based on the needs of the local community, colleges, schools, and related industries.

The outcomes from this facility will be participants with strong knowledge and understanding of innovation, design, and problem solving, and a new entrepreneurial spirit that will translate back to a wide variety of work environments and improve the competitive edge in all industry segments.

The Promise of Envisioneering

The concept of the Envisioneering Center is to develop innovation talent and overall capacity; to apply proven principles to develop new ideas, concepts, products, and other innovations. The Envisioneering Center is customized to meet the specific needs of communities, schools, and industry and to maximize benefits and use budgets more effectively and efficiently.  

The Envisioneering Center is created in response to the changing education and economic climate faced by secondary and higher education. Not only have budgets changed, but the rapidly changing and evolving workplace demands new skills, new abilities, and adaptive expertise from the current and future workforce to enable the economy to rebound and grow. Colleges and schools are faced with preparing students for occupations that do not yet exist, are emerging, or are changing dramatically because of technological advancement. 

In addition to these challenges, the expectations and educational needs of the students are also changing in dramatic ways. Social networking, technological fascination, and the need for remediation of basic academic skills by a large majority of students are also applying new pressures on higher education.

The Envisioneering Center is a concept designed to identify challenges and solutions using innovation and technology as a way to transform and support new programs; reduce delivery costs; and supplement and support faculty with new blended, online, or face-to-face applications. In addition, the Center may conduct reviews of new and emerging instructional technologies, such as software and hardware solutions, or instructional modalities. Lessons learned through this process can be shared with colleges and schools to help inform adoption or adaptation.

The Envisioneering Center can also develop content for use in colleges and schools to support faculty. Content development teams will use a wide variety of new technologies to create learning solutions developed in coordination with subject-matter experts. This validated content will then be offered for faculty use and marketed through strategic partnerships to other colleges, other higher education providers, and industry training applications. 

Through the creation of Envisioneering Centers, or the integration of Envisioneering concepts, colleges and schools will have a unique opportunity to review, research, create, revise, apply, and integrate innovative technology solutions for education faculty. These solutions will help create new programming, course offerings, and strategies, and thus respond to changing economic and student expectation challenges. The Center will help engage faculty in identifying new approaches and technologies in an informed manner, providing greater support for the adoption of new methods and content.

Finally, the Center will provide new revenue sources via the sale of intellectual property through a network of sources. This can help colleges and schools afford the next generation of technology and equipment. The Center will also help to manage intellectual property in regards to global sales and revenue disbursement to colleges, and to content creators as appropriate and by agreement, to create an innovation climate and incentive for faculty to become engaged in the process

To learn more about Envisioneering and innovation talent development, contact Jamie Justice.


A special thank you to my colleagues for their guidance, inspiration, and support.

Rolf Smith, http://www.thinking-expedition.com
Keith Bird, http://www.skilledwork.org
Cheri Torres, http://www.innovationpartners.com
Gerri Burton, http://www.newlearningventures.com
Paul Perkins, http://www.amatrol.com

Jamie Justice is the System Director for Professional Development and Innovation at the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, and an entrepreneurial leader dedicated to finding new innovative ways of changing and improving education and training.

Opinions expressed in Leadership Abstracts are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the League for Innovation in the Community College.

Posted by The League for Innovation in the Community College on 07/01/2013 at 8:00 AM | Categories: Leadership Abstracts -