Open Thinkering


Time, innovation and funding.


I’ve worked in both schools and universities. In the former the ‘barrier’ to innovation is usually said to be time. In the latter it’s usually seen as the trials and tribulations of getting funding.

Whilst I agree that teachers work crazy hours and that both schools and universities are generally underfunded, I can’t help but think that the real reason institutional innovation is stifled is because of permission-seeking.

We all know that the worst kind of censorship is self-censorship – the fear that your actions might bring displeasure or punishment. People, I’m sad to say, don’t tend to give themselves the permission to innovate.

It might be slightly controversial to say so, but it’s easy to ask for time and money in an attempt to ensure a project is a success. And it’s also easy to say that something’s ‘not possible given current resources’. But time and money do not in and of themselves lead to successful projects.

What I think people are hankering after when they ask for money or time for innovation projects is approval. Might I suggest that truly innovative projects are unlikely to get such approval?

Some projects need huge levels of buy-in and support and funding and scoping. Most don’t.

Just get on and do it.

Image CC BY-NC Wiertz Sébastien

6 thoughts on “Time, innovation and funding.

  1. Outstanding post! I totally agree permission seeking completely stifles innovation. I have found a good measure of an institutions ability to innovate is how controlling and forgiving they are. If they want to control (edit, apply processes, etc.), they will stifle innovation. It is better to allow contribution with reckless abandon and engage with what the reckless abandon has created, improve upon it, encourage and advocate. It is also important to forgive when an innovation has “failed”. I feel it is a good measure of how much a group or institution has replaced forgiveness with celebration. Taking an innovative risk (which may have failed) should be celebrated rather than forgiveness sought.

  2. Great post, Doug. What you are saying is similar to the principles of The Lean Startup Model by Eric Reis. The idea being that you take your innovative idea and simply get it out there in the real world (using the build-measure-learn feedback loop) rather than constantly perfecting it. With the feedback gained you can then make the decision to pivot or persevere with your idea. Where possible, I try to apply this model to my own business.


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