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Not Invented Here

By Louis Gomez

Schooling new leaders often means a new host of innovations. New leaders in schools come to office and sweep out the old and feel compelled to bring in the new. Unfortunately, this "not invented here" or "not invented by me" attitude leads to little improvement and little knowledge accumulation.

A characteristic of this problem is that across the ecology of education, there is very little collective ownership in any single innovation. This is because innovations have historically been created by innovators working solo or in very small teams and with siloed views of the problem.

For example, when faced with a significant problem of practice, one group of actors is almost certainly inclined to see it through the lens of curriculum, while another through the lens of social learning, and yet another through the lens of leadership. In truth, most important problems do not exist solely in any of these silos but cut across them.

One of the reasons that we are encouraged by networked improvement communities as potential mitigator and mediator of this problem is that, at their very core, they are designed to be diverse colleagueships. By definition, they are meant to include practitioners, leadership, researchers, designers and others. A by-product of such a social arrangement is collective ownership.

Unlike today's innovations, which are often owned by policy makers and researchers and rarely connected to practitioners, networked improvement communities, we hope, breed a sense of ownership across the spectrum. With collective ownership, new actors may be less compelled to sweep out the old when extant innovations come with a community of supporters who are knowledgeable about how and why the innovation may be promising. Such a community may be a powerful mediator to encourage those who might be inclined to think "not invented by me" to learn a little bit more. While networked arrangements are surely not a panacea for education, they may be a vehicle to have us think twice before we sweep out the old for the new.

Louis Gomez is a Learning Sciences and Policy Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education.

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