Jul 17, 2013

Fostering New Ideas

There have been a lot of changes where I work over the past few years. Like any changes, I've agreed with some and disagreed with others. The biggest change I've been a part of, however, comes by way of what I call "entrepreneurial endeavors."

Under our new leadership at the office, I have seen several programs and/or ideas come to fruition. For example, we have a project called SPELL in which we are gathering resources to be included in an open-resource library for teachers to tie these resources to the Common Core State Standards. Another project I am looking into provides off-site data backup for our member districts (or anyone else that wishes to participate, once everything is in place).  We are also looking at changing and expanding the services provided by the Teacher Center - a place where teachers can make bulletin boards, have posters printed, and where schools can have bulk documents (say, student handbooks) printed inexpensively.

In each of these scenarios, there has been group discussion and a fostering of new ideas. I think the key, at least for the projects in which I am involved, is to have a goal in mind before approaching the boss.  For example, with the offsite backup program, I sat down with area techs over several meetings to talk about what they wanted and how we, as a service center, could help. Then, I started talking to vendors, colleagues, and other outside sources about design, implementation ideas, very rough costs, bandwidth needs, etc.

Once I had a loose plan together, I talked to my boss casually about it. In addition to a general overview and a few specifics, I made sure that I showed a way our organization could recoup the costs, and possibly generate a small budget for future expansion, equipment replacement, increased bandwidth, etc.  We'll see where things go once I have some more solid numbers.

The specifics of that project are not the main focus here. The fact that our organizational culture has shifted is my focus. I believe, and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I am wrong, that anyone in any of our departments would be welcomed to present similar "entrepreneurial endeavors."

The key, I believe, is to have a well-thought plan. Understand the costs. Explain how those costs will be recouped. Show a potential for growth. Most of all, show how it benefits our schools. How can we take the idea and tie it back to something our schools need or want? Can we make it cost-effective? What will it look like 5 years down the road? Is is sustainable? Are there plans for expansion or for modification as things change? What is the interest level? Meeting with possible stakeholders is vital. In my case, I started with the Techs. Once I have more solid figures and features, I will meet with and present to the board. Above everything, though, you must believe in your program proposal.

I am enjoying this new approach to the services we provide. It's great to work in an environment that fosters new ideas.

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