Social Innovation Trend Canvas

Increasing the Efficiency of Innovation

There is an arms-race going on at the moment, where countries and organizations alike are competing with each other to boost their competitive advantage and growth by investing heavily in innovation initiatives.

Singapore, for instance, has performed well in terms of investing in innovation inputs such as educational institutions, research organizations, infrastructure, and technology.

However, there is a strong contrast when we examine the actual creative and scientific outputs that result, such as the number of patents and journal publications, labour productivity increases, or royalty and licence fees.

This reveals that organizations cannot blindly embrace innovation as a buzzword, but need to systematically control the productivity of their innovation initiatives.

Institutions of learning are a natural starting point in innovation, so we found it useful to examine how innovative schools are today.

In Singapore, students performed remarkably well in the Performance for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009; they ranked fifth in Reading, second in Mathematics, and fourth in Science.  This is one of the reasons why Singapore’s education system is revered across the world, to the extent that Singapore Math is used as a teaching method in the US.

However, the education system is heavily focussed on helping students attain academic results in examinations, as compared to other measures of creativity. Academic performance is heavily emphasized so students can secure jobs in the highly competitive labour market. This narrow objective may limit their time to truly immerse in broader learning activites.  Hence, educational institutions need to embark on innovative initiatives that can transform the learning experiences of the students by making it more participatory, exploratory, collaborative, and student-driven.

Local organizations are continually seeking inspiration from case studies of successful innovations, wherever they are around the world. These examples validate the impact of innovation initiatives, and ensure that organizations don’t re-invent the wheel but only invest in proven good practices.

SPRING Singapore recently commissioned one such study, to understand the journeys of innovators in many learning organizations across the globe.

In conducting this study, we learnt that bringing in meaningful innovation in education is not necessarily easy because schools are stretched thin for time, funding, and people who can confidently champion such change. Heavy reporting requirements can act as a barrier to introducing radical pedagogical or curriculum changes. Given these limitations, it becomes necessary for organizations to crystallize the right problem statements, identify the most impactful innovation in their context, and follow through the implementation within their specific constraints. This is the reason why it is important not to import even proven innovations wholesale, but to re-contextualize them to each new situation. Educational organizations that launched innovations that were issue targeted, outcome driven, and strategy-led, showed to enjoy the highest levels of traction and sustained profit growth.