communities of innovation

Establishing Communities of Innovation through the Innovative Normative Culture Model

By Casey Wright

Instructional Psychology and Technology

Talking to and reading about the research done by Rick West is what accelerated my interest in creativity and innovation. West (2009) wrote a lot of what a community of innovation looks like, but left the question open as to how to create or establish such a community. In other words, if it is possible to learn and develop the essentials of creativity within a group or organization (and it seems it is), what are the possible best practices for such a task? I would argue that Social Network Analysis (SNA) could be used to find key relationships between innovative/non-innovative teams, organizations or communities. Furthermore, by using the research behind Positive Normative Cultures (Positive Peer Culture Guide, nd), I am looking to create a model (Innovative Normative Culture) for designing, establishing, and cultivating innovative norms within Communities of Innovation (COI)s through theories of positive “peer pressure”. The purpose of this article is to briefly show how I plan to study and establish the Innovative Normative Culture model.

West (2009) discusses a theory by Bandura (1986) who describes what he calls reciprocal determinism. The figure below shows the three elements that Bandura identifies that determine who we are. Figure 1 Our values (person), our behavior (which does not always match up with our values), and our environment all influence who we are.

 

 

That being said, I feel Bandura did not leave space for intentional activities (e.g., what happens when we intentionally alter our environment by moving to a new state or country with new laws and cultures? Or what happens when we purposely alter our behavior in any given situation?). Of course this is not a new concept. A lot of research has been done in psychology, organizational behavior, and other fields either directly or indirectly adding to Bandura’s theory. As for how this relates to creativity, I feel that one area of Bandura’s model has not been studied as much through the lens of cultivating creativity—the person. Innovative Normative Culture would place focus on intentionally impacting an individual who will impact another individual, who will impact another, etc. By using the power of one’s social network, I believe organizations could change their norms to have more innovative behaviors.

Brendtro, Brokenleg and Van Bockern (2005) wrote of the “Circle of Courage” that “marks the critical indicators, [or] the vital signs for positive youth development” (p. 131). Although a physician has a thousand tools for diagnosis, they always begin with the vitals (Brendtro et al., 2005). I feel that COI identify the vitals needed for sustaining innovative organizations. This model I tag as Innovative Normative Culture (INC) is a way to focus on the vitals of innovation within a group that West (2009) and others have identified in order to establish a COI. We know some of those vitals, or for purposes of INC we will call them norms. Norms such as an organic, flat organization; a lot of prototyping; peer-evaluated/peer-accountable; diversified expertise; democratic leadership, etc. (West, 2009). These can be seen as the vitals needed for the overall innovative health of an organization or community. West (2009) goes on to describe how using different methods, perhaps we could identify key attributes and characteristics important to COIs and then let those “become guiding principles for designing COIs” (p. 329).

West (2009) asks the question, “Can we teach this?” This means, if innovation and creativity is so important in the world today, is it possible to be learned? It seems it can be learned, so another question we can ask is “How can we best teach an organization in order to learn innovation?” I suggest research in INC as a useful model in testing how we might teach or establish innovation within an organization.

I believe that using some of the Circle of Courage and positive peer pressure research, the Innovative Normative Culture could create and establish Communities of Innovation. In order to understand INC, I plan to learn and utilize Social Network Analysis to look at how groups form within organizations and how connections to other groups could be used to positively “pressure” non-innovative groups to overcome non-innovative norms to become more creative and innovative. “The goal of the [Innovative] Normative Culture [model in education, business or any organization would be] to create an environment where [all participants innovate] by helping their peers make [overall creative and innovative] choices” (Adapted from Positive Peer Culture Guide, nd, p. 1).