Creating Space for Innovation

Negotiating the Three Horizons

How might we help fresh innovative ideas flourish in a world where there will always be something more urgent or more important to do?

Whether you’re an innovator who’s seeking to break a new idea to colleagues and community, or a leader trying to manage the expectations of an engaged active team, finding space to innovate is tough. Leaders face the challenge of managing priorities, planning in advance for the unplannable innovations that might come around the corner. Innovators face the hurdle of seeing their initial ideas grow, become accepted and flourish into a widely adopted way of thinking, working or learning.

The Three Horizons

Management consultants have for decades used The Three Horizons model to track the potential innovations that may arise and the journeys to those innovations:

  • Horizon 1: where we are now, managing and maintaining the system, improving performance and maximising its potential.
  • Horizon 2: entrepreneurial, sees and grasps opportunity.
  • Horizon 3: visionary and aspirational, about standing for something you know is right whatever the world thinks of you.

In education, the International Futures Forum, based near Edinburgh, Scotland, has turned these to education leadership, and helped create a playful chart through the world of innovation.

Québecois educators used the planning process to overcome some of their greatest challenges (here: Andrée Marcotte's summary)

What are the values of those things we might see as barriers to our innovative ideas? How can we harness those values to make our edgy, innovative ideas more reasonable, more likely to succeed? What are the potential conflicts that will arise when new innovative ideas are broached or put into action, and what are the potentially lethal compromises that will see the innovation fail and the return to the status quo? How can we build on these creative conflicts to generate better ideas that will benefit everyone, maintaining the values of the organisation and the spirit of the innovation?

Ewan McIntosh
February 13, 2013