The Innovation cycle

Below you will find the steps of the Innovation Cycle. The descriptions on this page offer a brief overview of why each step is important. If you click the button underneath each title, you will find resources and questions for reflection as you work through the Innovation Cycle.

Gather a community of practice

Based upon the anticipated innovation, create a focus group of relevant stakeholders.

  • This would likely include teachers from various grade levels/departments as well as relevant administrators and other school-based personnel.

  • It may also include board members, parents, students, and community members (depending on the innovation).

Possible questions for beginning here: Who might be impacted by this work (both inside and outside the organization)? Who might have important skills/perspectives/insights that could help the work (both expected and unexpected and inside or outside the organization)? What can Community of Practice members expect? What are the participation expectations?

Frame the key issue

This framework assumes that the group has a general idea of the type of innovation they would like to see (i.e. a better schedule, a more effective way to communicate with families about grades [or any topic], etc.)

  • In the first phase, the group will participate in a protocol designed to visualize eventual success of the key issue.

  • After completing the Futures Protocol in small groups, each group presents their work to the whole team.

  • Using work created in small groups, use the Collaborative Decision Making protocol to reach consensus.


Now that the group has an agreed upon idea about the general direction of the innovation, group members need to investigate both literature and other schools/institutions that have implemented similar innovations.

  • It is likely that no one has implemented an innovation that is identical to the one agreed upon, but it is still important to see what else has been done along the same lines and to note lessons that could be learned, pitfalls to avoid, and benefits that may not have been previously considered.

  • The investigation phase should be flexible and may encompass many different types of work. Examples include, but are not limited to:

    • Published literature

    • Phone or in person conversations with others who have made similar innovations

    • Site visits to schools that have implemented similar innovations

  • Once the investigation phase is complete, members report back to the whole group regarding what they learned.

Develop a Plan

  • Once all group members have shared their findings from the various investigations, the group will participate in a second round of the Future Protocol.

  • Once consensus has formed around a plan, the group needs to decide how success will be measured. This doesn’t have to be completely quantitative data, but there needs to be a discussion to establish how the group will know the innovation has been successful.

  • A timeline for the plan also needs to be established.

  • A timeline for meetings throughout the implementation of the innovation also needs to be established. These meetings (or check-ins) will be helpful in deciding whether or not tweaks should be made (based on the data collected).

  • The last step is to share the plan with the wider group/faculty.

Carry out Plan & Collect Data

  • Implement the plan based on the timelines determined in the previous step.

  • Collect data in whatever ways were determined in the previous step.

analyze the data

  • Meet throughout the implementation process to check in on progress.

  • Look at data that has been collected and determine how the well the innovation is working.

  • Make changes as needed – but only through consensus.

  • After a complete “cycle” of the innovation (however that was defined in earlier steps) have a culminating review of the data and determine the level of success. This should be done by the same committee that gathered in step one.

  • Reach consensus regarding the overall success of the innovation and next steps (if any) using an appropriate protocol.

  • Make a formal report to the larger community about the innovation and next steps.