Wessman, Robert E. 2016. Organizing to Innovate: Workshopping New Product Concepts at Panorama Education. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Education, Technology, Business, and Tests and Measurements
Leaders of education organizations must determine how to positively impact students, staff, and families while ensuring organizational strength. Innovative leaders and entrepreneurs seek to develop and roll out new ideas to dramatically advance students’ achievement. However, the need to innovate does not supersede the need to execute on a core business while maintaining high levels of quality; this paradox makes it challenging to know how to allocate resources and people toward innovation. In this capstone, I describe and analyze my experiences leading a strategic project for supporting innovation and experimentation at Panorama Education, an education technology company focused on school improvement through data analytics. I developed a framework for promoting innovation, workshopping, and experimentation in order to support the organization to make evidence-driven product decisions. I describe the theoretical foundations for the framework and literature documenting the leadership challenge of implementing it at a fast-paced, rapidly growing organization. I argue that by deliberately allocating resources and effort toward ideating and designing, aligning to company strategy and vision, and prototyping and testing, a growing organization can prepare for ongoing innovation and adaptability. I also find that change management on the part of the implementer is a necessary part of innovative change, so I reflect on my successes and challenges as a leader developing and implementing the new system at Panorama Education.