Home Marketing Best Practices The Diffusion of Innovation: A Coaching Framework

The Diffusion of Innovation: A Coaching Framework

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The coach can also help her client be a bit more realistic and a bit more focused regarding the direction in which he is moving. Coaching often involves moving through three domains: (1) the domain of information (where the client is right now), (2) the domain of intentions (where the client wants to be at some point in the near future) and (3) the domain of ideas (how the client can get from where he is right now to where he wants to be). The Innovator/Explorer is often comfortable dwelling in the domain of ideas. She often loves to generate many new ideas. On the other hand, the Innovator/Explorer is frequently indifferent to or even uncomfortable dwelling in the domains of information and intentions. She isn’t very realistic or practical, nor does she have a clear direction. While a coach doesn’t want to take away the spirit of adventure and the willingness to journey out into the wilderness, he can help temper his coaching client’s inclinations to stay only in the domain of ideas. The coach can ask something about the resources his client is bringing with her into the wilderness, about what other people think about her venture (and how they might react to her ideas) and about how she will return home. The coach might also ask the difficult question (from the domain of intentions) about why she is going out into the wilderness (not expecting a clear answer, but at least encouraging some pondering about the motivation). He might also ask his coaching client about her criteria of success: how will you know whether or not this new or adopted idea works?

The coach can work in yet another way with his Innovator/Explorer client. He can become a “learning coach” by asking his client periodically to identify what she is learning from this new venture. This might be considered formative learning—gaining new insights while in the midst of a project and modifying the project based on these insights. This learning probe can take place instead at the end of the project or a major segment of the project. This might be considered summative learning: what did you learn from this project and how will you make use of this learning in the future?

Finally, in the case of innovations and explorations that emerge from the combination of two or more old ideas or from the use of an old idea in a new field or discipline, there is the crossing of boundaries. When this occurs, resistance is often found among those who have been using the old ideas for many years. They resent the “newcomer.” The coach can help her client confront this resistance—particularly by helping her client make effective use of metaphor, story and language that the holders of the old ideas can appreciate and that honor their contribution. The old idea-holders will themselves feel like innovators if they can see how their old idea is being engaged in new ways and with new effects. Furthermore, a coach can help her client frame the criteria of “truth” or “success” in ways that appeal to both the original holders of the old ideas and those who are about to discover the recombined or reapplied idea for the first time.

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  1. Gary B Cohen

    November 24, 2011 at 12:02 am

    William great insight I reposted your article on Board of School Superintendents website and CO2 Partners. I found it interesting how you connected the way each stage of diffusion of innovation shows up differently for a coach. I certainly have found this to be true just never connected with innovators model. Great stuff. Thank you for sharing.


  2. Anonymous

    November 30, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Gary: Thank you for your appreciative comments. I hope your School Superintendent colleagues find this to be of value. Obviously, the dynamics associated with the diffusion of educational innovations in our school systems are critical and coaching can be of great value to these hardworking superintendents. Bill Bergquist


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