When great ideas struggle to get off the ground, it may be because people are not ready to adopt them. The Idea Readiness tool helps you take the pulse of your school community to understand how they adopt ideas and tailor your approach accordingly.
Do you have a new idea to promote workplace wellness that you would love to try in your school community, but don’t know where to start? If so, the Idea Readiness Tool may be right for you. The Idea Readiness Tool was developed by a team of researchers at the University of Alberta in partnership with education sector workplace wellness professionals. The tool has the specific purpose of helping to guide the spread of new ideas within a school community.
A new idea might be a new process, practice, initiative or policy – as long as it is new to your group. Some examples of ideas that you could try within your school community to promote workplace wellness include:
At the district level:
- create a district workplace wellness committee
- recruit and support wellness champions to plan collaborative learning events
- implement a district-wide policy to support employee well-being
- create a nutrition policy for food and drink options provided during meetings and staff events.
At the school level:
- set up a collaboration area to promote social connection
- start an after-work yoga class
- promote active transportation by creating a bike storage area
- arrange walking meetings for staff to encourage physical activity.
The Idea Readiness Tool works with any idea, no matter how big or small.
How and why did we develop the Idea Readiness Tool?
The Idea Readiness Tool started with some previous research that we did on the diffusion of smoke-free bylaws. This work looked at how municipalities learned from the policies that other jurisdictions implemented. More specifically, we used the Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Theory to examine policy learning. This theory looks at the process of change for innovation. The theory follows a bell curve and suggests that as more people try out an innovation, the rate of adoption continues to build until it reaches a tipping point. At this point, the rate of adoption slows and less people are trying the innovation. Using this theory and our knowledge of smoke-free bylaw diffusion, we developed the Policy Readiness Tool. The Policy Readiness Tool is an evidence-based, validated tool that was created to support policy change specifically in municipal and organizational settings.
After we developed the Policy Readiness Tool, our partners at the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) reached out to us. While they liked the Policy Readiness Tool, they found the policy language did not resonate at all levels within a school community audience. They expressed a need for a tool specifically tailored for use in school settings, so together we modified the original Policy Readiness Tool to be more applicable to the unique needs of the school community.
So what is the Idea Readiness Tool and how can it help me?
The Tool involves three simple steps for you to follow.
1. Complete a quick 10-question checklist.
This checklist will help you to identify how ready your school community is for the new idea you are thinking about. The checklist can do this by helping you determine what your group’s adoption style is.
Is your school community an innovator, majority or late adopter? Use the checklist to find out!
A couple of quick highlights about these three adoption styles:
Innovators: Are often the first to try out new ideas. They are adventurous and are not afraid to take risks, even with potential uncertainty.
Majority: Are deliberate as they take time to figure out if they want to try a new idea. They typically like to see other people try an idea before they dive in. They are of the philosophy that it is better to change as a group.
Late Adopters: Are often skeptical of new ideas and like to maintain the status quo. They like to wait for the majority group to adopt a new idea before taking it on themselves. In some cases, they may even require an organization-wide mandate to make the change.
2. Identify strategies to apply in your school community.
Now that you have figured out the level of readiness of your school community (for this idea), it is time to lay out which strategies you want to use. The Tool provides a detailed list, based on level of readiness, of strategies that you can use.
Here are some sample strategies to use based on your school community’s adoption type.
- Present the idea in a way that sparks the school community’s innovative spirit.
- Identify a wellness champion in the school community to help carry the idea forward.
- Emphasize that other schools, similar to theirs, are adopting the idea (specific examples are helpful too).
- Look for incentives to help the school community adopt the new idea, such as awards and funding.
- Find evidence that shows the positive outcomes the idea can have for a school community.
- Build relationships with school administrators to gain support for your idea.
3. Use the resources to help carry out the strategies.
Accompanying all of the strategies are helpful school-specific resources to help you to move the new idea forward, such as:
- Alberta Health Services’ guide Healthy Eating in Schools: Policy recommendations
- Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan’s blog The Sandbox: Your space for healthy school recommendations
- Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health’s Positive Mental Health Toolkit.
Whether you are a teacher, support staff, administrator, parent, wellness champion, or anyone else interested in encouraging healthy school community development, the steps in the Idea Readiness Tool will support you in implementing your new idea. Find out how our partners at ASEBP use the Idea Readiness Tool with school districts in Alberta in the sidebar “From Idea to Action.”
What should I keep in mind when using the Idea Readiness Tool?
- There is not a good or bad adopter type. Every adopter type has its own strengths and weaknesses.
- Your school community may be at a different level of readiness for each new idea. It is important to come back to the checklist for each new idea, and identify new strategies and resources to support that idea.
- A new idea can be anything (e.g. a process, practice, policy or initiative) as long as it is considered new by the group thinking about its adoption.
- The checklist can be completed individually or as a group.
From Idea to Action: Bringing the Idea Readiness Tool to life
How does the Idea Readiness Tool stand up to application in the real-world of education? The workplace wellness liaisons at the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan (ASEBP) shared how they incorporate the Idea Readiness Tool into their work with school districts.
ASEBP’s top three reasons why the Idea Readiness Tool is worthwhile:
1. Moving from Why to How
When we are excited about an idea we can quickly move from idea to action without stopping to assess how the readiness of others should impact our process to move an idea forward. Assessing readiness should happen before you start action planning and inform your action planning.
2. Common Language
When we all use the same terminology and process, we can have a mutual understanding that will lead to success.
3. Staying Motivated
It is easy to lose motivation when we pitch an idea and it falls flat. The Tool has empowered wellness champions to learn that they could have pitched the idea in a way that aligned with their colleagues’ readiness to more effectively gain buy-in.
The Tool in Action
While working with a school district wanting to advance their mental health strategy, ASEBP workplace wellness liaisons facilitated a workshop to guide the district wellness committee through the Idea Readiness Tool in order to explore the idea of offering a training program to increase staff competence around mental health.
The committee completed the Tool’s checklist in two ways – once as if the committee itself was the school community they were bringing this idea back to, and again with the actual school community in mind. This exercise showed the committee that they were Innovators, while their school communities were a mix of Majority and Late Adopters. This was an “ah-ha” moment as they realized in the past, they had moved into action too quickly. With this realization and rise in motivation, the committee then began to explore the strategies outlined in the Tool to support working with a mix of the Majority and Late Adopters. They landed on providing evidence for all those impacted and connecting with leaders throughout the school district to provide more information, before moving forward with the training.
The committee attributed their success in implementing this idea to using the Idea Readiness Tool, developing a common language around readiness and being more deliberate in planning how to communicate their idea. Now, The Idea Readiness Tool has become part of their process from generating ideas to moving them into action.
The Idea Readiness Tool has proven to be a valuable tool to support the challenging yet important task of promoting healthy workplace environments within K-12 education.
Find out more
The full Idea Readiness Tool is available in PDF format and online at www.ideareadinesstool.com. The website includes videos to explain what the Tool is and how it can be applied; the checklist; and the comprehensive list of strategies and resources. Or visit The Sandbox to spark new ideas and connect with other wellness champs!
Photo: iStock and Adobe Stock
First published in Education Canada, December 2019