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Ikast-Brande takes innovative approaches to the school reform

It is possible to ensure a positive approach to the new school reform if the employees involved are equipped with useful tools for coping with – and reducing – uncertainties. These are the results of a new innovation process in the Municipality of Ikast-Brande, which a researcher from Aarhus University has been involved in.


For some time now, the Municipality of Ikast-Brande has collaborated with the Danish Technological Institute and Aarhus University’s School of Business and Social Sciences (AU Herning) on several innovation projects. One of these projects was in full swing back in 2012 when the new school reform was first introduced. This meant that some of the municipality’s managers and employees were already in the process of learning how to work proactively with handling change.

Through the innovation process in the Municipality of Ikast-Brande, several employees learned to question their daily routines and to challenge the status quo – and they learned to take a more systematic approach to working with innovation. Working with employee and organisational development throughout the project made the employees more open to change. They found new ways of doing things, and they started working more proactively to find new possibilities for the future.

Ikast-Brande is one step ahead

“The way I see it, Ikast-Brande was already one step ahead of the development, when the political decision to implement the new school reform was made, because the municipality had already initiated radical innovation processes and adopted new approaches. The essential aspect of the project in Ikast-Brande is that the involved employees have been given new routines for how to handle uncertainty, and it makes a world of difference to these employees when they have to cope with new developments, such as the implementation of the new school reform,” explains Jacob Brix who is associate professor at AU Herning and took part in completing the study. He continues:

“That is why it is so important to keep working with innovation as a series of processes and not just as singular events. It is crucial for the employees’ willingness and ability to adapt to new circumstances. Innovation should not be viewed as a short-term project or an event; it should be regarded as an ongoing process.”

Good advice for the implementation of the school reform

According to Jacob Brix, the work to implement the new school reform is very difficult, and in a situation like this, it is important to acknowledge and accept that there will be a great deal of confusion and insecurity brought about by the fact that things are not being done the way they used to. This may cause frustration, but it also leaves room for new opportunities: for instance, to impact what employees do and how they act when they are at work and not least to affect their work under the new circumstances and help them adapt, explains Jacob Brix.

Moreover, Jacob Brix encourages managers to address the frustrations and teach the involved parties to take on the challenges – that you teach them to learn how to handle the new situation in the best way possible. It is very important because when a given structure is changed significantly – like the school reform – employees will find themselves in a constant state of change for a number of years to come. And following a series of changes, it may help employees to acquire methods for systematically improving their daily routines.

Learning to work systematically with something new is the means to achieve the goal. In a municipality, for instance, challenges arise in the work to comply with the Danish Act on Social Services or implementing a new school reform. In both cases, various situations arise subsequently that require for the involved people to readjust to new circumstances and demands. And it is much easier to adapt if you are well equipped for it, concludes Jacob Brix.

Facts

The Municipality of Ikast-Brande participated in the study, which was conducted as a collaborative effort between Jacob Brix from Aarhus University’s department in Herning (AU Herning) and senior consultants from the Danish Technological Institute.

The project “20% more learning” was initiated by the Municipality of Ikast-Brande at a time when the public school reform had not yet been specified. The thoughts and ideas that resulted from the innovation project have yielded new and different answers to the challenges brought about by the school reform.

The Municipality of Ikast-Brande is focused on finding new ways of running a municipality and thereby improving the organisation’s approach to handling future challenges. The collaboration between Aarhus University and the Danish Technological Institute is a good example of the municipality’s innovative work.

Contact

For further information about the innovation project in the Municipality of Ikast-Brande, please contact: Jacob Brix, Assistant Professor, Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences, AU Herning: +45 2917 1064 / brix@auhe.au.dk