Stage 4.5  Adapt

Because a selected innovation will not meet all criteria, you may want to consider further changes and redesigning to make the innovation "better." You may want to make improvements, either to increase the amount of benefit or ­perceived benefit, increase workability, or increase diffusibility. If the change team has a lot of resources at its disposal­ (dollars, time, and staff with creativity and appropriate skills in research and development), you may be able to reshape the innovation completely so that it is "custom made" to fit your clients and their specific problem. Usually, however, you will not have such resources, so that the less adaptation you have to do, the better off you are. This is why it is so important to be a good utilizer, taking maximum advantage of existing innovations that have proven to be effective.

A large number of university centers and laboratories have put effort into what is sometimes called "educational development" so that change agents and their clients will have a range of fully developed and pretested innovations to choose from in the future. Many of these efforts have been going on since the mid 1960s, spurred by the federal education acts of that era. Therefore, in many topic areas, the would-be user may have a lot less adaptation to do. There are good reasons to adopt "off-the-shelf" innovations, whether developed by academic researchers or by private sector developers and publishers. You will probably have more assurance about what the innovation will accomplish and more security that it will not fail or disrupt the ­situation it was designed to help. Home-grown innovations are inherently riskier in that sense. However, in taking the development and adaptation of others in these "off-the-shelf' innovations, you need to think through carefully whether they make a good match to your situation, especially asking yourself these questions:

  • Is the need addressed by this innovation the same as my client's need or close enough to be appropriate? (See again Stage 2)
  • Are the settings and situations in which this innovation was tried and tested the same or similar enough to my client's setting? Are the students of similar background? Are the teachers similarly trained and oriented? Is the administrative support system roughly equivalent between their setting and ours?

When these questions are answered in the negative, then we know that some amount of redevelopment and testing in our setting is required. The change agents and their clients may then have to "invent" or "reinvent" one or more aspects of the innovation, thus becoming developers themselves. You may even have to create your own innovation from scratch, but before you do, you should make sure that you have done your resource acquisition job as well as you can (Stage 3) so that you have some assurance that you are not "reinventing the wheel."