Share Royal Roads Online

Exploring Innovation in Action

August 27, 2019
Cheryl Heykoop, Program Head, MA Leadership Program

Innovation in Leadership

As we navigate the complexity of our world today, “innovation” is a commonly used buzzword and sought after goal. Although difficult to define, the essence of innovation in leadership is about finding new, novel, and/or relevant solutions to pressing problems or challenges that leadership faces today and into the future.

In the Master of Arts in Leadership (MAL), we recognize the importance of innovation. As such, innovation is a key competency we seek to cultivate and inspire in students and our Program. For us, living innovation means exploring new ideas or approaches to complex, emerging challenges that support transformative learning for us and our students.

In July 2019, approximately 70 students in the MAL program convened on campus to take an innovative leap with the Innovation Hub of the British Columbia (BC) Public Service. Drawing upon their acquired knowledge, skills, capacities, and experiences as practitioners and scholars, students explored how the BC Public Service could build a culture of innovation that inspires innovative practice.

Over a ten-day period, students in the MAL program worked in small teams to explore this pertinent challenge. Students in year one drew upon their leadership knowledge and lived experiences to explore how the BC Public Service could cultivate innovation, and students in year two hosted a community event with members of the BC Public Service to seek their perspectives about inspiring innovation in practice. Students then offered innovative presentations and tangible recommendations—grounded in theory and practice—to the BC Public Service to support innovation and change in action.

Reflecting on their experience working with the Innovation Hub and the BC Public Service, students spoke about the importance of “real-world engagement with organizations to apply the learning in practice.” They also commented on the value of first and second-year students working together, and as one student noted: “the combined challenge was a powerful way to build relationships between students in first and second year.”

In addition to these benefits, collaboration with the Innovation Hub and the BC Public Service offered an opportunity to model a capstone project—a requirement of all students in the MAL Program, where students in their final year lead a project with a group of leaders in an organization or community to explore a leadership challenge that is important to them. According to Guy Nasmyth, an Associate Faculty Member in the Program, it “provided an opportunity for students to see the entire process of a capstone project, where they could experience all of the complexity, uncertainty, and magic of a real inquiry.”

It’s too soon to tell how this experience will create ripples within the Program and in communities, but we are excited about the response so far. We look forward to working with Innovation Hub in the future to continue to: build connections between theory and practice, innovate, and apply our learning in real-time.

Thank yous

We wish to thank the Innovation Hub and the BC Public Service for their time, energy, and commitment with this initiative. We also wish to thank the MA Leadership Associate Faculty for their inspiration, passion, and dedication to making the MAL Program all that it can be; and to all of the incredible students in the MAL program for bringing innovation and change to life in all that you do.

For more information about the Innovation Hub, contact: