Friday, October 16, 2015

Skills + Experience + Environments = Innovation Capacity

In the 10+ years that I've maintained the Pursuing Leadership blog, I've returned to the issue of fostering innovation many times. I can only assume that my personal experience as a musician and work throughout my career to foster creativity has drawn me to this topic. At a time when most predictions are that innovation is fundamental for individuals, organizations, and countries that seek to successfully negotiate the rough waters of the 21st century, learning to nurture creativity is essential.

Deba Dutta addresses the question of innovation and creativity in the Inside Higher Education piece Educating to Innovate. While Dutta acknowledged that this research is preliminary and mostly reinforces intuitive understanding, the findings indicate three broad areas where attention is required - skills, experiences, and environments. One simple sentence struck me as critical but understated - "our colleges and universities provide transformative experiences, but often outside of the classroom." This important realization, coupled with the kinds of skills identified as important to innovation, provides direction that academic faculty and student development educators can embrace together. As Dutta indicates, "we found that innovators tend to have creativity, curiosity, deep knowledge of a field (invariably more than one), intellectual flexibility and the ability to think outside the box of a defined discipline. But we also found that they are generally risk takers who don't fear failure (although many emphasized that they don't like failure). They also are good at selling ideas -- a crucial skill for raising funds and building a team. Innovation is, after all, teamwork."

It's time to get to work - academic and student affairs together - to create the opportunities and environments that will prepare our students and future leaders to be innovators.

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