A knowledge-based society has replaced the service-based economy that once provided the majority of American jobs, and today’s students must learn to create and innovate if they are to succeed in the global marketplace that now places a premium on information and knowledge. Furthering the challenge, Americans have begun adopting technology at more than double the rate of the past. Rapid change is the norm, and teachers can prepare their students by equipping them with the tools and understanding required to become innovators.
Ask most people what innovation looks like and they describe sudden moments of clarity and flashes of genius—the “aha” moment. But research paints an entirely different picture. Close study reveals that most innovation is actually the result of systematic thinking and processes that lead directly toward creative solutions. As students and society at large demand that the educational system better prepare young minds to innovate in the workplace, it’s useful for students to learn how we think and nurture the development of ideas.
Schools play a critical role in developing these abilities in students, but how does innovation actually happen, and is it something that can be taught?
It takes an understanding of technology and its capabilities in order to innovate beyond the current standard. Start with the big picture and envision the possibilities of any given technology. Then, show teachers and students how to innovate by following some key steps:
- Keep track of the technology developments with the potential to impact the organization. For example, in the education sector, digital books are becoming highly interactive and are likely to continue evolving down that path.
- Understand that collaboration is the source of most great ideas. Teachers can facilitate this type of learning by initiating class projects that allow students to collaborate.
- Forgiving failure is important, because it’s simply part of the innovation process. Each wrong answer gets an innovator closer to the right answer. Encourage students to regard “failures” as a useful step in eliminating solutions on the path to finding better answers.
- Explore innovations in unrelated fields to trigger ideas. Whether a great idea originates in energy, transportation or biomedicine, it may have implications in many other arenas. It takes an innovator to recognize and apply the possibilities.
- Take time to understand how technology is transforming and how those changes are likely to impact a variety of industries. Engage students in creative discussions to imagine how a given technology could work in a different arena.
- Observe the way successful innovators work. They often rely on their staffs to innovate as well, and they set them up for success with the right environment and plenty of opportunities to innovate. Emulate those innovators to create a classroom with the same opportunities.
Innovative thinking systems
Four categories of thinking contribute to successful innovation and technology development. Each model encourages innovation throughout the implementation of any new technology initiative. Schools and students can learn to become true innovators through: