Why Isn't Innovation Taught In The Classroom?
This article was originally published on Forbes.
Answer by Lisa Kay Solomon, Professor of Design Strategy, Coauthor of Moments of Impact: How to Design Strategic Conversations That Accelerate Change, on Quora,
Innovation is hard to teach because it’s inherently messy, unpredictable, and team-oriented – which makes success hard to measure in a quantifiable way. This mindset is at odds with the traditional constructs of education, where students are taught to think and act in accordance with existing guides, chase down “right” answers, and are measured and ranked by quantifiable evaluation metrics.
Innovating requires nearly the opposite mentality. In order to innovate, it is necessary to abandon judgment, open oneself to a seemingly endless field of possibilities, and then try those possibilities again and again, iterating and (hopefully) failing enough times to know that you’re onto something. The fact that there is no single “right answer” in innovation can be frustrating at first – but, it can also be incredibly freeing and fun for students, especially creative thinkers yearning to play.
One of the biggest misperceptions about teaching innovation is that it lacks a learnable discipline. Innovation is actually quite disciplined, but in a different way. It requires learning by doing – it isn’t a recipe of step-by-step "if/then" proof methods, but a flexible sequence of exploration.
Nor is it impossible to teach innovation - it just requires a different stance towards teaching. It’s less about learning the pre-prepared material (mastery of knowledge) than it is about creative capacity building (mastery of practice).
And it asks something new of teachers. Being the "sage on stage" isn’t going to get students to experiment. Creating safe conditions for risk-taking, rewarding curiosity and divergent thinking, bringing in diverse materials, and building a culture of productive critique will help students let go of fear and embrace their creative confidence. Being an innovative teacher means being an experience designer and condition creator - making the learning a dynamic give and take experience, not a one-way lesson delivery of pushed content. It also requires new conceptions for evaluation that measure individual personal growth, not unified performance against a set target. This takes a mindset of collective comfort with ambiguity for teachers as well. The freedom to teach this way can be extremely rewarding, but it will take hard work and committed voices to bring this thinking into traditional education systems.