Jesuit Loh, Chief Venture Officer, OnlyVenture Consulting, Singapore

Jesuit is an educator and innovation management consultant of OnlyVenture Consulting Singapore that helps individuals, executives and companies design their lives, careers and businesses aligning purpose, passion and profit

This is especially true when schools placed excess emphasis on academic achievements and research studies. The usual school system is organized around academic achievements in assessments, exams, case studies and project works. The projects may not be real-world business problems or not in real-time (as in past case issues or studies) and the project briefs are crafted by academics. You could imagine the degree of authenticity the project scenarios be if the academic had never worked in the industry before. The educators themselves have been brought up in an academic system of logical, process and system thinking. The little time they had contact with the industry was conducting research on industry trends and churning out their findings on papers.

All schools, if not most, have always found it a challenge to ‘teach’ students on innovation and/or creative thinking. The subject matter itself is more an art than a science. Some educators would even agree that one is to be endowed with the natural gifting than merely acquiring as a skill. Humans can come so far since Genesis is God’s given creativity to every one of us. We can create, make, adapt and keep evolving. What we need is both the macro and micro environments to bring out our latent ingenuities. Existing education and school systems placed too much emphasis on structural process and system thinking at the expense of stifling one’s ingenuity, one’s appetite of making mistakes and facing failures.

How could schools do better in educating Innovation and Creativity?

An institution’s (or organization’s) environment stems from its culture. Then one may ask: “How to have a culture of innovation?”. In the shoes of an innovation management consultant and an educator I would suggest that you be asking: “What makes a culture?”.

The people’s behaviours, attitudes, emotions and beliefs are what constitutes culture. What more straightforward is to have an innovative leader (Principal, Dean or Chancellor) to spark it off! The leadership definitely has to light the fire. Next, set up a reward system to reward innovative behaviours, creative ideas, new creations and inventions.

Give time for play and experimentations for students and faculty to work on things not planned in the school’s curriculum. Allocate (yes, allocate) a good portion of school time for students to exercise their creativity in creating, making and crafting objects, things, drawings, software, apps or anything that inspires them. Well-known innovative company 3M has a ‘15% culture’ that empowers employees to allocate 15% of their time to work on projects outside of their daily focus. They have grassroots initiatives and grant programs like Genesis that empower process over the outcome for new and disruptive ideas. I believe there is no magic number for the amount of allocated time for one to exercise creativity. The act of allocating some time for ‘creativity’ actually nurtures innovativeness and of course, it motivates and does great to mental health too!

The world is putting its people into fixed structures and cookie-cutter systems. Imagine one being brought up in such an education system, would not he/she be more of a ‘normal’ than an innovator (yes, a ‘misnomer’ to a good degree) by the time he/she graduates from school? We need to give room for failures and even celebrate failures! No product is a perfect product. Design Thinking methodology, a popular innovation process that gains fame by equipping any people (even the so-called most uncreative ones) to be able to create something or forming solutions to tackle real-life problems. One concept that helps make the Design Thinking process so credible is iteration, i.e. continued re-inventions of existing solutions.

Can school assess students on Innovation or Creativity?

Measurement criteria ought to be both quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative measurements can be:

– Number of experimentations done

– Number of failed trials

– Number of product enhancements

– Number of propositions

– Number of ideas generated

– Number of solutions

– Number of patents registered

– Number of product commercialization, etc.

 

Qualitative measurements sought to account for the quality of the learning journey, output and product solutions. The degree to which the product or solution addresses a real-life problem and the viability to commercialize the product or solution. Institutions need to work closely with the industry to get industry professionals to act as mentors and evaluators for students working on company projects.

In a nutshell…

Schools should be an environment to bring out God’s given talents and creativity from each one of us. It is a place to nurture one’s creativity to venture to build tomorrow’s innovations. The school’s core culture is to be designed around flex, fun, failure or 3Fs in the process of building aptitudes, attitudes and achievements or 3As.

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