Innovation is Learnable
Investiture ITARI 16 April 2019
Thus far, education has focused on controlling the outer world, and student
learning has been passive with heavy emphasis on rote-learning, and mastery of
content. Although intellectually we recognise that learning is doing, in practise this is
not happening to the extent it should. Indian education in schools and colleges
continues to focus on knowledge-about and not knowledge-to-do; and the
realisation has yet to sink in that, competences are more important than degrees and
Consequently, our track record of being innovative is dismal. In the past 70
years, premier Indian corporations, and prestigious institutions like IISc and IITs, have
not produced one life-altering innovation. Out of about 31.2 million graduates and
engineers looking for jobs, about 24 million are unemployable. The jobs are there, but
they simply don’t have the required skills and competencies.
This is changing, although painfully and slowly. While we cannot compete with
computers, we have a distinct edge in matters of heart and mind. The 4th Industrial
Age, driven by AI and machine thinking, therefore, marks a pronounced shift from
controlling the outer world to managing our inner worlds. The new role of the teacher
will be to teach the child, and not the subject alone. This involves:
Education of the heart (emotions) and the mind (character and purpose).
Teaching the child what Google cannot teach, such as,
how to think, how to learn, conceptual understanding, the relevance of
concepts, and how to apply them to solve real-life problems.
Innovation and entrepreneurial competences
to re-skill oneself continuously and flourish.
Many debates and discussions are raging on whether teachers will be replaced
by algorithms? In my view this is unlikely so long as teachers become innovative and
schools do not kill creativity. Therefore, the future of schools and education will depend
on innovation. Consequently, teachers who are not innovative are not “learnable”.
Innovation is the #1 Leadership and Spiritual Competency
Man is born creative; he becomes innovative. To be creative is to conceive
original ideas. Google Ngram analysis of ideas and innovation shows that, more books
are written on ideas than innovation. There is no point talking about ideas; one must
do something about them. To be creative is not good enough. There is a big difference
between creativity and innovation.
To be innovative is to teach the child and not the subject alone. To be
innovative, is to be able to apply concepts, to put ideas to work in real-life situations
to solve problems creatively, or transform society. To be innovative is to be able to re-
skill yourself continuously to remain relevant.
Innovation is learnable. To be innovative, an innovative culture in schools is
desirable, but not absolutely necessary.If teachers consider themselves to be the most
important person on the planet, if teachers are driven by purpose, meaning and vision,
they can become innovative in any workplace, however ‘status quo-minded’ this may
Application of ideas demands a separate set of companion competencies
apart from creativity. These are:
Innovation starts with empathy, a continuous rush of adrenalin that, creates
restlessness within a person to do something about the situation. It is
empathy that gives birth to vision. Regrettably, empathy is declining
alarmingly with every passing day. Since the year 2000 it has declined 40
% in college students. We are becoming more and more indifferent to
people and nature. We do not have the time to listen, even to our own
Critical-thinking is the ability to:
To apply knowledge in real-life situations.
Make intuitive decisions based in an uncertain situation.
Analysing vast quantities of data.
Collaboration by solving problems creatively. Talent resides in the team
and not individuals anymore in view of the trans-disciplinary nature of
Persuasive communication, to change perspectives and bring about
attitudinal change.
Grit, a blend of passion, hope and perseverance to hold on to long-term
goals in a volatile world.
Greater energy and greater passion, is more extraordinary
than greater genius.
Risk-taking, as failures in innovation are inevitable. Culturally, we are not
raised as risk-takers as we lead a protected life full of safety nets. We
believe our lives are in the hands of fate.
How to Acquire Competencies for Innovation
See schematic: