The Renaissance in Innovation
17 June 2018
In the 4th Industrial Age, innovation will be the # 1 leadership competency. If
you are not creative you are illiterate having no economic and political value: you are
a liability to society. From time immemorial, the nature of innovation has been
traditional: invention; giving the world transformational ideas like democracy and
Marxism; creating new products like driver-less cars; new business models like Uber
and airbnb; social innovation like the Grameen Bank, and solving problems creatively.
Now in the 4th Revolution, innovation is taking a quantum leap from the outer world to
the inner world: to reinvent oneself continuously, develop an entrepreneurial mindset,
that will benefit profit, people and the planet; and become Homo Deus.
It is no surprise, therefore, that future schools will be schools of innovation.
Innovation will be necessary for economic prosperity, coping with VUCA conditions,
sustainability of the planet, self-actualisation and institutional legacy. From 1955 to
2017, only 60 of the original 500 Fortune companies are surviving. It is believed that,
in the next ten years, about 40 percent of today’s Fortune companies will disappear.
The reasons are obvious: no purpose, no vision, and no innovation.
Most schools and universities were not forthcoming in recognising Dr Paul
Torrance’s research in creativity. He was the greatest authority on creativity, and the
designer of what is known as the Torrance Tests for Creativity. Despite his rich
experience and recommendations he failed to leave behind a legacy for innovation.
The renaissance for innovation must begin in schools. Schools of the future are
schools of innovation. Regrettably, it is schools that continue to kill creativity. If schools
resist innovation, Artificial Intelligence will replace teachers with algorithms. This is my
prophecy. 21st century school leaders must be at the vanguard of leading the
renaissance in innovation
Culture of Schools is at Odds with Culture of Innovation
Creativity is a genetic gift because man is hardwired for creativity. Till children
reach the age of five, their creative quotient is as high as 98 percent. Our parenting, a
hierarchical social and family structure, and flawed educational system, fosters
conformity, mediocrity, uniformity in thinking, and the absence of individuality and
innovation. This has been happening for the past 300 years. The hard evidence is
there for everyone to see.
Schools prepare children for jobs and not for life.
Schools kill creativity deliberately.
Standardised testing.
Content over competencies.
Children lack uniqueness.
In the past 67 years, IITs and IIMs have not
produced one life-altering innovation.
83 percent of patents registered in India are by foreigners.
This explains why, according to Apple’s co-founder Wozniaki,
“There will be no big tech company in India.”
In order to transform ideas into innovation, critical thinking, risk-taking and
coping with failure are vital. Regrettably, the education system is content-driven, and
there is no attempt to develop life competencies to solve real-life problems. To make
matters worse, parents and schools over-protect children.
Teachers genuinely believe that, their primary task is to teach a subject, and
not the child.
Teachers do not read and reflect.
Therefore, assessments do not reflect real learning, and students are incapable
of applying knowledge of facts and principles.
Absence of Fear
The absence of fear is a prerequisite for innovation.
Dictatorial regimes and hierarchical structures that intimidate their citizens are
seldom innovative. Even learning cannot happen in an environment where making
mistakes is discouraged, where the zero-error syndrome is hanging over one’s head
like the sword of Damocles, and a situation, where asking questions and suggesting
innovative alternatives are seen as dissidence and insubordination.
We are living in an era of paranoia, a deep perception that “Everyone is out to get
me.” A paranoid person genuinely believes that everybody is ganging up against him,
that he is isolated, and that there is more bad than good in people. The combination
of fake news, an emotive and repetitive media, cut-throat competition, rising stress
due to modern lifestyle and loneliness, and increasing inequalities, are fuelling
paranoia. Paranoia is an unfounded perception and belief, a delusion that someone is
out to harm us.
Fear is the greatest inhibitor to learning, creativity, seeking happiness, searching
for truth, reaching our potential and even finding God. Present-day schooling is
utilitarian, to place a student in a college of his choice and follow up with a good job.
Instead, schools must consider that, a key function of education is to understand fear,
and how to be free of it. Only then can an awakened mind be created, only then can
creativity flourish. History testifies that authoritarian and hierarchical societies are
seldom innovative. This has greater relevance in all-inclusive schools.
Learning in all schools is designed for the average child. That explains why
admissions are given on the basis of age-appropriateness. Given the scientific reality
of brain plasticity, the belief of an average child is a myth. Everyone is special and
different in their own way. Everyone has a personalised learning profile: memory,
reading ability, language, knowledge, curiosity, and specific competencies, whatever.
Education should aim at personalising learning thus providing equal
opportunities to each child. Unfortunately, we design the learning curriculum for the
average student without any emphasis on competencies required to succeed and
flourish in the 21st century. As a result of faulty designing, teachers are unable to
unlock the child’s potential. This notion of the average destroys talent. In the US, for
example, about 4 percent of all school drop-outs - that is a staggering 50,000 kids,
are intellectually gifted! Instead of personalising learning, we do what is natural: blame
the child, the teacher or even the parent for the child’s poor performance.
Inclusivity is about nurturing creativity and talent.
I could write a book about great statesmen, scientists, inventors, artists, actors,
Nobel laureates, sportspersons and CEOs, who suffered from a learning disability.
Today they would have been denied admission in the premier schools of the world.
But for their creativity, the world would have been a different place.
[Video on Creative Leaders who Changed the World]
Their story and contribution to humankind is a narrative of human apathy, an
indictment of our education system, and above all a powerful message that disability
is creative. Despite all the technology and science of Artificial Intelligence, we have
yet to change the education system that is designed for the average, the so-called
Asking Creative Questions
The innovation culture begins with asking good questions. Good questions are
creative questions. Those who are afraid of asking questions or raising their eyebrows,
can never be creative. It’s a well-documented fact that schools discourage children
from asking questions.
Children and adults who ask questions become better thinkers, more creative
and better problem solvers. You start dying the day you stop asking questions as a
child, as a student and as a citizen. You also stop being curious about life and the
environment you live in.
Between the ages of 2 and 5 children ask about 40,000 questions. Thereafter,
they stop asking questions because our education system discourages children asking
questions. Teachers and examinations want only answers. What they fail to realise is
that one gets good answers only when one asks good questions.
Teachers must be trained in the technique of designing good questions, and
should practise it while delivering their lessons. With experience, the following
sequence has paid dividends.
Teacher asks think-time questions’ having a wait-time of about 7 seconds
to reflect and respond. The questions are such that children are compelled
to pause and think before replying, thereby improving their critical thinking
skills and quality of answers. Instead of asking what the capital of India is,
the teacher asks, why should a country have a capital? Why not separate
political and financial capitals?
Teachers must be trained in the question formulation technique, and should
practise it on a regular basis. The methodology is simple:
Teacher sets the focus
Students are made to understand the difference between
closed questions, and the power of open-ended questions
Students are encouraged to ask as many questions they want
The teacher helps students to prioritise the bucket list
Students reflect or brainstorm
Self-Directed Learning
Self-directed and interdependent learning is one of the best forms of training
for creativity. The responsibility for learning shifts form the teacher to the student -
student - centred learning. It is the only form of learning which combines content plus
The following 6-step process should desirably be followed:
Teacher identifies the:
Concepts and their relevance
Divergent views on concepts
Possible areas of application
Aspects which Google cannot teach
Students are taught how to learn the specific lesson - a significant
departure from the linear pipeline model where students are mere consumers
of knowledge. Now they are able to create their own knowledge - an act of
Students ask questions vis-à-vis each concept, and narrow them down
to 5.
Students develop content around each question. Could be a peer effort.
Teacher reviews lesson.
The above process ensures the development of the following competencies
necessary for the 21st century:
Independent learning
Creativity and critical thinking
Self-efficacy and self-esteem
Lifelong learning
Liberal Education
Liberal education is not the same as liberal arts. Liberal arts is a sub set of
liberal education. Even a science college can receive liberal education. Traditional
education prepares you to pass examinations and get a good job. Liberal education
prepares you for life and for your sixth job! In a political context, a liberal is one who is
opposed to conservatism and orthodoxy. However, in leadership, being liberal-minded
has different connotations. A liberal-minded person is a practitioner of:
Learning how to learn.
Independent thinking.
Openness to change.
In an AI-driven world of automation and machine-thinking, liberal education is
assuming greater importance by the day. The only way we can compete with
computers and humanoids is by becoming aware of our inner world - to manage our
thoughts, emotions and feelings, and thereby expand our consciousness. Liberal
education enables us to do that precisely.
Liberal education does not just develop abilities; it discovers abilities by
unlocking potential through:
A higher purpose that gives man a vision and meaning to life, and makes
him self-aware in the process. This is the pinnacle in Maslow’s Hierarchy
of Needs
Values that help us in governing our life and exercising choices
Freedom from biases and prejudices
Resilience and grit in the face of adversity and failure
Competencies to cope with the challenges of a VUCA world
Becoming a citizen who thinks globally and acts locally.
Liberal education is the application of knowledge by developing specific
competencies to be be able to apply them in real-life situations. This is creativity. In a
classroom situation the emphasis is no longer on content but on:
Understanding its relevance and context.
Extracting main ideas and concepts and their application.
Teaching competencies, especially creativity.
Self-directed learning to the maximum extent possible as it helps
in application.
The purpose of art in schools requires a complete re-think. Art in school, in any
form, is not to make a child a Picasso, but to develop the thinking and habits of an
artist such as:
Deliberate practise
Discipline and sacrifices required for achieving
mastery and excellence
Self-awareness and understanding of one’s emotions,
feelings and thoughts
Humanist education was thought at the time (the renaissance in Europe) to be
an important factor in the preparation of life. Its main goal was to improve the lives of
citizens and help their communities. This need has become magnified, if anything.
Natural, political and other disasters leave in their wake, tragedy loss and confusion.
Human resilience must be strengthened, en masse, through education, through
innovation and indefatigable and indomitable human endeavour.