Teach Our Children Well

Cultivating the Next Generation of Innovators

“The most important KPI (key performance indicator) in the future will be the curiosity index of a company ” predicts Andreas Steinle, CEO of The Future Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, and an advocate for curiosity. However, many education systems around the world are not preparing students to be innovative and creative. They function on memorization and standardized testing rather than curiosity and collaboration.

This issue is prevalent in all levels of education, from primary school to university settings. Sir Ken Robinson, a creativity and education expert, calls for a radical rethink of our school systems in his TED Talk titled “Do schools kill creativity?”

“We’re running our national education systems on systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make,” Robinson says. “The result is we’re educating people out of their creative capabilities.” 

This has career consequences for individuals in the workplace who are expected to explore new ideas and keep up with a rapidly changing society. In fact, the US State of Curiosity Report, produced by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany in 2015, found that “only one in four workers (22%) describe themselves as ‘curious at work.’”

Some schools have recognized this disconnect between what is desired and needed in the work place and what is taught in schools. 

One of the original and leading institutes developed to promote innovation thinking is the d.school at Stanford University in California, founded in 2005. According to the school’s website, “In a time when there is hunger for innovation everywhere, we think our primary responsibility is to help prepare a generation of students to rise with the challenges of our times… Our deliberate mash-up of industry, academia and the big world beyond campus is a key to our continuing evolution

Thousands of miles away from the unicorns and billions of Silicon Valley, two schools with centuries of history are also at the forefront of curiosity and innovation in higher education.

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium – founded in 1425 – and Imperial College London in England – founded in 1823 – are ranked first and second on Reuters’ “Europe’s Most Innovative Universities” list.

KU Leuven is preparing tomorrow’s workforce by offering a minor in “Business and Innovation.” Courses for this program include Economics for Scientists, Marketing Engineering, The Economics of Innovation and Intellectual Property, a practical workshop with innovation experts and a final project. Compared to other universities in Europe, KU Leuven submits more patent applications than almost any others. 

Imperial College London also offers creativity-minded programs such as an MSc in “Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management” – and has a leading innovation hub, called Imperial Innovations, which “commercializes leading UK research and seeks to build substantial, high quality, well-funded and well-managed businesses.” 

  A cube composed of cubes of fruit on a plate   A cube composed of cubes of fruit on a plate

Possibly one of the most interesting innovation education centers is the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School Design Institute for Health. The institute is a collaboration between the Dell Medical School and the College of Fine Arts at UT – Austin.

The institute describes itself as “a first-of-its-kind initiative dedicated to applying a creative design-based approach to the nation’s health care challenges — and rapidly integrating that perspective into medical education and community health programs.” It focuses on three areas: a creative, collaborative model for improving health; platforms to enable new innovations in health; and a resource for design execution.

By investing in these innovation centers and committing to teaching and fostering more creativity, these universities are graduating new generations of bold, curious and entrepreneurial students. The skills and training that their students acquire will prepare them to join and succeed in a continuously changing, increasingly borderless business universe. 

How curious are you? Take the self-test

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