I just returned from the World Innovation Forum in New York, where hundreds of business people and academics gathered to hear the experts in the field. MacArthur Genius Award winner Amory Lovins told us how to reduce reliance on oil through eliminating waste in our engineering (oddly enough, research sponsored by big oil companies). Business guru Gary Hamel explained why innovation has become the mantra of every business trying to survive in a global economy. Andy Cohen escaped from a straight jacket faster than Houdini to tell us how to escape from our own thinking traps.
The most fascinating insights, however, came from Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind. According to Pink, for the last century, the world rewarded analytical skills. If you could make it through any professional school—law, medicine, business, engineering—you had a ticket to the upper middle class. Today, any knowledge that can go into a spread sheet will migrate to the huge masses of educated people around the world who are willing to analyze data for a fraction of the salaries we command here.
Value today, he demonstrates, will only come from people who can see the bigger picture and anticipate the future. The analytical skills taught in graduate schools and executive courses today are necessary, but not sufficient.
At Merage, I see this new focus: learning the soft skills to manage virtual teams, hands-on innovation projects in design classes with Alladi Venkatesh and strategy classes with Leonard Lane, plus the latest stories from real innovators in the Edge class. Across the whole curriculum, innovation is an increasingly important part of all we teach, so that we’re creating the leaders of tomorrow.
Lynda Lawrence is an innovation consultant with Ideaworks Consulting. She teaches Strategic Innovation and Design Management at the Merage School at UCI, and is an advisor to the Beall Center.