Yesterday in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman’s column defined the new untouchables—the people who are in such demand that employers sacrifice to keep them, or who readily find new jobs in the worst economy. They are the top half of the class, he says, not the ones who can do routine engineering, but the innovative thinkers who create the new products.
And today on MSNBC, Intel’s Paul Otellini showed off a vial of teeny, tiny chips, each with the computing power of the best laptops three years ago. Like Friedman, he said that entrepreneurial power comes from education—but the kind that equips people to invent instead of just learning the basics.
Finally, Newsweek’s cover story is on changing education, from the idea that there is a set curriculum to the idea that school is to give you the tools to succeed in an everchanging world.
I couldn’t agree more. In our Design and Innovation Management class (shameless plug here), we’ve opened it to continuous input from our FEMBA students. Last week, a Tweet from a student alerted us to a YouTube video about changing behavior by making a staircase into a live piano, which in turn we incorporated into our class as part of a workshop exercise that uses toys to inspire new ideas.
Because we can’t possibly predict the future, the best education can prepare people by giving them the tools to be flexible, to build on the ideas of others, and to stay constantly alive to opportunities. I’d argue with Friedman that these skills are not just the whipped cream and the cherry on top, that thinking like an innovator is the only way to create the whole sundae.
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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.