The Innovation Equation: (skills + design) x passion/purpose/drive = innovation

These are interesting times.

We face new problems that need new solutions. The old solutions can’t necessarily translate into the 21st century context. Global financial uncertainty have shifted the tectonic plates. This is not the era of “a job for life”. Many industries are sent offshore, creating employment opportunities in other parts of the world. The coin-operated workforce is diminishing. That paints a somewhat gloomy picture, but it’s not all bad.

It is in times of uncertainty that innovation flourishes. We now need to teach/provide conditions for young people to be innovators. We can choose to be discouraged, or encouraged and look differently at the world as a place of opportunity. If some markets and industries close, new ones will emerge.

The best advantage we can give young people is to press the reset button on schools and how learning happens.

I’m writing this post from Kigali in Rwanda, prior to hosting the Innovate Rwanda Summit. The participants have started gathering, from all sorts of places. Over lunch yesterday we were sharing our stories. Amongst the group are a few young entrepreneurs, these 20-something’s represent the emerging generation – creative, connected, risk and opportunity takers.

Kau is from India, he works with an organisation that challenges teachers in his country to think differently. Since we arrived he has worked out how to get around, looked for and found opportunities and warmly engaged with whomever he meets. I asked Kau about his education, assuming he had completed a degree. Not the case. He started law, but found the study and the practice was not for him. He is now carving his way differently. Kau is pursuing passion, making a difference and honing his skills on-the-job. He represents the spirit of this generation.

He indicated that with family members in the medical profession his decision to leave university wasn’t what his parents expected. This is understandable. However, Kau is exemplifying how innovative thinking creates new ways of working.

The equation for the innovation age is:

(skills + design) x passion/purpose/drive = innovation

Skills and expertise necessary, these can be learnt or sourced.

Design thinking ensures that the shape of the idea can work, can scale and be replicated

But without passion, drive and purpose innovation can’t flourish.

How can you apply the equation? Where do you fit?

1. We can’t provide conditions for students to innovate without innovative teachers.

2. We can’t expect teachers to be innovative without innovative leaders.

3. Leaders can better provide conditions for innovation to flourish when legislators ‘get it’

4. Legislative requirements will change when politicians understand that ‘the times they are a-changing’

5. Politicians will see the light when they accept that the community needs new vision and they won’t lose votes.

6. The voting-public need to be shifted on their perception of the purpose of education in the 21st century

You can choose to be overwhelmed by this list, or jump in at whatever point represents your sphere of influence. The key is not to be numbed by the size of the challenge, but to start somewhere.

(I am currently reading Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner. These thoughts have been influenced by Ch1)

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