Editor | On 12, May 2011
Leaders in European Union, India, China, USA and many other countries have been asking for more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates in order to drive more innovation. We also know that there are unemployed STEM professionals. Simply training more STEM professionals may add to the pool of unemployed STEM professionals. Is STEM education necessary and sufficient condition for innovation?
I do notice that many new concepts and technologies are developed by many STEM professionals with Ph.D. level education. Most of these discoveries are for long term benefits. I also notice many STEM graduates with BS and MS level education doing rote jobs, and are unable to contribute their intellectual best. There are many Ph.D. graduates, who have not discovered a whole lot, and there are many BS and MS educated professionals who have innovated very successfully. There are even college dropouts who turned out to be some of the most successful innovators and entrepreneurs. The question arises, “Is STEM education enough for driving innovation?”
Around 2003, I came across the opportunity to learn moe about innovation. During my interview with Bob Galvin for my book Business Innovation in the 21st Century, he mentioned that when he was asked by one of his professors to think of creative ideas, he had no idea how to think creatively. As an educator and consultant, teaching innovation was my main purpose of my first book on innovation because I observed that most creative solutions or products introduced by STEM or non-STEM professionals failed in the field as evidenced by success rate of new products.
I have also experimented with teaching creativity to people ranging from 10 years to about 70 years of age, and have found similar potential for innovation. It is great to see beautiful minds in action because they all manifest unique attributes. In an interview with Sir Harold Evans, the author of They Made America, I learned that he agrees with the concept of education in innovation because innovators possess special innovation skills irrespective of their education, STEM or no-STEM.
I believe STEM education needs be supplemented with education in innovation in knowledge economy. We must consider STEM plus. What do you think?