Ideally, a university should be an ecosystem in which ideas are developed, challenged, and experimented with. As such, it would be natural to regard both education and innovation as mutually compatible. It’s surprising, therefore, that many academic institutions still lag when it comes to implementing well-structured innovation processes.
DNA, Genetic Fingerprinting, CDs, Computers, and the Internet. This is just a short list of some of the greatest innovations that have been made within institutions of higher education.
It is not surprising that universities regularly produce such brilliant discoveries. For over a thousand years, these institutions have provided society’s most intelligent individuals with the highest standard of education, in an eternal quest to push forward the frontiers of science, research, and technology.
It is surprising then, to discover that the majority of these institutions are not fully utilizing the tools that are available to them in their pursuit of innovation in the 21st century.
Communication has evolved profoundly over the last 20 years, and we continue to see disruptive technologies and services that change the way we think about information. This has been most evident in the media, where business models are constantly morphing to provide us with news and entertainment in unique ways. The change has also been manifested in business, where many companies are now using innovation software to collaborate, innovate, and improve processes. However, in education we are yet to see a pervasive adoption of the necessary digital communication technology. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why it’s critical for institutes of higher learning to recognise how innovation and education work closely together to open up new paradigms .
The software which is used by many businesses, is called either Innovation Management or Idea Management. This type of platform allows organisations to crowdsource ideas from any audience which they invite to the system. Most companies focus primarily on their employees, however organisations are now also involving their customers in the process through open innovation. There are so many different ways to utilise this software, and so many different advantages, but in summary, it facilitates communication and collaboration on a scale and in a format that is unprecedented. It’s potential for bringing together the benefits of education and innovation are numerous, as we will now see.
Students & Staff
Giving a voice to students and staff and allowing them both to collaborate would generate fantastic results. There would be obvious advancements in the quality of teaching that would offer more value to students while simultaneously making the jobs of the lecturers easier.
Innovation Management has a proven track record of increasing employee engagement with the businesses that use it. The same would apply in this setting, but for not only the employees but also the students. Engaging students at university can be a big problem, as attendance records often show, so using a platform like this that gets user to participate in issues related to both specific departments and the university as a whole, can be an invaluable tool.
The modern university also has a lot to gain from a platform that can help maximize the potential of education and innovation being combined. The backbone of all innovation management systems is process improvement and cost reduction, and the value that institutions would gain through this process alone is more than enough justification to invest in it.
An unexpected benefit would be the improved marketability that this approach to innovation and collaboration would give to a university. Having a voice is very important to students, and so providing this would be a massive bonus to the PR and marketing efforts of any institute of higher education.
The benefit with the highest potential value for any organisation is radical innovation, these are ideas that involve thinking outside the box which often leads to the generation of brand new revenue streams, products, or services. With all the innovative creative minds to utilize at universities, it is guaranteed that some brilliant radical ideas would be generated.
While there are many different ways to utilize innovation software internally within an organisation, sometimes the most valuable ideas come from external stakeholders such as customers, experts, and academics. This has some very interesting connotations for collaboration between universities and businesses.
As we have established, universities are a breeding ground for innovative ideas, and creative problem solving. So undoubtedly there would be a long queue of business that would be interested in utilizing the creativity and knowledge of this unique audience. For using this service universities could charge a fee and students could earn a commission for contributing while also gaining valuable work experience.
Students could of course also collaborate with students from other universities. While there is sometimes a rivalry between local institutions, individual departments would undoubtedly be willing work together to overcome challenges and make advancements together.
At Qmarkets we have provided education and innovation – enhancing software to The University of California, Berkeley, who have enjoyed much success with it. Last November, The University of Oxford lead the way in the UK by being the first British university to deploy a dedicated crowd-sourcing platform. It is inevitable that the rest of the universities in the world will eventually follow, and that this tool will become regarded as a crucial element of the global academic infrastructure.
The older an organisation is, the harder it can be to implement change within it. This is very relevant to not only higher education, but democracy, which is also taking too long to step into the future and embrace the age of communication. However the issue is arguably even more crucial within education, where innovation within medicine could lead to the curing of diseases, or in engineering where innovation could lead to eco-friendly transportation and save the planet.
Universities and their students are the closest thing that society has to a physical embodiment of knowledge, and it is essential that they be given the right tools to help them achieve what they are capable of. As Benjamin Franklin once said “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”, so I think it is about time that we invest.