Education, Imagination, and Innovation

How can education prepare students to become innovators? What's the secret of creativity? What is responsible innovation? Prof. Xavier Pavie talks to the Council on Business & Society

Education, imagination, and innovation: An Executive Summary with a focus on the work and research of Professor Xavier Pavie, ESSEC Business School Asia Pacific.

Innovation. The omnipresent theme is so instilled in today’s educational institutions that instructors work tirelessly to create new courses on it, spending long hours or even days teaching their students to think outside the box. In fact, over the past couple of decades, the teaching of innovation has radically transformed to become a discipline that is as much rigorous as it is relevant for any organisation seeking to develop or renew growth. A plethora of theories and innovation processes – from blue ocean strategy to business model canvas and design thinking – have not only succeeded in mapping the major stages facilitating the move from idea to innovation, but have also evolved to reach a level of sophistication that limits failure.

Processes are not alone in having reached maturity. The phases of creativity that enable us to develop these mechanisms have also been endowed with increasingly reliable tools and methods –brainstorming, mind mapping and SCAMPER among others. Howsoever numerous and diverse these methods may be, nothing can replace the innovators’ behaviour and attitude. In short, the teaching of innovation must not simply deliver a set of techniques, it should also transmit a certain way of being.

Aristotle said: “The beginning of all wisdom is wonder”. And that wonder allows us to open ourselves up to the world, improve our understanding of it, marvel at what it offers, and observe with an ever-fresh eye that it proposes. The challenge is to change our outlook and modify our point of view, both of which are often moulded by certitude and habit. As such, it is through their capability of observing differently and their many confrontations with novel situations that innovators succeed in formulating unique solutions. According to Professor Xavier Pavie, Director of the iMagination Center and Associate Academic Director for the Master in Management programme at ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific, imagination and transdisciplinarity constitute the pillars of future innovations.

Imagination is not inherent. This faculty can be cultivated and transmitted. The first step to achieving that is to go beyond the boundaries surrounding our world. Our environment is such a boundary – whether stemming from our education, work, family, or friends. Going beyond this boundary means facing new settings, different perspectives, and new knowledge. It is here that transdisciplinarity is essential. Unique and ‘never before’ experiences help nourish our minds, develop our imagination and as a result, transform our way of thinking.

If transdisciplinarity is advocated by everyone, there still remains the fear when it comes down to breaking the norms of our boundaries and those of what we teach. But it is necessary, and re-thinking education must come at this price – and at this audacity – whatever be the discipline concerned. Although some areas of teaching must respect certain boundaries, there are many others in which innovation should drastically break bounds to enable the capacity of students – the builders of tomorrow’s world – to hatch and develop.

Prof. Xavier Pavie talks on imagination, education and innovation.

Xavier Pavie

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