As colleges and universities become increasingly focused on student services in order to attract and retain students, it’s never been more important to gauge how students feel about some of the larger, innovative -- and often tech-based -- initiatives leadership spends copious amounts of time and money supporting on campus.
As the US presidential candidates lay out competing visions for the country, I have been thinking about a topic they have not yet discussed in detail: what political leadership can do to accelerate innovation. Innovation is the reason our lives have improved over the last century. From electricity and cars to medicine and planes, innovation has made the world better.
We applaud the U.S Department of Education report last week that presented an “aspirational” vision for STEM teaching and learning by the year 2026. To be sure, the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- have been hot-button issues over the last few years, both inside and outside the Beltway. But why in the world is this blueprint for change slated for the year 2026?
One of the challenges when it comes to innovation to government innovation, especially innovation focused on development, is the shocking lack of real world understanding of ground conditions and local cultural beliefs, narratives and views across the world. One very senior US Government policymaker in the room pushed back strongly on the concept of better incorporation of socio-cultural insight into government development activities.
If you look around you, most organisations, including those that educated us and those in which we work, try very hard to eliminate uncertainty because it is inefficient and unpredictable. Indeed, all our lives we have been told to plan for the unplannable and, in our organisations, to foresee the unforeseeable. Which leads me to the aforementioned uncertainty principle; where there's no uncertainty, there's no innovation.
Americans rank last in problem solving using technology. In the 1970s, the US had the most educated workforce in the world. Since 2000, the skills and knowledge of US high-school graduates have stagnated while those of other countries have increased rapidly. That failure to adapt means global employers can get cheaper, better educated labor in many other countries.
In the U.S., to maintain our place as a leader in space exploration and the development of technology and capability, we must continue to invest in our most valuable resource -- today’s elementary, high school and college students. They are tomorrow’s space designers and travelers. If we don’t invest and drive change, the consequences could be severe.
Innovation has become a religion in business today, with "innovate or die" as its mantra. When a company succeeds, people attribute its good fortune to superior innovation. When it fails, people say it lacked the ability to innovate, no matter how many new products it launched. The message is simple: you need to disrupt to survive.
In the last decade or two, fundamental changes are taking hold in how science, technology, engineering and mathematics are actually performed. Globally, we are making significant and accelerating progress in moving the frontiers of the natural sciences, engineering disciplines and mathematical methods employed in many economic domains from their traditional techniques to new kinds of applied computational science.
This presidential election has the country captivated. As many commentators have pointed out, the primaries are more focused on personalities than policy. While the parties focus on who is going to represent them in the fall, I want to make the case for something that I hope every candidate will agree on in November: America’s unparalleled capacity for innovation. When the United States invests in innovation, it creates companies and jobs at home, makes Americans healthier and safer, and saves lives and fights poverty in the world’s poorest countries.