Thus, with support from the National Science Foundation and encouragement from Charles M.
Vest, then president of the National Academy of Engineering, I began what became to be the Educate to Innovate research project.
The ones with whom we spoke emphasized gaining industrial or real-world experience that helped them focus on concrete problems and learn how to function effectively as a team member.
They also emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations as ways to gain new knowledge and see people and problems from many different angles.
In contrast, the creativity, passion and broad vision necessary for successful innovation suggest that the very idea of a “traditional pathway” to teaching innovation may be highly unlikely.
Yet, over the years, I couldn’t help wondering: Could there be an Institute for Innovation alongside the entrepreneurship programs at major research universities?It was becoming clear that scientists and engineers could, indeed, be taught to significantly accelerate the process of bringing promising new technologies to market.But I knew that entrepreneurship and innovation are different, even if related.More than 60 leaders from all levels of education (K-12, undergraduate and graduate), as well as industry and government participated in a two-day workshop at the National Academy of Engineering in October 2013.Those leaders discussed the data compiled from the interviews and formulated action items and recommendations.Environments laid the crucial foundation for the experiences and skills innovators need.The interviewees emphasized office designs that encourage informal discussion and collaboration along with explicit encouragement of innovation.The report contains much more: more insights, more stories and a slew of recommendations. We need to conduct more definitive research and take some major steps to incorporate the education of innovation into our existing curriculums. Daniel Mote Jr., current president of the National Academy of Engineering, put our work into perspective.“Even if it mostly confirmed our intuitive understanding of innovation, it’s opened the doors to more definitive research, and that can only help our country,” he said.But we also found that they are generally risk takers who don’t fear failure (although many emphasized that they don’t like failure).They also are good at selling ideas -- a crucial skill for raising funds and building a team. Again, some findings were unsurprising: innovators have strong mentors and role models as students and young employees, and they generally had a lot of unstructured time while growing up.