Innovation and Seeing the Big Picture

Susan Hall

I've mentioned before my love of Montessori education, a method that Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin credit with much of their success.


In Montessori, there is no math period, then a separate language period and science period. All the subjects are integrated and much of the work allows the child to make discoveries through experimentation.


Montessori "follows the child." One teacher told me she had a child who was fascinated with Alcatraz, so she planned all his lessons-spelling, math, science-to be about that island prison. This teacher talks about giving a child who was fascinated with cars math work on taxes related to cars. (And yes, the teacher prepares individual lessons for each child.)


In this TechCrunch piece, author and former venture capitalist Peter Sims writes of a six-year research project on the way creative business executives think:

They found several "discovery skills" that distinguished the innovators from the non-innovators, including experimenting, observing, questioning, and networking with people from diverse backgrounds. As [researcher Hal] Gregersen summed up their findings: "You might summarize all of the skills we've noted in one word: inquisitiveness.'"

Meanwhile, engineer and scientist Bill Alston, in a piece in the San Jose Mercury News, rails against tech hiring practices that he says discourage innovation. He writes:

Those creating the job description and searching the keywords must know in advance the entire spectrum of such keywords to get the person best able to contribute. That will never happen. Only those in a narrow field will be selected. The process fosters pigeonholing and hyper-specialization.
Do you think of yourself as a broad innovator and technical Renaissance Man/Woman? That, in this age of hyper-specialization, may get you a latte in Silicon Valley. It will not get you hired.

He then rails against narrow tech education at the university level and specialization in work experience, even by industry. My colleague Ann All has made the case for IT generalists. As Alson puts it, "Technologies and whole ways of thinking get inbred."


Instead, he advises:

... having a broad background and the ability to see the rich analogies among disciplines can help the Renaissance Engineer/Scientist make huge conceptual leaps where others see no connection. ...
Those rich analogies can extend beyond the purely technical, ranging from initial concept to manufacturing, business, marketing and sales to the end user of a product. The Renaissance Person with vision of the complete process can see it all.

So is it any wonder that so many young people want to strike out on their own in business?

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.




Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.