United States-based iPhone-maker Apple’s legal victory over South Korean conglomerate Samsung in a case involving ‘rectangles with rounded corners’ carries a potent message. It’s that innovation and creativity are the lifeline of businesses and economies at large. Given that the writing is on the wall, how could students - India’s future citizens, the drivers of tomorrow’s economy and country — get creative? Here are some suggestions from Rafiq Dossani, senior research scholar, Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Centre, Stanford University. He led an interactive session on Innovation And Creativity In Higher Education recently organised by All India Management Association.
1 Acquire and share knowledge: One should have a spirit of enquiry and sharing information, says Dossani. You thrive “if you are in an environment where everyone is encouraging you to acquire knowledge.” Did you hear someone say, share knowledge because it’s the only thing which grows when divided? “Weak (social) ties open the way to information sharing. Silicon Valley is all about weak ties,” he says, explaining with the help of a sociological term. Over there, “they’ll freely share information... Indians are very good at strong ties which work to their advantage.”
2 Team up: There’s no denying that you will need to do some project or team work at some point of time or another in college and outside. The earlier an aspirant inculcates healthy team spirit, the better. “One of the areas in which Indian students could improve their education and which should help improve their sense of creativity and innovation is through strengthening their project management skills. A good engineer, a good manager, a good architect, etc, can all be produced by the understanding and diligent application of concepts learned in college. However, a creative and innovative professional must be able to create, manage and participate in teams with others.
This may require an individual to sometimes be the team leader of the same group that he or she will otherwise be a member of and accept someone else as team leader,” says Dossani, adding, “It requires communications skills that enable the professional to focus on content rather than hierarchy.”
3 Keep it short ‘n’ sweet: Speaking of communication skills, it pays to pay attention to the humanities, too, irrespective of whether you plan to specialise in robotics or finance. This is to develop the ability to convey your thoughts and ideas succinctly. This point was in sharp focus during the interactive session. Indian students’ lack of adequate communication skills is, according to Dossani, due to the country’s greater emphasis on technical education. Government spending per student in technical courses has always been higher - though it has fluctuated a lot – as compared to students of non-technical subjects, shows 1991-2001 data in the forthcoming book Triumphs Of The BRICs? A Study Of Higher Education, by M Carnoy, R Dossani, et al, Stanford University Press, 2013.