Have you ever wondered how inventors like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Diosdado Banatao, Nikola Tesla, and Abelardo Aguilar turned their ideas into successful inventions? They all applied an innovator’s mindset.
An innovator’s mindset is the distinct ability to observe and identify problems, then harness creativity, knowledge, and skills to come up with better solutions. An innovator’s mindset is a way of thinking that allows individuals to see situations from a different lens. This process broadens their perspective and lets them consider all possible solutions, iterations, and outcomes.
Innovation is highly-valued in technically-demanding industries like research and development, science and technology, medicine, healthcare, finance, and information technology. Those with innovative minds often become trailblazers in their fields and motivate others to do the same.
Dr. Febus Reidj G. Cruz, a professor from Mapúa University’s School of Electrical, Electronics, and Computer Engineering explained, “The ecosystem of engineers is filled with technologies that are constantly advancing. So, it is valuable that they have an innovator’s mindset to not be left behind but rather lead and grab the opportunities for innovation.”
Engr. Ericson D. Dimaunahan, Mapúa’s director for Center for Teaching and Learning – Outcomes-Based Education, seconded this by saying that global digitalization created a greater need for more innovators. “They will be able to think out of the box of the actual trends, take advantage of new and emerging technologies, re-invent existing sectors and be future leaders in the government and business persons.”
But how does one acquire an innovator’s mindset? The good news is, innovators are made, not born.
“An innovator’s mindset can be developed. The passion to create solutions, for the benefit of society or the generation of business and wealth, can be nurtured by rendering a collaborative environment that sustains their curiosity, courage, and creativity,” said Dr. Cruz.
Even students who feel uninventive or unimaginative can still learn this skill. Aspiring innovators need a conducive setting and support system that will help them master the mindset.
“There are no hopeless cases. We need to encourage and motivate students to think out of the box and be problem solvers. It’s just a matter of placing students in the right environment and a group with diverse skills of innovation and capacity to collaborate,” said Engr. Dimaunahan.
This encouraging atmosphere plus skill-building and outcomes-based teaching methodology is common practice in Mapúa, the leading engineering and technological school in the country. From the get go, students are trained to become critical thinkers. They are taught to purposely discern, analyze, and synthesize information so they can effectively conceptualize and implement the right plan of attack.
“An important skill in innovations is the ability to understand a situation, grasp the challenge, and find suitable solutions. We help the students develop their skills to create practical innovations by exercising their thinking processes and providing them opportunities to build things,” said Dr. Cruz. “We furnish them with activities of progressive complexities – from basic textbook problems to design projects with real-life constraints, to research works with tangible outputs. Afterward, we show them our appreciation for their results and encourage them to improve their products further,” he added.
Mapúans are exposed to various classroom exercises and activities to help them grow an innovator’s mindset. Engr. Dimaunahan for instance lets students do Think-Pair-Share (TPS) exercises and KWL (Know, Want to Know, Learned) charting. The TPS technique encourages collaborative problem-solving among students and enhances their soft skills in communication and leadership. While the KWL charting heightens students’ awareness of topics and concepts that they know, what they want to know, and what they have learned.
Dr. Cruz stressed the importance of classroom exercises that tackle real-life design challenges. He would ask his students to devise solutions which they could freely and confidently pitch to the rest of the class. At the end of the exercise, the class selects the most viable approach.
Graduating students and thesis advisees also take part in informal design thinking bootcamps conducted by both professors to further equip them during their thesis projects.
Beyond the usual lessons, Mapúa professors instill an innovator’s mindset by modeling it themselves. They embrace life-long learning, embark on their own research and development projects, and share their experiences and outcomes to their students.
For Dr. Cruz, budding inventors, scientists, and tech gurus should be prepared for the work if they want to be at par with renowned innovators. “Students who want to have an aptitude for innovation should fill themselves with fundamental knowledge of science, proficiency in modern tools, a genuine interest in working with other people, and a passion to make something useful. Like cars full tanked with valuable fuel, they are ready for a pleasing and rewarding journey,” he said.