June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Educational Research and Methods
24.576.1 - 24.576.12
Expert Innovators and Innovation Education: Mental Models in PracticeIncreasingly, the engineering education community is asked to contribute to preparingstudents for leading innovation and creating new value. One particular challenge foreducators is that successful innovation builds on expertise from years of experience.How can a limited academic program provide students with valuable innovationeducation?Keys to effective innovation education may be found in the insights of expert innovatorsthemselves. Experienced innovators often provide guest lectures to students who arestudying innovation. This widely used approach takes different forms and may addresstopics as diverse as the innovations and the guest innovators themselves.A mental models study of expert innovators provided a systematic framework fordescribing patterns in how innovators understand innovation. This framework includes:motivating goals for innovation, innovator skills and attributes, and processes andenvironments for innovation. The expert innovators in the mental models studyconsidered these same elements as important focus areas for innovation education, whichis the basis for a corresponding mental model framework for innovation education.This paper describes the application of the expert innovator mental model frameworks ininnovation management education for graduate engineers. It focuses on examples fromone program, which has integrated the framework for innovation into the curriculum.Students learn the framework as part of their introduction to their study of innovation,and refer to it as a touchstone throughout the program. As a result, evolvingunderstanding of innovation by individual students is captured. The correspondingframework for innovation education is also used to shape elements of the program itself.In a significant example, an expert innovator who guest lectures for the program studiedthe mental model results and subsequently changed the focus and nature of his guestteaching about a historic innovation. After the reframing, a session that had originallybeen a lecture became a quick re-enactment of a team innovation. With the expertinnovator as the team leader, the team of students experienced the dynamics of exploringpossibilities and identifying specific actions necessary for creating value from atechnically challenging problem in the context of real world constraints. The innovationmental models framework helped balance the discussion across a range of significantissues, while the expert provided powerful scaffolding that enabled students to test ideasand (re)discover pivotal moves by the original innovation team. Post-class evaluationscaptured rich reflections of a range of aspects of innovation, reflecting progress towardthe goal of teaching “how to innovate” beyond “how this specific innovation happened.”Engineering innovation education is an opportunity that invites exploration of newapproaches to teaching. Initial results from the application of expert mental models ofinnovation to education offer promise. This can be a powerful way to integrate expertiseinto innovation education.
Fisher, E., & Nair, I., & Biviji, M. A. (2014, June), Expert Innovators and Innovation Education: Mental Models in Practice Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20467
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