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The Conditions for Innovation

“Organization” is not the same thing as “order.” Being highly structured does not mean anything is being accomplished nor functioning…

The Conditions for Innovation


“Organization” is not the same thing as “order.” Being highly structured does not mean anything is being accomplished nor functioning smoothly. Order is a less rigid concept and more focused on outcomes. Rather than any set of laws, order is a model of integration that effectively reaches achievement.

Beyond simple achievement, society craves innovations that move us forward. Where do these come from? What are the educational conditions that give rise to innovation? What are the structures that most effectively yield transformative impact on society?

What kind of order is needed?

While I believe that specialization has a practical dimension, it can also preclude innovation. It drives people deep into their own worlds where they end up communicating only with others in that specialized world. Innovation usually depends upon an integration of fields collaborating together for their mutual deepening. The educational fields that get broadly recognized by politicians and leaders are the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).

However, I believe that STEM fields alone do not provide the order necessary for achieving the type of innovation we want.

A few days ago, Matt Goldman published a correspondence with Dan Siegal about learning. I’m quoting it at length here because Dan Siegal gives a world-class screed about the place for Art among the STEM fields (from a scientific perspective):

“The mind integrates both internal and external perceptual streams to create the experience of reality and life. When education provides only the externally organized domain of knowledge — as with science, technology, engineering and math — the internal contribution to living and making sense of lived reality is under-involved. The risk of such externally constrained didactic emphasis and structure is that the freedom of new possibilities, the open space of imagination, the new ways of combining old things, each central to innovation, may be not only undervalued, but also under-developed. The freedom to create new approaches is fostered with internal perception — the way we focus attention on our internal experience.
Art is a human expression that brings the inside out. In diverse ways, art is a skill and communication that requires internal perception for both its expression and for deeply appreciating its meaning within perception. We inquire how art makes us feel, the bodily sensations it evokes, the emotions that arise, the associations with other experiences. Art expands how we think, too, as it challenges our previously existing models of reality and invites us to imagine alternate approaches to life. Art inspires us to SIFT the mind as we experience our internal world of Sensations, Images, Feelings and Thoughts. SIFTing our internal experience sets the stage for the art of STEAM to empower the mind to move beyond what externally exists and imagine new ways at the heart of the innovation we need for living and thriving in our ever-changing world.”

Read that again: STEM fields organize external knowlege while art brings out our inner-world. We need both to function well. Information leads to conclusions; emotion leads to new action.

In reading Dr. Siegal’s letter above about the integration inner and outer knowlege, I kept thinking about the etymology of the word “contemplate.” It comes from the Latin templum,” meaning “temple, a sacred space for observation marked out by the augur.” In other words, it is not simply considering a fact, but observing with the help of a god.

Art is a way of seeing the world and deriving meaning from it. This has the capacity to be incredibly useful, but not through becoming more like science. Art is unique because it prioritizes experience over information and builds upon our connection with the past. Without this context and continuity of experience, we lose understanding of ourselves and the present state of the world.

The order we need — the kind that leads to innovation — comes from having a unified intelligence born out of an education that braids all of these fields together.