The pioneering work on the innovation and economic development by Joseph Schumpeter referred innovation as a central force in the economic transformation. Much of his scholarly work has focused on how innovation drives economic evolution and the critical role that innovators and entrepreneurs play in the process. Innovation according to Schumpeter is the creation of new combinations that represent a departure from established practices. He noted that resistance to innovation is experienced by the innovator, businesses and the wider economy. Innovation thus does not happen in isolation its very nature requires transformation and adoption of new cultures and abandonment of the long held practices.
The first step toward innovation and its framework is creativity, which is simply defined as the process of coming up with ideas that no one has ever thought of before. Thus, innovation is impossible without creativity. When discussing our academic institutions, which are supposed to be creative hubs, we frequently hear the term non-creative environments, as most of our academic ecosystem lacks a creative environment where new ideas are not usually endorsed. People with new ideas often get to hear words like: this will not work, this has no significance, we can't make it or don't waste your time. The non-recognition of novel ideas has reached such a point that our students have stopped even considering new ways of doing things; they are still stuck with the traditional learning process of assigning grades based on a syllabus developed in early times.
The situation is alarming in light of Jammu and Kashmir's increasing unemployment rate of around 24.3%, the second highest in India. Scholars typically argue that the youth in J&K are not only unemployed, but also unemployable as a result of traditional educational practices. On a global scale, a mass movement of scholarly waves are emerging which argue that the current industrial transformation, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution and recognized by technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Big data, Digital manufacturing, and the Internet of things, should outlaw traditional practices in schools, colleges, and universities because the scenario necessitates the up skilling of every individual in a society. In future even a typical class IV desk job will necessitate some digital literacy which cannot be imparted through the traditional practices of teaching.
The robustness of Indian policy documents, whether it is the National Education Policy-2020 or the Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy-2020, has earned a wide place in global academia. These policies not only reflect a radical shift in the educational and innovation ecosystem, but also a broader goal of making India the next global startup hub. However, the same academic community questions the lack of implementation of these policies among the various actors and sectors of the involved ecosystem. Since the launch of NEP-2020, a large number of workshops, webinars, and symposiums have been held in various academic institutions across the country to discuss the main features and contents of the policy document, while little attention has been paid to policy implementation on the ground. The NEP aims to build a skill-full education system, which necessitates radical change; however, resistance to change among various institutions is impeding progress and implementation of new practices specified in the NEP-2020. So, instead of innovation, our academic institutions have become resistant towards innovation which in simplest terminology can be referred to as the academic disinnovation.
When it comes to innovation, Jeffery Sachs' famous writing in his book 'The Ages of Globalization' asserts that the industrial revolution in Britain was not an isolated phenomenon from James Watt alone; it entailed geography, institutions, and culture. Apart from James Watt's individual creativity, the availability of coal at low prices, owing to Britain's geographic location, the legal institutions that supported Watt in order to protect and profit from his intellectual property, and the culture of adopting new ideas and practices among the British people all contributed to the British industrial revolution. This reflects the significance of four fundamental elements of innovation: individual creativity, institutions, geography, and people's culture. So, with the exception of geography, any attempt to foster a culture of innovation in various contexts necessitates a change in all four of these elements. Geography cannot be changed but it simply indicates which types of innovations should be focused as per the availability of resources in a specific context.
Similarly, Professor Calestous Juma of Harvard Kennedy School in his famous book titled Innovation and its Enemies draws on nearly 600 years of technological history one of today's most pressing policy challenges as the tension between the need for innovation and the pressure to maintain continuity, social order, and stability. In a broader sense, the book emphasizes the importance of effective institutions and societal culture in nurturing a robust ecosystem of innovation in a society. To create a culture of innovation, all societal actors must embrace change and disregard the old practices and work cultures.
(Author is a columnist and writes on diverse issues especially technology and innovation)