Taking a little more time out to delve into the excellent articles provided by Europe’s top innovation on-line magazine, http://www.innovationmanagement.se one article caught my eye. It compelled me to comment upon as it relates to Singapore that is dear to my heart. This was about the Singapore Management University (http://www.smu.edu.sg) and the new Presidents vision of its future place.
Inter-disciplinary research for equipping students for comprehensive solutions
Professor Arnoud De Meyer, the new president, recently made his inaugural address laying out the future of SMU. He stated “Inter-disciplinary research and teaching will be key to producing graduates who can give comprehensive solutions for a changing society”.
He was also recognizing one of the present barriers within Universities was the way promotions come about from peer review and publications of a single discipline within the faculty. This rather ‘myopic’ view of expertise by many present day academics is certainly outdated. We need more holistic, cross-disciplined research as the solutions in today’s world that are needed are more in complex than ever before. If Professor De Meyer can help bring about this sort of change in academic thinking it will certainly begin to separate SMU and distinguish it in a crowded field, and I think it certainly needs to establish differentiation, as it presently has little legacy to hinder it after only being ten years in existence.
Formidable academic barriers
The real challenge within this is to overcome some formidable barriers to academic change. SMU has the potential of cultivating an unbridled spirit of innovation on campus if they set about it correctly. Within their broader community where faculty, staff and students interact with outside society so many connecting ideas can be ‘free’ to flow through this concept of cross-disciplinary research, and then through their teaching from this. Why, well not just because SMU is a young, superbly equipped campus lying not only in the heart of Asia and Singapore itself. It is because it recognises it needs to be different and offer a paradigm shift in offering students not that silo focus based on old traditional management disciplines. It is no longer adequate to answer the needs and challenges of organizations today with these outdated approaches and SMU needs to pioneer the way to differentiate so it can eventually rank among the top business institutes worldwide. It simply can’t by copying existing institutions.
Innovation lies at the heart of cross-discipline knowledge
New cross-discipline knowledge is certainly at the heart of innovation so as to drive future growth and delivers new solutions to more complex problems. If we improve our academic institutions to provide different ways to see and solve problems it will certainly help us be an awful lot better to exploit this ‘combined’ knowledge. We also gain a better understanding of ourselves, how and where we fit in our society to make a contribution as we gain a broader perspective and reduces misunderstandings.
Education delivery has to change and catch up
There is many comments that education delivery systems has tailed off, and struggling to establish themselves to the changes going on around us. They are simply not catching up and this is why I welcome this initiative at SMU. Can one university or a small, but growing group of like minded ones, take on the entrenched position by many academics and other institutions that simply refuse to change? Professor De Meyer plans to encourage faculty to publish inter-disciplinary research and to acknowledge the higher level of difficulty in such research during promotional reviews. I understand this point but this alone is not enough to complete his vision, it needs to be something that is part of a broader, bolder vision that benefits society and the students to ‘see the world’ in new and different ways.
Innovation enables new learning potential
I believe innovation lies at the core to rally around. Innovation can be the enabler of this cross-border encouragement through the emphasis on the study and teaching of innovation and how it links the cross-disciplinary research. To move beyond traditional boundaries and models, to embrace the potential of cross disciplinary research you need to have leading-edge learning practice, where innovation is cutting across the old divides of formal education and silo learning
Professor De Meyer has begun a significant journey by making this issue of ‘Inter-disciplinary research and teaching as key’ to producing graduates who can give comprehensive innovative solutions for a changing society. He needs supporting and encouraging. How can we support this?