innovation-needs-stem-Simonbanks

Why Innovation Needs STEAM, Not Just STEM

Did you know that in Renaissance times that there wasn’t a disconnect or gap between the Arts and Science? They were best friends or in today’s language, BFF’s. The Renaissance period or ‘rebirth’ saw an explosion of knowledge, wisdom and learning. It was a time of scientific breakthrough and a period where humanity rediscovered its soul. At the heart of this was the arts: language, philosophy, painting, sculpture writing and architecture and design.

I believe that we are in another Renaissance period. As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution driven by digital disruption, an era of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, genetics, robotics, machine learning, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology has already begun.

I keep hearing that the skills needed to thrive in the in the 4th Industrial Revolution must be driven by STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Absolutely, these are essential to thrive in the years ahead but more is needed. I believe that we need to add a big, fat A into STEM and embrace what the Arts can add to STEM.

Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance’s version of Elon Musk was a STEAM man. He didn’t separate the Arts from Innovation. It was just the opposite. He is celebrated for not only his achievements as an engineer and scientist but also as an architect, painter and sculptor. The Arts were engrained into his inventions, his thinking, and his way of dissecting and looking at the world around him.

More modern examples are the Author Beatrix Potter (of Peter Rabbit fame) was also a scientist and conservationist. The worlds  coolest scientist (with the exception of Dr Karl Krusiniski) and particle physicist,) Brian Cox was in a popular UK pop band called D:Ream.

The Arts and Science should not be considered as opposite ends of the skills spectrum or in competition with each other. They should be as valuable collaborators and an essential part of developing the mindset, skills and behaviour to thrive in the fourth Industrial Revolution.

Why incorporate the Arts into STEM?

1. The arts teach you how to look at the world. The arts teach you to open your eyes to all the world around you and develop the most essential skill needed for curiosity.

2. The arts help to develop whole brain thinking and develop your imagination. Albert Einstein said that “imagination is more important than knowledge.”

3. The arts teach you that failure is OK. Author and TED Speaker Brene Brown puts it well when she says, “There is no innovation and creativity without failure.” As an artist, you are always experimenting and trying new approaches and combinations of materials. As such, failing and failing repeatedly as you create and design is normal. Every successful innovation is littered with lots of failures and driven by the learning that comes from this. This is a massive shift from the Corporate World where in my experience, there is a complete fear of any type of failure.

4. The arts enable you to express your ideas in a way that people can connect with. Words can be a very linear way of expressing and communicating big picture ideas. The arts give you confidence to express your ideas visually and in a variety of media and styles. The brain loves interesting things. Ideas expressed in ways other than words are interesting things.

5. STEAM embraces the world of Design and looking at the world and expressing your ideas through a designer’s lens. With the corporate world and even Government embracing Design Thinking to achieve massive change and empathy for customers, understanding design is more important than ever. Surprisingly for some, there is more to design than post it notes. STEAM allows you to develop your design sensibilities and the ability to use them in the wider world.

6. People need more than maths and science to thrive a future economy, they need creativity. The World Economic Forums future of Jobs report lists creativity as the 3rd most important work skill needed to thrive in 2020. The arts help people to continue to develop the creativity the were born with. Unfortunately as people get older many have forgotten how to use their creativity and are terrified by the mention of it. Developing skills and confidence in the arts stops people hitting the workforce with a negative creative mindset which kills innovation in its tracks.

Sesame Street has always been at the forefront of trends in education for children and they are also taking up the STEAM challenge. Dr Rosemarie Truglio, SVP of education and research at Sesame Workshop in New York, told the StemtoSteam.org site: “Incorporating the arts into our STEM curriculum was an exciting and natural addition, as Sesame Street has always used music, visual, and performing arts as tools to educate and entertain children.”

It’s time to put some A into your STEM and get STEAMY.

Pursue a new hobby that makes you engage your creativity: Music, Painting, Drawing, Designing, Writing, Ceramics, Floristry or Lego; anything where you must create and use your hands. Whilst it can feel slightly uncomfortable doing something that you are not a highly skilled professional at, lean in and enjoy the chance to experiment, create and design.  You are on your way to looking at the world around you in a new way and developing the essential skills to thrive in the fourth Industrial Revolution.

About Author: Simon Banks is an emcee, speaker, training facilitator and presenter who is professional and creative, and brings all the vim and vigour your audience expect to ensure brilliant corporate events. He’s the Director of creative training company VisualFunk, known for running innovation hubs, conferences and training days to brew fresh thinking and develop market leading ideas. His first book, 1000 Little Lightbulbs, will be released in early 2017.