Given the growing use of the word innovation, one expert has said that it risks losing its meaning
by becoming a “buzzword.” The author of The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun, stated that the word
has been overused and warned people to stop . His view was that Einstein, Ford, da Vinci, Picasso,
and Edison rarely said it and that people use it as a cop out for clear thinking. Berkun suggested using
more precise language instead, such as: “1) we want new ideas; 2) we want better ideas; 3) we want
big changes; and 4) we need to place big bets on new ideas, phrases which are more powerful and
specific than the i-word.” Berkun stated that companies should focus on creating “something really
good, that solves real problems, works reliably, is affordable, and is built by a happy, motivated, and
well rewarded staff.” His view was that if all those are taken care of, companies will outperform their
competitors and innovation will take care of itself.
According to some researchers, innovation has not gotten the scholarly cross-discipline attention it
deserves given its importance [12, 13]. Most of the literature on innovation has been published in the
social sciences within the fields of economics and management, where the focus has been largely on its
relevance, as well as, research about processes, methods, and routines that that help firms and teams to
innovate better and faster. In discussing the role of innovation in engineering education, the scholar
Osorio stated, “Paradoxically, while it is very relevant to understand how to manage innovations and
their effects, practitioners in the private and public sector are increasingly asking to know about the
latter: how to create them” [13, p. 2].
1.2 The Value of Innovation-Related Education
In this increasingly competitive, global economy, it is widely believed that contemporary college
graduates in all academic disciplines will need a broader range of skills in order to secure jobs and
create value for the organizations that employ them. Today, companies want workers who can develop
innovative processes and products, who have the skills to lead and manage teams, and who can create
and thrive in innovative environments. Further, it is projected that fewer future graduates are likely to
obtain full-time employment in many fields due to a shifts in the labor force which favor outsourcing
and contract work. This means that graduates will have to be innovative and able to differentiate
themselves in order to compete and thrive in the professional world “as companies want a workforce
they can switch on and off as needed” .
Innovation-related pedagogy is receiving increased attention within the academic fields of
engineering, science and technology given its critical role in product and process design and
development. This movement has been driven by economic trends, workforce demand, and a need to
meet revised accreditation standards [15,16,17]. It is particularly interesting in light of research
indicating that current pedagogy might not necessarily foster innovative thinking. A study of first year
engineering students found that they were more innovative in their design solutions than were seniors.
This suggests that educational methods currently being used may hinder rather than foster creativity
and new approaches to teaching may be necessary to enhance innovative behaviors over the course of
a four year education .
In academic environments, innovation education is often closely associated with entrepreneurship
education either in name or in practice. However, the degree to which the topics of innovation and
entrepreneurship are distinguished, distinctly addressed, or overlap within and across programs is
challenging to assess given their interrelated nature and the variety of educational models that exist. For
the purposes of this paper, entrepreneurship education will be associated primarily with the process of
establishing new business ventures.
There is evidence that exposure to entrepreneurship education has a positive impact and better
prepares students for the contemporary workplace. A study of senior-level engineering students found
that those who had taken one or more entrepreneurship courses had significantly higher entrepreneurial
self-efficacy than those who did not and were also more likely to get hands-on skills related to market
analysis, technology commercialization, business communication, or internships within start-up
companies . Another study found that participating in an engineering entrepreneurship program had
a positive impact on retention, GPAs, and entrepreneurial activity. Data collected from alumni found
that, relative to a control group, graduates of the program were 73% more likely to have started a new
company, 23% more likely to have created new products or services, and 59% more likely to have high
confidence in leading a start-up .
Nathalie Duval-Couetil, Michael Dyrenfurth 145
Volume 4 · Number 3 · 2012