Innovation requires a mix of skillsets and multi-discipline interest

It’s not a shortage of STEM skills, but the wrong mix of talent that is holding up the innovation train. The right employees will have deep knowledge in one field and broad understanding across other areas, especially for future leaders.

Innovation is today’s most used — and least understood — word. Politicians brandish it like a magic wand. But the spell could be broken with a new report challenging the current obsession with STEM.

The Skills and Capabilities for Australian Enterprise Innovation report, produced by the Australian Council of Learned Academies, shines a new light on the innovation debate. It suggests the lack of appropriate skills mixing in and across organisations is the biggest barrier to innovation, not the shortage of STEM skills.

STEM and the Innovation Debate

We’ve heard countless times that declining numbers of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) graduates are undermining Australia’s potential innovation success. The sense is that unless you have a technical education, your other skills are as useful for driving innovation as snake mittens.

Australia is not heading in this policy direction alone. The US and several European countries are falling behind in terms of innovation metrics (see Global Innovation Index) and calls to, for example, teach coding in school are getting louder (see US Department of Education).

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