Yes, Deloitte Global Chief Innovation Officer John Levis said.
Innovation can be taught.
“What you can do is teach methodologies for looking at problems differently,” Levis said. “You can teach people how to lead through innovation and create areas and avenues and environments and settings where innovation can thrive. You can teach people to know how to look at ideas and help determine whether or not they’re truly innovative, because not every new idea is an innovative idea.”
Levis spoke Friday to an innovation and design class from the University of Notre Dame. Along with professor Wendy Angst, some 30 students gathered in Deloitte’s lime- and rust-hued Greenhouse — designed to facilitate creativity and collaboration — to hear about innovation that matters.
“We firmly believe that the path forward for society to continue to grow and meet users’ needs that they can’t necessarily articulate is to train students to be aware of what changes are happening in the environment around them,” Angst said. “So, as we’ve increasingly become an industrialized society, you find the trends are moving back towards now paying more attention to an individual’s unique needs.”
Businesses will cater more to these unique needs as technology advances, Levis said. He mentioned four exponential technologies — the Internet of Things, 3D printing, advanced robotics and artificial intelligence — that are increasing penetration or usage in the marketplace.
Imagine having the ability to design footwear perfectly personalized to fit only the buyer’s foot. With 3D printing, Levis says this “Cinderella” effect is not a fairytale but reality. He sees artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things turning technology into a tool for communication — allowing users to speak one language, be understood in another and break down global barriers.
Levis said companies should promote workplace policies that encourage innovation. Byron Spruell, Notre Dame alumnus and Deloitte Central region and Chicago managing principal, urges companies to create an environment where employees and managers value risk-taking.
“They’ve got to learn from failures because you’re going to fail more often than you succeed,” he said.
Angst, Levis and Spruell emphasized collaboration and the impact innovation can have on society at large to the visiting students.
“Society benefits from a more innovative workforce, at whatever level,” Levis said. “As undergraduates and graduates get into the workforce, if they come … with a set of methods, a way of thinking about innovation inspired by what that can be and mean for not just them and their business, but people and society, it benefits everybody.”