We Need to Think Differently About Innovation in STEAM

“Innovation is not the product of logical thought,” said Albert Einstein.  He went on to acknowledge that the final product of innovation will be tied to a logical structure.  Unpicking this allows us to reach some interesting conclusions.  To trigger innovation, we need different thought processes, we need to break the chains of ‘keep doing the same again’.  In short, we need diversity of thought and to achieve that diversity of thought we need to engage more varied people in the world of education and business.

We need to engage more varied people in the world of edulcation and business

The engagement in education, across all subjects is crucial because of the second element of Einstein’s assertion.  To understand and build the logical structure, we need strong educational systems to support the greater diversity of people.  If we can create this perfect storm, then we can build out a far stronger culture of innovation.

For years there has been talk about what should be taught in schools? How should teaching be done? However, the question of ‘who should we be teaching’ is not often asked.  The assumption is students will find their way to the right subjects, be inspired by those subjects and understand the possibilities that are open to them, but that is often not the case. 

To continue creating a pathway to innovation, we need environments where the students of today can scan the future workplace horizon and understand what may be possible

The trouble with this is that it assumes all students have equal access to reliable information, role models and examples of possible careers.  Many students simply do not have this access.  They have never seen a software engineer or a games developer, so they have no reference point.  They may have seen a forensic scientist on television, but they have no real-life mechanism for understanding the reality and opportunity of such a role.  In short, many students lack the exposure to make informed decisions.

As individuals, unless we understand the art of the possible it is difficult to make informed decisions.  If we are unable to see what is possible beyond education, then the education choices we make are less informed.

To continue creating a pathway of true innovation, we need environments where students of today can scan the future workplace horizon and understand what may be possible.  Crucially, we need a diversity in that student body so they can bring new and fresh perspectives to the workplace even while they are going through the educational stages, and not missing early STEAM talent from the younger generation.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that creating a situation where young people can understand the art of the possible are seen in the Tate Collective1 , the Royal Academy young artists summer show2, and Tech Talent Accelerator3, places that exist to enable a place for creativity and innovation. 

Innovation is not simply about raising awareness about what is possible, it is about raising that awareness across a broader, more diverse audience.  Stimulating greater curiosity within both the student body by providing access to more ideas and options and within business by creating a greater pool of upcoming STEAM talent.


For years careers’ advice has been offered, but this is limited because it has limited context.  Students sitting in a classroom talking to a careers advisor or clicking through on-line assessments often struggle to form a strong picture in their mind about what a career would mean.  Some students do gain an insight through the work their parents or carers undertake or through family or social connections and this does allow some context to support their decisions but even this is limited.

Go back to the start of the millennium and scan the work horizon at that point.  So many of the jobs of today simply did not exist or were seen as niche roles.  Innovation, primarily through technology, has catapulted us into a world where work has so many more options and possibilities than ever before.  Whilst this is an exciting time that opens seemingly endless possibilities, that is only true if you are aware of those possibilities.  Awareness is closely related to exposure.  The more exposed people are to the options they have, the more aware they will become and the more likely they will be to engage and that drives multiple benefits.


The world benefits because a more diverse workforce from differing backgrounds and with different mindsets can only improve the chance of great innovation.  Let’s face it, innovation rarely emerges from a room full of like-minded people.  Like-minded people do not challenge the status quo because they are the status quo.  Bring in a challenger with a different background and thought process and the chances of innovative thinking increase exponentially.  Bring in multiple challengers from multiple different backgrounds and with multiple different thought processes and innovation becomes inevitable.

We need to equip the next generation of innovators

We need innovation to lead us forward and we need to equip the next generation of innovators with the tools to build the structures for their innovations.  STEAM must become more accessible to a wider and more diverse audience because we need that very diversity to drive us forward.  Creating greater awareness among all sectors of society isn’t just about equality of education: it is about building for the future by harnessing a wider viewpoint and challenging the way we think today.  Einstein was right – logical thought will drive logical conclusions, but diversity of thought will drive innovation and change.

Feeding the future recruitment with a more diverse workforce

YFYA exists to bring together the innovators of the future with the organisations of today.  In opening the world of possibility to the students, organisations are encouraging greater participation in STEAM activity, and they are feeding the future recruitment funnel with a more diverse workforce who are the innovators of the future.  Students get to see the possibilities and be inspired to follow a path that will take them towards these leading organisations, become STEAM entrepreneurs or inventors! This will increase the numbers in STEAM.

If we take Einstein’s view, the innovation we need is unlikely to emerge from logical thought and that is where YFYA was born. It recognised a problem and applied a new and different lens to create an innovative solution to connect students and young people with STEAM related industries.  Companies that participate tend to be those with an innovative view of the future and those that want to make a difference to the status quo and future generation.