Parsing Innovation in Higher Education

Gary L Deel
6 min readJan 17

By Dr. Gary L. Deel, Ph.D., J.D.

Innovation is defined as the introduction of something new, such as an idea, a method, or a tangible thing. Innovation in higher education typically comprises new schools, new programs, new classes, new curriculum, and new ways of learning.

But where does innovation in higher education come from? How has it been sustained over the ages? And where is it most needed today? The article that follows will address these questions through historical examples and familiar experiences of the human condition.

What Causes Innovation?

Most of us are restless. We push incessantly forward toward a better and brighter horizon. We never settle for the status quo.

But why not? Why do we never stagnate? Why do we seem to be ever compelled toward a constant effort to repair and improve our lives each and everyday?

The question might seem silly. After all, what else would we do? Simply sit down and nap endlessly? But why is that notion such anathema to so many of us? Why would that be so untenable?

After all, we’ve come such a long way with the development of human civilization. The present time is by far the best time in history to be alive — in terms of safety, security, health, access to necessities such as food, water, and shelter, and so on. So why are so many of us predisposed to reject the idea that we might simply enjoy the fruits of our labor and cease the work of endless innovation?

I think the answer comes from our biological wiring — at least to the extent that survival is concerned. Evolution itself is a kind of biological innovation that presents new models of living things to the environment so that fitment can determine which traits are best suited for surviving and thriving.

I have written previously about how animals in general tend to be programmed for self-preservation at all costs — and the average member of today’s breed of human beings has likely evolved to be excessively paranoid and risk-averse when it comes to gambling on the unknowns.

Now, in reality, most citizens of first-world countries today have little to fear existentially when it comes to the unpredictable variables of tomorrow. Water…

Gary L Deel

Dr. Gary Deel is a consultant, an attorney, an executive leader, an author, a podcast host, and a professor for several different universities.