Innovation is not a fad–it’s the lifeblood of the academic profession. If you don’t produce innovative ideas, new ways of packaging information in more intuitive or efficient manners, or further refine existing ideas, you won’t get published. But, even more important than that, you won’t advance the field forward. If the field stagnates, students won’t need you. Anyone can go to Google, Amazon, or the library for stale information. But, if you imaginatively apply innovation to your discipline, students will seek you out, they will knock down your door, they will storm the college just to get the opportunity to experience your perspectives and to develope their own innovative lifestyle.
For example, take the phenomenon of Karl Barth. During his time at Basel the university’s theology department exploded with new students. The school started offering classes in English because of overwhelming demand. Take a look at Basel now and it has only a mere fraction of the students it did in Barth’s day. There are doubtless many factors in the enrollment decline, but the lack of an innovative and compelling scholar is surely a big part of the equation.
One of the primary goals of this site is to foster innovative research and teaching concerning the ancient Near East and the Bible, but many principles that we will discuss can be applied to any discipline. Innovation is essential in every field and in many areas of life. Furthermore, many other areas besides our speciality areas have much to say about innovation and we would do well to listen to them. Innovation is a mindset, a way of thinking, a pattern of life. This mindset must be nurtured and self-consciously grown.
In order to develop and grow an innovative approach to ancient studies you HAVE TO expose yourself to other ideas, disciplines, and ways of thinking outside your specialty. You can no longer remain an isolated specialist. We are all specialists–must be because of the information overload that we experience today–but we must also branch out and expand our perspectives beyond our field.
One fantastic fountain spring of innovation is the business world. If they don’t innovate, they don’t sell services, products, or experiences, they don’t meet financial obligations, they close down, they don’t feed their kids dinner. They MUST innovate–they don’t have endowments to support stagnating ideas. Therefore, take a look once in a while at what the most cutting edge companies and individuals in the business world are thinking and doing (and hey, if you are studying Neo-Babylonian economic texts it may help you with that as well). Here is a place to start: Tom Peters is a business consultant calling for a re-imagination of organizations, leadership, etc. Click here for his site.
What do you think?