Challenging orthodoxy: a starting point to teaching innovation
Challenging orthodoxy is central to innovation. The absence of critical thought or indeed the need to think critically can produce a level of complacency around how things are done, how communities are defined and how innovative processes can build value beyond the financial. Yet prodding students to challenge orthodoxy can be a complex process. As universities have fully transitioned into functioning businesses, the diversity of the student body is increasingly homogeneous. As the global elite congregate in citadels around the world, the wealthy often prefer to be taught unchallenged. Definitions of orthodoxy become restrictive and contestations of power can be unsettling for those who wield it. Limited exposure to a diverse body of lived experiences produces an inability to navigate complex problems. The government’s track record of dealing with the Covid19 crisis is a case in point.
Creativity requires multiple characteristics not typically associated with working class communities. Curious, intelligent, restless, energetic, imaginative and passionate seem misplaced when describing the lives of people from deindustrialized communities or those living with austerity. Indeed, the labelling of such communities as lazy, unintelligent, undeserving, incompetent and fat, requires teachers to model creative examples to challenge these entrenched stereotypes. When recently teaching a group of undergraduate Fashion Media students, I placed their working class identities at the core of the session and began to challenge orthodoxies that inform working class stereotypes.
Starting with this image of high-rise flats, I asked the students what impressions or indeed stereotypes come to mind when they look at the image. Silence descended as the group seemed reluctant to give voice to such sentiments. I volunteered some of the labels above to fill the void. Next I asked for examples of how such working class communities challenge orthodoxy. Again, examples were not forthcoming. I then shared the first image from the trailer Together. We. Rise., the documentary about GRM and Grime music in the UK. Striking images of Dizzie Rascal amongst others adorning high rise buildings signals the unmistakable creativity that lives and circulates within these high-rise flats, creativity that is often unrecognised, and unacknowledged. For Fashion Media students tasked with using the camera to document their community, visual models of how working class communities challenge orthodoxy is a starting point to teaching innovation.