How do we grow more Apples in Australia? And no, I’m not talking about the kind we eat.

This question has been bugging me for the last 20 years since being neck deep in the innovation space. As we embark on the new “Ideas Boom”, I believe we have missed a golden opportunity to include a vital ingredient to create a fertile environment for innovation to flourish in this country.

Which takes us back to Apple and how we can grow our own here in Australia. It’s hard to imagine where Apple would be without Jonathan Ive, the technology giant’s design guru. His design team is the brains behind some of the most recognisable consumer electronic products in the world: the iPod, iPhone and iPad, iPen, iTunes, and the list goes on — all adding up to make Apple one of the most valuable companies in the world. Take design out of the Apple equation and they certainly would not be where they are today.

So where does Australia sit where it comes to integrating design into business in the same way Apple does and what does STEM have to do with it?

While well known in academic circles, STEM is gaining a lot more prominence and mainstream attention. STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These disciplines are the foundation upon which an economy is built. However, they are not the only ingredients required.

There is an urgent need for better business thinking given advancements in technology, ongoing digital disruption and non-stop global competition that will render current economic policies obsolete and materially affect our standard of living, if we don’t reset the clock on how we teach, learn and work.

An innovative country is grounded on deep technical expertise, but it’s not enough to invest in being “smart” — we need to foster a culture of creativity. We need explorers, challengers to the status quo, inventors that look beyond what is and ask what if, and designers who seek to create more meaningful value.

The time is right for STEM to be rebadged STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. We need to recognise the important role the arts and creative thinking have to play in reaching our true potential — this is where design comes in.

Algorithms alone are not the answer. Methodologies integral to the design process such as critical thinking, creative inquiry, the science of experimentation and the art of prototyping — all need equal investment. The time has come to transform the legacy in rote technical learning and to optimise the best of both sides of the brain — the logical as well as the creative.

It’s a strategy unfolding in universities like INSEAD, Stanford and IESE and embedded in corporations like Apple, GE and IBM and more recently, companies such as Facebook, Uber and Airbnb. Even Silicon Valley venture capital funds know that a hot technology is only part of the equation and are hiring designers to join the engineering and management teams to create top-line growth.

The way we teach architecture is the best in the world. Our design students and teachers are the envy of the rest of the world. But when it comes to teaching design thinking and design principles to our students, sadly we are a good 10 years behind the rest of the world. While our students are designing teapots and kettles, students in the US are being taken through a holistic business education based on design thinking methodologies that is preparing students for a new world.

If Australia genuinely wants to maximise our Ideas Boom and prepare us for a new golden age of prosperity, innovation alone won’t get us there. This ideas boom needs to be design-led and our innovation agenda needs to be about design-led innovation.

If we are serious about creating a culture of ideas and entrepreneurialism, then we have to make sure that design thinking becomes the main ingredient of innovation.

Design brings innovation to life. It is the number one ingredient that takes a great idea and turns it into a desirable and commercially successful product or service.

If we want to grow more Apples in Australia then we can’t do it without design.

Full STEAM ahead, Australia.

This article by Brandon Gien was originally published by The Australian. To read the full content, please click here