I Have a Hunch…

…that Education is going to change quite significantly before I reach retirement. Does anyone else feel that way?

I just finished two books this past weekend: Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation and Ken Robinson’s the Element.

Both books are about creativity and innovation and what is unsurprising is that there are many similarities between the two books.

What I liked about Robinson’s book was his idea and definition of creativity. There are multiple modes of intelligence and he provided great examples from fields other than the arts (even though he is a strong proponent of giving the arts the same importance in schools as reading and math). He talks about a Nobel winning physicist. Richard Feynman, who found his passion, but is was almost by accident, some serendipitous moment, where he started to play with ideas just for fun – think of google’s 20% free time model, and then saw a connection that eventually led him to his prize in quantum electrodynamics.

Johnson also claims that there are many ways that good ideas spring forth, but the solitary eurika moment is very rare. Usually it begins with a hunch and it’s some other event, or somebody else’s hunch that triggers the new idea. Two half-hunches, if you will.

One thing Johnson mentions is that our abilities to connect with one another through technology has increased tremendously, and that as you can see from wikis and the idea of open source technologies, people are coming up with new ideas faster than ever because of the possibility to connect more.

I posted his TED talk earlier where he described the ‘invention’ of GPS as a side project (again like google’s 20% free time to pursue your passion project). Eventually Reagan allowed that satellite technology to be ‘open source’ and many of us now have devices in our pockets that can locate the nearest Starbucks.

All too often teachers teach math or writing to children like there is only one right answer or one right way to do something. Standardized tests (while they have their place) reinforce that. It’s clear Feynman didn’t see math that way. He didn’t know what he was looking for until he discovered it. The ‘inventors’ of GPS didn’t start out trying to design a geo-location device.

The bottom line is that being open to new ideas may allow your half-hunch to become complete. Children need to learn to work with one another and collaborate. They need environments where the diversity of ideas spawn new and better ones. They need to be part of a working community full of people who are passionate about what they do.

If you want a short taste of Johnson’s book, below is a quick 4 minute animation from a recent keynote.

Oh, and is it too late to find your passion or your element? Robinson gives many examples of people who found it well after they turned 40. And if you have a growth mindset, that shouldn’t surprise you.