Have you ever been to the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green in London? To be honest it’s more like a museum of nostalgia as the core audience seems to be thirtysomethings peering at their old toys in glass cases.
There were some children there too, playing at being giant vegetables in the Food Glorious Food exhibition and acting out their own Punch and Judy stories with the help of Mr and Mrs Punch puppets.
I had my own trip back in time; fond memories of my toy washing machine and iron, (Whoever bought me a toy iron please own up) Mr Greedy picnic set, the world of Beatrix Potter involving Mrs Tiggywinkle and the flopsy bunnies, Lego, Weebles, (wobble but they don’t fall down) Fisher Price and one of my first and still favourite books ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’.
It’s no wonder that children are so creative. They have the stimulus of a wealth of toys with which they are encouraged to play and have fun with. Toys don’t have to be the latest expensive gadgets, one small person was having a great time with a sandwich wrapper. They are small masters at creating whole new worlds of possibilities. They are encouraged to play and are positively egged on by adults.
But then something happens. We are expected to grow up. We go to school and we sit in rows and we are rewarded for getting things right, not for experimenting and using our creativity. We are taught formulaic language and maths skills. We are rewarded for success in ‘academic’ subjects.
We become afraid of experimenting and getting things wrong. Play is no longer encouraged. We learn that we are rewarded for getting things right and conforming to the expectations of the school curriculum. It becomes safer to fit in than to stand out.
I present at team days, creative workshops and conferences. When I ask adults to stand out and participate, nine times out of ten all eye contact ceases and people shrink into their chairs. They would rather die than volunteer to take part, partly, I think, for fear of what others will think of them if they ‘get it wrong’. In a room full of children I wouldn’t be able to move onto the next part until everyone had “had a go”.
So if we want to be creative and come up with new ideas we need to be more like the children that we once were.
If you like this post you may be interested in;
What Sir Ken Robinson has to say about schools killing creativity on TED.
This blog was first published over at Lucidity. If you are interested in developing your creative thinking skills join the Lucidity Network. The Lucidity Network is open for new members a few times a year. To find out more and how to join check out this link. Don’t tell your friends though.
Whilst flags, Pythagoras and Nylon are all interesting to a degree, I’m not sure how genuinely useful any of those topics have really been in my career. I learned about them to pass exams. I crammed the information in order to regurgitate it and get as many questions right as I could. Then I forgot it all. My schools and Universities could tick a box though. If enough of us remembered enough facts it meant they got better ratings which meant more students and more money in subsequent years.
Throughout education I remember being rewarded for getting things right. And I learned this young. At an early age I figured out that asking challenging questions, thinking differently or being a maverick didn’t make me popular with teachers, so over time I stopped.
Then when we start work we are given key performance indicators and objectives. As adults working for an organisation we are measured and judged on how we conform to a set of pre-defined objectives. These are just the grown up versions of getting rewarded for getting things right passing tests, and ticking boxes.
So it’s no wonder that so many organisations struggle to be successful at innovation. Learning to pass exams rather than learning to think for ourselves discourages innovation from an early age, and lets not underestimate the impact that our early years experiences have on our adult behaviour.
Innovation isn’t about confirming to a set of rules or learning about how things have always been done. It’s about thinking differently to solve problems and having the courage to push new boundaries to make change happen. I’m not saying that it’s not important to learn from history and the great discoveries that have gone before us, but if we are not mindful, we may end up focusing on the events of the past and miss the real lessons of the innovators experiences; of questioning the status quo, learning from trial and error and not giving up when others said it was impossible.
And real life lessons that we experience are really important in a world that is changing faster than ever before and will never move so slowly again. It’s unlikely that anyone entering the workforce today will have the same job in ten years time. *One estimate suggests that 65% of children starting primary school today will end up working in jobs that currently don’t even exist.
Last year, a McKinsey & Company study found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be computerised and if that wasn’t bad enough, last year, the Bank of England’s chief economist said that 15m UK jobs might be taken over by robots!
Ford, the futurist, offers some optimism with predictions of three job areas that are most likely to survive the robot invasion.
All these jobs involve thinking for ourselves to solve problems. So I’m proposing that we get better at doing this. Let’s take charge and skill ourselves and our teams up with the tools and confidence to think, to ask questions, to solve problems, to understand data and draw conclusions, to challenge convention, to learn from failure and build personal resilience to get back up again and have another go.
This is why I set up the Lucidity Network – a pick and mix of practical resources and connection to a dynamic network to help you get better results. The Lucidity Network is open for new members a few times a year. To find out more and how to join check out this link.
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