Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Unlearning the Rules of School..... it RULES!!!!
I was going through some archived articles I have, and found the following. Based on what I'm seeing in my university classroom(s) it is so "right on". I'm hopeful that reading this will give you pause to think, and even better.... do, something different. Regardless of the "type of classroom" you teach in (parents, aunts/uncles, friends, etc.).
Unlearning the Rules of School
By Charles "Chic" Thompson
“We entered school as question marks, but graduated as periods.”
—Dr. John Holt, educator
We all started out creative. Remember the sand box, with your bare toes and your plastic bucket?
Ask children in kindergarten if they like to sing, dance, or draw. All hands go up. Ask a group of adults and only about 15 percent of the hands go up. Then someone will ask, “What kind of dancing?” or “Can I have two beers first?”
What happened in the years between kindergarten and adulthood?
Most of us started school with a full box of 64 brightly colored crayons. The really lucky ones had the tin box of 128 colors with a sharpener on the side. But if we lived in a world of purple tree trunks and orange skies for too long, we probably began to hide our creativity.
Why? Because every year more of the colors and colorful wall hangings were taken out of the classroom. We graduated with two colors—black or blue inside a disposable Bic pen. We hated the color red because when we saw it in writing, it meant we were wrong.
George Ainsworth Land, author of Grow or Die, gave five-year-olds a creativity test used by NASA to select innovative engineers. Ninety-eight percent of the children scored in the highly creative range. When these same children were retested at 10 years old, only 30 percent were still rated as highly creative. By age 15, just 12 percent of them were ranked as highly creative.
What about the average adult population? Only 2 percent of the adults who took the NASA tests were rated as highly creative.
Therefore, our lifetime creativity, measured in terms of our ability to generate a number of new ideas, is at its highest point at five years old and lowest around 44 years old. Our creativity bottoms out right when our decision-making skills are being tested on a daily basis.
It seems that creativity is not just learned, but unlearned as we advance through life. Your creativity does, however, start to rebound upon retirement. So how do you look at your challenges with fresh, creative eyes and unlearn those nagging, ingrained, judgmental rules from elementary school?
Ask the right questions
OK, we know that we all need to be more creative. We think that means devising new, creative solutions for the challenges we face. However, according to Jonas Salk, the doctor who developed the polio vaccine, “The answer to any problem preexists. We need to ask the right question to reveal that answer.”
What an important insight. We don’t find, create, or invent creative solutions; we reveal them by asking great questions. Therefore, our creative charge is to ask more questions that will uncover second and third right answers.
Some favorite questions to ask include
• What analogy can I find to this problem that will demonstrate a fresh level of thinking or performance? Think NASCAR pit crews helping hospital emergency rooms with triage strategies.
• How can I turn my product or service into an experience that will attract attention and loyal customers? Think Geek Squad for home or office computer repair.
• What is the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing to meet or exceed customer needs? Within the list of opposite ideas I usually find my great big new idea. Think Tempur-pedic mattresses. They are never on sale, they market through infomercials, and their name doesn’t start with an “S” like all of their competitors.
• What is unique about this challenge that I have never seen before? This question allows your mind to see new solutions rather than immediately apply what has worked in the past.
• When something goes wrong, I always ask “What went right?” We learn through trial and error, not trial and rightness. So when you see failure, look for the ideas or lessons that are inside.
These new questions can help reveal the answers you have been looking for. Simply put, in the mind-set of innovation, the question is the answer. It’s the answer to entering a world of new ideas and breakthrough solutions.
Forget the obsolete answers
Your creative success is determined by what you know and by what obstacles to creative thinking you can forget. “Unlearning” those school rules we grew up with may be the quickest way to a breakthrough idea.
Some rules of school that need to be unlearned include
• There is only one right answer.
• The teacher is always right.
• The right answer is in the back of the teacher’s edition.
• Don’t pass notes.
• The answer is not on the ceiling.
Based on these rules, many of us around third grade dreamed of magically finding a copy of the teacher’s edition so that we would have all the right answers. These rules worked well in the industrial age when companies mined the land for their assets, but they are out of date.
Today, successful organizations find ways to extract ideas. To create an environment for idea harvesting, follow these rules:
• Look for second and third right answers.
• Challenge management and look for answers from all levels.
• Constantly revise policy manuals.
• Pass notes, collaborate, and appreciate diversity.
• The answers still aren’t on the ceiling, but if you look with creative eyes, the questions might be.
Find the second right answer
Albert Einstein once was asked the difference between him and the average person. He said that if you asked the average person to find a needle in a haystack, she would stop when she found a needle. He, on the other hand, would tear through the entire haystack looking for all possible needles.
When we are confronted with a problem, we feel strong internal pressure to find a solution. When we are encouraged to find a second solution, the second answer is invariably more creative.
Einstein handed out his final exam to a second-year physics class and one student raised his hand and said, “This is the same exam you gave us last year.” Einstein replied, “You are very observant, but the answers are different this year.”
The challenges facing you on your desk and at home probably do not call for true-or-false answers. Make looking for second and third right answers become part of your job description and your family activities.
Plato said that as humans we all strive for immortality. He showed us three ways to achieve this—by having children, by planting trees, and by creating an idea and making it happen.
Go forth and achieve immortality.
Chic Thompson is a motivational speaker on creative leadership and author of What a Great Idea! and Yes, but…; HTTP://www.whatagreatidea.com.
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