Where do our good ideas come from? We are often led to believe that many of the great ideas of the past have come as flashes of inspiration. We can picture Archimedes leaping from his bath shouting ‘Eureka’ when he realised that objects displace water and Sir Isaac Newton sitting under a tree watching apples fall and coming up with his ideas about gravitation.
Steven Johnson in his book, ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ suggests that breakthrough ideas rarely come from flashes of inspiration. Instead, he argues, good ideas come about through a collision of smaller hunches.
Ideas need time to incubate. Hunches need to collide, often it needs a hunch in one person’s mind to collide with another hunch in someone else’s mind. How can you create systems that allow those hunches to come together? So that they become something bigger than the sum of their parts.
He argues that in the past coffee houses were such places where people met, talked and shared ideas and ‘hunches. The same is not true of today. While we do have a growing coffee-house culture it is one that is often inhabited by people on their own, either reading, writing or surfing the Internet. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who does just this on a regular basis, there is nothing wrong with it! In fact the coffee shop is an ideal place for writers and thinkers, a place where they can relax and dream. But what do you then do with those dreams?
Recently I was lucky enough to sit with Steve from Footsqueek and a small group of primary Headteachers and listen to them share ideas, hunches about an app that could be used in school to collect evidence for school self-evaluation. It was fascinating watching different ideas collide into one another. In the end they came together and the QSI App was born.
We live in a much more highly connected world. Technology today allows us to share thoughts, ideas with anyone, anywhere in the world. This blog, for example, gives me the opportunity to potentially share my thoughts with the world. Tomorrow sees the launch of the new iPhone 5 and in October we see the new Amazon Kindle Fire being available in the UK. What will devices such as these do for the sharing of ideas?
If you want to create a space for innovation, you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you. Chance favours the connected mind.
How connected are you?
A survey of American companies concluded that the 4 C’s –
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication Skills
…… are as important as the more traditional 3R’s of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Once upon a time mastery of the 3R’s was enough to get you a job – but the world is changing.
Proficiency in reading, writing, and arithmetic has traditionally been the entry-level threshold to the job market, but the new workplace requires more from its employees. Employees need to think critically, solve problems, innovate, collaborate, and communicate more effectively—and at every level within an organization.
Yet we still want to test our children on reading, writing and maths only. What assessments are schools undertaking to measure the attainment of children in critical thinking & problem solving, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills?
According to the survey results, executives said these skills and competencies are priorities for employee development, talent management, and succession planning. In addition, job applicants are assessed in these areas during the hiring process.
Girls, when I was growing up, my parents used to say to me, “Tom, finish your dinner – people in China and India are starving.” My advice to you is: “Girls, finish your homework – people in China and India are starving for your jobs.” And in a flat world, they can have them, because in a flat world there is no such thing as an American job. There is just a job, and in more cases than ever before it will go to the best, smartest, most productive, or cheapest worker – wherever he or she resides.
The world is changing. Accountants in India are preparing tax forms for citizens across the world, online. Radiologists in Asia read X-rays taken in North America. If educators are to prepare young people for this new world we must assume that they have some idea of what to prepare them for. I fear that this is not the case.
In the following video you can listen to what Sir Ken Robinson thinks. These are the highlights from his talk in March 2011 at Learning Without Frontiers – ‘Out Of Our Minds – Learning To Be Creative’