In my last blog post, I mentioned an article by Stephen Sackur, in which he suggests that most of us, in our youth, have the capacity to be innovators and free thinkers, but that we learn at an early age that it’s easier to conform than to rebel. Since then, I’ve been thinking about why and how this happens.
I found some interesting answers, and further food for thought, in the entertaining and wonderfully illustrated animated version of ‘Changing paradigms’ by creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. He maintains that the current system of education was designed and structured for a different age, in the interests of, and in the image of, industrialism; a production-line mentality that aims for standardisation. Accordingly, schools train children to think in convergent ways – to find one, correct, answer. As a result, the innate capacity that all children have for divergent thinking deteriorates as they become educated.
Divergent thinking shouldn’t be confused with creativity. Sir Ken defines creativity as having original ideas that have value, while divergent thinking is the ability to interpret questions in different ways and to see lots of possible answers; you could call it lateral thinking.
Innovation, I think, requires both creativity and divergent thinking. Open innovation – the sharing of inventions and/or innovations across organisational boundaries – also requires collaboration. This is another topic explored by Sir Ken: ‘most great learning happens in groups’ and ‘collaboration is the stuff of growth’, he enthuses. Sadly, however, collaboration is also not encouraged by the current education system: in school, it’s called copying, and copying is cheating!
In my last post, I asked how we, as parents, can help our children to become free thinkers and innovators. Given that everything they do at school seems to encourage the exact opposite, we have our work cut out for us.