Tag Archives: innovation

Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset?

I am quite a fan of the growth ‘not yet’ mindset which focuses on a belief in the ability to do and achieve more through persistence and hard work. I have previously written about this mindset in What do you have in mind? and in The power of not yet.

I wonder how compatible a growth mindset is with a complacency or acceptance of the way things are; a “This is it. I can’t do anything about it.” attitude.

When I think of contentment, I think of serenity, tranquillity, a feeling of peace and acceptance. I think of it as a positive state of mind. The dictionary defines it as:

Does this imply that there is no wish for things to be different?

I often talk about the importance of imagination and creativity to inspiring innovation and invention. But do they also require a certain degree of disequilibrium or discontent with the way things are? Is it necessary to find fault with something in order to improve upon it? How many gadgets do you use regularly, accepting their imperfections without a thought of how they might be improved? It is not necessary to have the ability to improve them in order to imagine how they might be improved.

A fun thing to do with children is to get them to think of an easier or more enjoyable way of conducting a routine activity. How about an alternative to the traditional, in Australia anyway, emu parade which has children criss-crossing the school grounds, bobbing up and down to pick up rubbish? How about something to carry their heavy back-packs home? Or something to do their homework? (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already invented parents for that!)  I’m sure children, and you, can imagine far more exciting improvements.

Imagination is the driver of innovation and change. But it also requires action. It is the action that gets us into the growth mindset; perseverance, hard work and repeated attempts. As Edison is oft quoted,

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said,

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

I wonder how my friend Pauline King The Contented Crafter would respond to my title question. While I know she has reached a certain stage of contentment in her life, I also know that she strives to better her craft, and does what she can to make the world a better place. How much need for change or improvement can contentment tolerate?

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content  got me wondering about this. Charli talked about moments of contentment sprinkled among frustrating events and dreams of change.

It helped me realise that, while they appear to be in contradiction, we need a little of both. We need to be happy with who we are, what we have, and what we have achieved; while at the same time, we need to be aware of what can and should be improved, and some strategies for action. Questioning is important to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur. We need the inspiration of just one forward-thinker to lead us into the future.

The same balance between contentment and growth can be seen in children’s play. I have used it as my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Purpose in play

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

What is failure?

rough-writers-web-comp

Regular readers of my blog know that for the last eighteen months I have been participating in the flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Each week Charli posts a prompt and invites readers to submit a response in exactly 99 words. I have participated since the first prompt and have missed only a few, maybe one or two.

I enjoy the way the prompt stretches both my thinking and my writing. I appreciate the opportunity to engage in fiction as a diversion from the mainly expository writing (and reading) I do; and to engage in a supportive and encouraging group of Rough Writers.

Since education is the focus of my blog I have given myself the added challenge of targeting an aspect of education in my response to Charli’s prompt. Mostly I have succeeded, though sometimes the posts may be a bit convoluted and the links rather tenuous, but nevertheless, I have been mostly pleased with my ability to find a link.

This time I didn’t think I was going to do it. While I grappled for a suitable link, none was forthcoming and I thought it was going to be an F, a no-show, this time.

F

You see, this week Charli is talking about the destruction caused by forest fires and other catastrophic weather events. Though Australia suffers its share of natural disasters, I am fortunate that I have never been more than inconvenienced by them. I haven’t suffered the loss of family, property and livelihood that others have; nor have I worked in a school where loss was experienced on a large scale. You could say I have lived a sheltered life, and I am grateful for it.

So without a personal experience to share, my next thoughts were to the curriculum. But I am an early childhood teacher, and young children don’t learn about catastrophic events unless they have a personal experience of them. The Australian Curriculum introduces learning about natural disasters in year six.

Another dead end. The F was looming. Would it engulf me?

Then inspiration! I remembered watching a video in which the possibility of an F being the new A was mooted.  I’m sure you’ve all heard about 60 being the new 40, for example; generally put forward by the 60s rather than the 40s I conjecture. But this was a new twist.

The article on Mind/Shift How we will learn entitled When Educators Make Space For Play and Passion, Students Develop Purpose introduced me to a Harvard education specialist named Tony Wagner who, like Ken Robinson, advocates for a reinvention of the education system.

In the video Wagner says that “What the world cares about is not what you know, but what you can do with what you know.” Content is now available through a quick internet search. We don’t need to have instant recall of numerous facts.

Instead of content, Wagner lists a set of core competencies he considers important. He says that to be lifelong learners and active and informed citizens, the following abilities are required:

  1. To ask questions through critical thinking and problem solving
  2. To work collaboratively
  3. To be flexible and adaptable
  4. To show initiative and be entrepreneurial
  5. To communicate effectively in both oral and written modalities
  6. To access and analyse information
  7. To be curious and imaginative

I agree that each of these attributes is important. I think I have mentioned many of them in previous posts.

Wagner goes on to say that what is needed is innovation: the ability to generate new and better ideas that can be used to solve the problems facing us today. He questions whether America’s reputation as a leader in innovation is as a result of or despite the education system. He then asks the audience to identify what the following four people have in common.

Bill Gates (Microsoft)

Edwin Land (Polaroid camera)

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Bonnie Raitt (folk singer)

Did you, like the audience, think them to be dropouts? Wagner identified them as not just dropouts; they were Harvard College dropouts! Steve Jobs (Apple) and Michael Dell (Dell computers) were dropouts.

This fact about innovative dropouts inspired Wagner to investigate conditions that encourage the development of innovators. He interviewed many young innovators, asking if there had been an influential teacher or mentor in their lives. While not many could name one, those identified were outliers, engaging students in teamwork and interdisciplinary work involving problem solving and risk taking.

Wagner also interviewed people from innovative organisations such as IDEO, whose motto he quoted: “Fail early and fail often.” (“That’s because there is no innovation without trial and error.”) It was from a think tank at Stanford that the idea that an “F is the new A” came.

F is the new A

There are iterations, not failure, Wagner says, and he questions the way parents and teachers try to protect children from making mistakes saying that real self-confidence was only to be gained from learning that you could recover and learn from mistakes.

Tony Wagner - iterations

So perhaps in thinking about failure, I haven’t really failed. I’m learning. It is only to be hoped that the failures in fire management that Charli talks about in her post lead to improved management practices in the future.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, to  in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the need for help in an extreme weather event, I have chosen a weaker BOTS (based on a true story) from my childhood. The link may be tenuous but hopefully not entirely non-existent. I hope you enjoy it.

Storm

A big storm was coming. Two older ones were put in charge of two younger ones. They sat at the fence, watching. Soon other neighbourhood kids gathered, sharing storm stories, waiting.

Green clouds swirled as dark clouds played leapfrog races above. The children watched the storm rush closer; mesmerised by its beauty, mindful of its power.

Soon the winds whipped up, chasing the other kids home. The older two called to the younger, but they were nowhere to be seen. Mortified they hurried inside to alert their parents.

What relief. They were already in, telling of the storm’s approach.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

What would happen if . . . ?

The message of this video alone provides reason enough to ensure children are provided opportunities to question, be creative and think critically.

Listen to Nikolai Begg convince you!

Enjoy!