Creating Innovators

wagner-slide_creating-innovators1I have always been a rebel – against the course of content-cramming, and soulless educating in Nigeria. And I know what Mark Twain meant when he cautioned not to “allow [your] schooling to interfere with your education” – although I have suffered for it.

Our academic systems gasp for relevance but they at least subsist, just enough to keep up a steady supply of low-cost labour; credential-engines churning out gate-tickets to employment to all: the mass of citizens, to those who go on to upgrade themselves abroad (no guarantees still), and the lucky few who are able to somehow thrive intellectually and creatively against all odds.

Of course, there are those bearing ‘stamped’ tickets with privileged access to the building courtesy familiar insiders. Still, there are those who refuse to queue at the gates, staging their own shows.

Recently, I had the good fortune to read Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Insightful, with stories of real people:

  • parents, who go against the tide to take responsibility for their children’s education, and to support their unconventional quests for learning, for meaning, for wanting more to make a difference in the world than making money;
  • and those positively aberrant young people themselves.

I drew many insights from the book and will not attempt the typical review here (because I am lazy). See your reviews here and here. But I like this quote summarising the book’s play-passion-purpose theme:

A childhood of creative play leads to deep-seated interests [passion], which in adolescence and adulthood blossom into a deeper purpose for career and life goals. Play, passion, and purpose: these are the forces that drive young innovators.

On a quest to create innovators myself, here are some tips I extracted from the parents interviewed as guide for my adventure:

  • Few toys. Let the child innovate himself out of boredom. Board games. Strategy games. Meaningful tactile toys. Sand.water.clay. Paint. Blocks.
  • Give your child time to play. Do not cram his life with activities. Have unstructured time.
  • Give her the freedom to experiment as long as the values of character and safety are in place. Freedom to make their own choices.
  • Place your emphasis on learning. Not on grades or credentials.
  • One hour ‘free’ reading time daily (This one on weekdays?)
  • Reduced TV (this one is tough); reduced access to mobile devices. The computer should be in open space, not in a child’s room.
  • Allow outdoor experiences daily. Sports. Let them play.
  • Schedule family time activities such as watching movies and listening to the radio(!)
  • Observe children’s interests. Help extend and nurture them.
  • Read to them daily. Let them dramatize what they heard you read. (I should consider Dr Seuss, Amelia Bedelia, Richard Scarry books).
takeoff point
  • Give him rich experiences – music, arts, engineering, socialising. Expose your child to a wide variety of activities: scouting, a number of different sports, many different musical instruments, etc.
  • No false praise. Praise specific, not abstract. E.g., “This painting is beautiful. Well done!”, and not “You’re the best painter in the world!”
  • CQ + PQ > IQ. Know that your child’s curiosity quotient + passion quotient is greater than any value ascribed to her intelligence quotient. Nurture your child’s CQ and PQ.
  • Expose them to real information about the whole world–in a measured way.
  • Teach, model values to them, purpose, hope, positivity, a sense of identity, and the importance of collaboration. They can’t go it alone, they will achieve great things with other people.
  • Teach them to respect others, but to remain self-confident.
  • Allow them to take [safe] risks.
  • Listen to them. Observe. Watch. Learn. Be a coach and a guide; not a sage or commander. Facilitate learning.
  • Ask them for advice, too.

The best books express the ideas we already know but have been too fearful to acknowledge or support or act on. I will publish more gleanings from this book in time. If you can, please get a copy of this book and study it.

I published this post first on CareerPrep NG where I teach young people how to prepare for the future.

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