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Saturday, January 4, 2014

In a recent post by Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, he tells you that the secret to innovation is to think like a kid. Here's an excerpt:

"Toddlers will belt out off-key tunes at the top of their lungs, dance with abandon down the aisles of a supermarket, or color on walls and floors, never questioning their ability. But somewhere along the way—maybe because of a remark by a parent, teacher, or peer, or maybe because of their own insecurities—many kids lose confidence in their creative instincts, especially during their high school and college years."

Some years ago I taught an arts program as a Visiting Artist to first and third graders. The grade school had no art lessons due to "cutbacks" and, I think, a general idea that art lessons were "extras" and not as important as mathematics, English, etc. The Visiting Artist program that sponsored myself and other artists to come in to teach at all grade levels was run by a small parents group that was smart enough to understand how art lessons are important to problem solving. Creative expression allows a person to explore different paths.

I would say that disillusion can set in way earlier than high school. What I saw was a big difference between first and third-graders. First graders were more enthusiastic and came up with different approaches, like "can I paint this bit red?" (The answer to that is, yes, try it and see what it looks like.) By third grade there was a different attitude and a general frustration that the cat they drew didn't look like a cat.

This perception that there was only one way to draw a cat, and that if it didn't look real then the whole exercise was a failure. When your child brings home a picture the correct question to ask is "can you tell me about it?" This stimulates the creative story behind the drawing. Some are funny, some are heart-breaking, but all are a vital part of the creative process.

Don't think that the arts are extras. They are an integral part of education and what we should be looking for is a wide-ranging balance of educational opportunities instead of conditioning our children to believe that success is a football scholarship. I'm simplifying here, but look at recent bad behavior in the NFL and how they get away with it. Now if only they had art lessons as children...

To read Tim Brown's article, "The Secret to Innovation: Think Like a Kid," click on the link below: