Updated: Apr 29, 2022
Learning to shape the future
Learning is critical to human existence. As water and food nourish our bodies, so too do information and knowledge fuel our minds. Acquiring critical and creative thinking skills, communication skills, and the ability to collaborate is key to our self-growth and leading a fulfilling life. Learning is a social process. We grow in confidence by observing how others perform and excel. People have different learning styles and preferences, which take on various forms instead of fitting into one specific pattern. It is essential to be aware and adaptive within the learning process to minimize exclusion and optimize the best learning experience and outcome.
The point is that everyone can learn and that parents, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers, coaches, managers, and leaders—anyone and everyone—influence a person's learning journey. The key is to understand and adapt to different learning styles, especially in the earlier years of learning, which can have an enormous impact on an individual's ability to learn and empower themselves for their future, to live a happy and fulfilled life by gaining positive experiences along the way.
Education expert Sir Ken Robinson spearheaded a radical rethink of our education systems to instill creativity as a core discipline at the grassroots and nurture it through the educational system to instill creative confidence because people are educated about their creative capacity.
This is because our education systems are designed to meet the bygone needs of the industrial revolution and value recall over imagination. We benevolently steer children away from the subjects that they like because they would never get meaningful, lucrative jobs doing those things: "You are not going to be an artist, you're not going to be an actress, and you are not going to be a musician. None of these are likely to earn you money." This education system has mined our minds for a specific commodity. Sadly, this is soul-destroying advice and is fundamentally wrong!
Many people who evolved into creative pioneers did so off their backs, not because their education system enabled them along that journey. It discouraged and ignored their difference and potential. For example, Edgar Allan Poe, Marlon Brando, Salvador Dalí, and John Lennon were expelled from school because of their indifference and challenged the system. Creativity is the core of humanity. Breaking rules is what creativity involves, and the rebellious nature of the mind is a catalyst to create. That does not mean breaking the law; it means questioning the status quo and treating what you do as a blank canvas to self-express and provide an alternative.
Upbringing and genetics are obviously vital in shaping our outlook. Parents need to allow children to be themselves. Being overprotected by parents drives risk-adversity, difficulty making decisions, dealing with hardship and other frustrations, and ultimately threatening success in life. Early specialization, tiger parenting, micromanaging children's lives, over-teaching, and testing, instead of giving time and space for creativity in an unstructured way, are the enemies of free thought and innovation.
People like Muhammad Ali, Björk, Coco Chanel, George Lucas, Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Walt Disney were classic outliers who had no attachment to fixed definitions of any form of life or reality, which is why they became genuinely great in their chosen fields. They were self-defined, self-educated, magical artists. They surprised and excited us. We are attracted to their originality and magnetic genius, encouraging us to expect the unexpected and, ultimately, to be entertained by them and learn more about ourselves and the world we live in.
The manifesto for educators to drive learning without frontiers sensibility and approach for instilling creativity and innovation within what they teach and how is to:
1. Unleash the power of creativity
Build a set of beliefs and moral habits to prepare and qualify people for work and social integration with a shared purpose and collaborative culture. Embracing creativity, flexible unstructured learning, free thought, and innovation drives fearless leadership, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, and applied practical problem-solving instead of early specialization, teaching to test, and micromanagement.
2. Deliver experiences that stick
Make the learning experience memorable by creating experiences. Challenge yourself to make learning an enjoyable and memorable event. Your measure of success is to leave ideas and thoughts buzzing in your students' heads after the class finishes. How do you inspire the student to continue the discussion with their friends, search out more information, and continue learning after the class? How can you bring this to life? Can you bring in props? How can you change the room layout, the lighting, the mood? Can you bring in guest speakers? Can you bring in those who can tell stories and bring Learning to life? Instead of having the local Fire Brigade talk about home safety and smoke alarms, can they talk about fitness, teamwork, stress, and maintaining readiness? Your goal is to move past' telling' to active, experiential learning with the class. Your local community will mostly jump at the opportunity to support you - so give them that opportunity.
3. Multi-disciplinary collaboration and blended learning
Instill creativity as a core discipline at the grassroots and nurtures throughout the educational system, recognizing intelligence as multi-faceted by embracing emotional and social intelligence, critical thinking, and practical problem solving and integrates science, arts, and humanities as equal parts of the learning jigsaw, Blended learning programs and zig-zags across disciplines and domains with continuous learning pathways that are open to anyone willing to invest effort and time to advance their knowledge, values, and skills.
4. Be a performer
If the class is not engaged by you, their minds will close down to your teaching, and you will fail. Develop your skills as a storyteller, actor, and improv artist. Take classes and improve. You have an audience that is looking at the stage and asking the comedian to make them laugh. Don't overstay your time on stage. Encourage discussion and active participation in the class through group work, presentations and discussions. Learn from TV, film, and magazines. Your style should not aim to be the reading of a book or the presentation within slides. It should be more akin to a film, to the theatre. Use media to bring this to life.
5. Do-It-Yourself sensibility
Rejecting conventions and originating new ideals through natural rebellious impetuosity of non-conformity with direct action and not selling out; doing it in your own style and pace. Embrace challenge, accept failure, persist in the face of setbacks, and learn by doing as the path to mastery.
6. Embrace emotion
Humans are social and emotional creatures. The best adverts don't sell the features of the product. They make a human connection. Your teaching needs to do the same, to understand how education can be connected to people and human stories. Even with chemistry, physics, and maths, go beyond the formula to give insight to why this matters, who discovered it - link into their story. Show what is essential, is relevant to their future. This builds on the last point about being a performer. Embrace emotion in your performance.
7. Continuous pursuit of peak performance
Continuously improves craft through constant skills honing, acquiring new experiences to remain relevant and innovative, and maintaining quality focus to the last detail. Ensure technical depth and breadth in a domain to stay relevant and innovative. Progressively improve creative outputs by working across multiple disciplines to ensure longevity and optimal impact. Commit to creative advancement, inspiring and guiding others to deliver innovative outcomes. Anticipate the future and adapt to change throughout time.
8 Kill the ego
Your students are the stars of the class, not you. It isn't about you. No one cares about how good you believe you are. You are being judged now. So, kill your ego. Nobody cares about you (not yet). They care about what you are doing for them here and now - how much this engages them, how interesting it is and whether you are worth listening to. Your competition is not their phones. It is the world outside of the classroom that they connect to. You are competing with videos, social media, music, chat … but you have something that none of this has - your physical presence. To make this matter. Use this.
9. Stand on the shoulders of giants
Seek mentorship and counsel from people you trust, respect, and admire. Find positive role models who can share their skills, insights, and expertise to help nurture your ideas. Understand and respect the history, and infuse best practices into finding the future to truly innovate and not reinvent the wheel.
10 Be authentic. Be human. Be flawed.
Image manipulation is the norm in a world of perfection, and a 20-year TV star can become a billionaire. Be a glorious failure! Manipulated images, get-rich schemes, TV fame are illusions. They are confidence killers. They destroy more dreams than they inspire. Be human and bring your experiences of the world to the class. Embrace the zig-zag of learning, embrace travel and diversity, challenge and call out the disingenuous. Life is a journey to be lived. Your failures, your unexpected trials, and unexpected experiences are what will make you valuable as an artist, a business owner, or an employee that others want to work with.
If you want to be really excellent, then your workload is going to increase. The way your time is allocated to learning, developing, teaching, and marking will change. The time on preparation will increase, with the time you actually deliver this being the smaller piece of the pie.
Similarly, when people commit to change outside of work - such as taking on a part-time degree, they change. They become a different person. If this is not recognized and embraced in the workplace, expect them to leave at best. They will eventually disengage and move on.
If you are a teacher, or someone responsible for the development of others, then recognize this dynamic and be prepared for it. Support development. Recognize it and resource it as much as you can.
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Learn more about how to create without frontiers by unleashing your full creative potential that exists within all of us.
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Founder and CEO of Unknown Origins, a creative studio on a mission to save the world from unoriginality by unleashing the power of creativity. Author of "Creativity Without Frontiers: How to make the invisible visible by lighting the way into the future."
Photo credit: Brian Smale
An eclectic and visionary thought leader who has guided the success of multiple breakthrough products and services at technology companies: Microsoft, O2, Siemens, Atos, and Blue Prism. He has set the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition to maximize business value and drive positive societal through quality execution across the entire product lifecycle with a focus on the people-centered design-based approach, aesthetic and technical excellence.
Attitude. Imagination. Execution.
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