Problem solving is a key skill to teach our children as we want to raise innovative thinkers and learners. There is great value in cultivating some of the perspectives and habits that tend to go along with innovation.
Innovation starts with curiosity, and curiosity starts with questions. How does this work? Why has no one ever done that? What if? At it’s best, in my opinion, this curiosity is complemented by a will to learn, a sincere commitment to finding the answers.
The tendency for curiosity to atrophy as we age is perhaps the reason why innovation becomes less common. So, be sure to keep asking questions, and maybe embrace the learning habits of your average toddler.
Even with curiosity and a will to learn, efforts at innovation can be hard to sustain if you don’t have a real love for what you are doing, if you don’t experience a depth of emotion that helps fuel your curiosity. And aside from providing fuel, passion breeds resilience and faith in the face of inevitable failures.
Unfortunately, while systematized, formulaic approaches to education do offer certain advantages, one major disadvantage is that they are not necessarily a great path for finding your passion.
Effective innovation must be directed towards an end that, even if you can’t quite clearly see it yet, you know is important.
Purpose and passion together breed focus, and they also tend to spawn a great deal of innovative thinking.
Playfulness. A sense of humor. An ability to take time off. Each of these is these is essential for cultivating and maintaining the ability to innovate. As is the case with both curiosity and passion, so much about traditional approaches to education tends to interfere with having fun – particularly as we age up through the hierarchy of educational institutions. The most successful innovators – and learners – manage to hang onto fun even in the midst of serious work.
There is value in collaborating effectively with others to generate and develop ideas. It’s hard to disagree that collaboration is a useful concept for would-be innovators to embrace. Collaboration is a direct form of connection, but we also leverage so many indirect direct ways of accessing, adding to, and building upon the ideas of others.
6. Integrated thinking
Integrated thinking is a way to combine asking questions and drawing connections in ways that frame problems in a new light and lead to novel solutions. This process is at the root of breaking down perceptual blocks and solving problems. Raising innovative thinkers and learners is rewarding!