Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Innovative Thinking: Working Toward a Sustainable Solution

In three plus years of conversations, leaders across contexts articulated the process of successful thinking somewhere within the parameters of the creative process I outlined in the last post. This sample included prominent educators, psychologists, small business owners, parents, and corporate giants.

So if international leaders -- from primary school teachers to CEOs -- want to develop the same innovative capabilities in their charges, why are creative thinkers said to be so scarce?

Conversation as Best Practices

The first step is for stakeholders in different fields to begin conversations about common needs and find a sustainable solution together.

Let's start where learning begins formally. It became strikingly clear to me that crossing silos can be a sustainable solution to innovation when I attended a primary school conference on writing skills in a New York suburb last year.

Why a Conference on Teaching Writing?

For those of you who have never had the challenge of teaching communication skills, writing is one of the hardest processes to model or teach. It involves the complex network of creative thinking skills which are challenging to develop and sustain.

They are exactly the skills sought by business leaders.

What Makes Writing Hard

Writers need to feel a sense of ownership and purpose, and often in a classroom, the subject matter or process doesn't offer obvious connections to personal connections. Mentors need to offer frequent and rich feedback over time to develop a process can internalize and use across contexts.

Furthermore, effective writing requires the ability to think clearly and then articulate those thoughts in a form whose importance hasn't been emphasized outside of schools, particularly since the advent of email. If any further evidence of this challenge is required to persuade other than everyday living, the language of Edward R. Murrow in the recent Goodnight and Good Luck makes it clear enough when compared with that of today's television broadcasts.

Whose Job Is It, Anyway?

Writing is hard to teach because developmental issues and goals can be muddy. At what age do you emphasize grammar and at which age free expression without formal constraint? Teachers, too, must help their charges succeed on tests that require no more than a five paragraph essay with rigid requirements of evidence and format. By the time most students reach high school, they are taught to make patterns on a paper in order to fulfill the needs of an assignment.

If that weren't challenging enough, persuasive writing also demands fluency of grammatical and stylistic conventions often overlooked in spoken language. The process can intimidate both teachers and students, and the result is often that ideas are discussed while the mechanics are neglected.

And Back to Our Story . . . .

For connections between all this and innovation, please see the next post.

1 comment:

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