In The Social Network then-Harvard President, Larry Summers, tells the twin students who are complaining about having their million-dollar idea stolen: “every Harvard undergrad thinks that he’ll make his own job, not get one – so come up with another idea”.
This echoes what Dan Pink relates in A Whole New Mind – that today, and tomorrow, the “successful” in life will be those who can make something for themselves. This is why Pink focuses so much on creativity as divergent thinking and on being able to take charge of your self, your life (esp in his follow-up book Drive – about intrinsic motivation).
How is it the students are to be prepared for this? They need it today and most have been failed by the system of traditional education which has not developed in them intrinsic motivation (by turning them into “grade-chasers” and test takers…. which are extrinsic “rewards”). They also have no idea.. well, that’s it. No idea(s) about how to do much, how to figure, solve problems, innovate, etc. You can’t “think of a new idea”, let alone have the perseverance and determination to see it through, if you haven’t been prepared.
As someone commented on a recent post here, I paraphrase, “how do you account for the fact that there ARE innovators in our midst and what about the fact that not everyone can be “great” or “in the top percentile” of idea-generation?” There are two answers here. On the last question, it’s true that not every one of us has the potential to be “the best” or the most creative, etc. Not all are visionaries. I get that. BUT, if we have an educational experience that develops is each of us the full potential that we have, we raise the bar (or bell curve) for all. Imagine a culture where today’s “8” is tomorrow’s “5”- meaning that what we receive today from the “8s” (out of 10) amongst us we then receive from all the “5s”…. what will the 8s give us then? That’s a culture I wish to live in.
The first question has two parts to the answer: sure, there will always be those who rise up, who naturally find a way to create, to find themselves, to propel humanity forward- there always have been. But do we wish to rely on these? This takes us to the answer to the second question, above. Also, I’ve been paying attention to information that shows a trend amongst some innovators (here and here) and successful entrepreneurs (Harvard Bus Review story here here, other links here and here and here) who share a similar education background in alternative independent schools which they attribute to their success because those experiences allowed them to “problem-solve” and “self-direct” by not being “fed” information but rather were provide with opportunities to explore, discover – think.
This quote from Roger Levin sums it up “too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve”.