By: Dr. Laura Spencer, Executive Director of Innovation and Design
Interestingly enough, although most companies say they value inquisitive minds, employees tend to feel stifled and conform to status quo instead of branching out with new ideas. In fact, a study found that curiosity drops 20% within six months on the job. Is it because the questions stop and the work production requirements increased? Maybe. But curiosity matters, and it has a huge positive impact on the workplace.
There's also an assumption that the creative jobs, the ones that hire curious minds, all require Bachelor degrees. Not true. Although blue collar jobs have declined, skilled-service good jobs are on the rise. The key is not so much in WHAT you learn, but more in the SKILLSETs developed while learning.
So how do you encourage creative, curious minds? Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, says you do NOT do it by being the top student at school. As he explained to his son, "being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills.” What other skills? Ma shared at the World Economic Forum that students need to learn that which machines cannot, such as teamwork, independent thinking, and caring for others.
He's not the only one to share this thinking. Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, spoke at the World Economic Forum of the importance of “the soft skills, creative skills. Research skills, the ability to find information, synthesise it, make something of it.” Fabiola Gianotti, a particle physicist and the Director General of CERN, expanded on Shafik's ideas: “We need to break the cultural silos. Too often people put science and the humanities, or science and the arts, in different silos. They are the highest expression of the curiosity and creativity of humanity.”
So how do we ensure that we not just say we value curiosity and creativity, but actually practice what we preach? The latest Leadership + Design newsletter stressed the importance of teachers connecting with the world to see how work is being done, why, and by whom. In Del Mar, the Design Engineers actively seek industry expert connections to provide an insider peek into careers and experiences to ignite students' curiosity.
Feeling a bit more curious now yourself? This playlist created for CreativeMornings by DJ Jim Q may just put you in the mood to go explore.
(A modified version of this blog post was originally posted on Dr. Spencer's personal blog)
By: Sarah Raskin, Design Engineer
There are few times in our lives when we can press the “reset” button with the permission to try something new. The beginning of the school year provides us all with a special opportunity for renewal. As our Innovation and Design Team reflected over the summer on the exciting work happening across campuses to meaningfully connect lessons learned in the classroom with real-world applications, we recognized an opportunity to invigorate the way we think about innovative practices. When focusing time and resources on a process, it is easy to overlook the importance of the mindset it takes to make the process happen in the first place. Imagine the author that spends countless hours practicing literary devices before considering their purpose, or which devices will be used within the context of their novel. This year, it is our goal to prime the mind for Design.
In their research paper on “Changing Mindsets in Design Thinking,” Heidi Weber, Antonio Cruz Rodriguez, and Americo Mateus, explain that successfully utilizing the Design Thinking methodology requires one to draw on different mindsets and thinking processes. Most specifically, they are studying how “priming” or exposure to a stimulus that activates a particular idea, context, or feeling, can positively shift a mindset. This year, the Innovation and Design Team is developing experiences that allow teachers and students to explore the components of the Design Thinking process, while intentionally focusing on practicing the mindsets that will build a culture of thinking within the classroom. The first mindset we are exploring is “connective.”
As the school year begins, teachers and students alike are working to develop connected classroom communities that embrace the strengths, interests, and learning styles of each individual. Below, are some activities that teachers have used throughout the District to empower students with identifying their own strengths, while also developing the connective mindset.
Just as an author “primes” their mind for writing their own book by reading a wide variety of great literature, our educators are exposing students to experiences that provide ideas, context, and feelings to prime their minds for developing a culture of thinking and the Designer’s mindset within the classroom.
By: Dr. Laura K Spencer, Executive Director of Innovation and Design
Last year was our first year introducing Design Thinking to students throughout the district. It was amazing to see students tackling problems that ranged from a need for fun at lunch to prototyping ways to stop the local bluffs from eroding. Students at all grade levels rose to the challenge in front of them with fierce determination, compassionate hearts, and open minds.
But as we reflected on the year, we also realized that, although we had done a good job supporting teachers in bringing design thinking experiences to students, we needed to place more emphasis as to WHY design thinking is important for future changemakers. We spent a lot of time on the HOW and the WHAT, and we needed to give people time to connect with the WHY. Our goal this year, therefore, is to collective deepen our understanding of the WHY, and support it through intentional moves that build the mindset of a design thinker.
OpenIDEO outlines seven mindsets inherent in design thinking, which are a great frame for the WHY of our work. These mindsets present opportunities for students to develop agency and cultural/emotional intelligence, as well as hone the skills that matter most to be successful in an unknown future.
Those mindsets are:
Empathy - Empathizing with the people you’re designing for is the best route to truly grasping the context and complexities of their lives. But most importantly, it keeps the people you’re designing for squarely grounded in the center of your work.
Optimism - Optimism is the embrace of possibility, the idea that even if we don’t know the answer, that it’s out there and that we can find it. Believing something is possible may somehow make it so.
Embrace Ambiguity - We always start from a place of not knowing the answer to the problem we’re looking to solve. And though that’s not particularly comfortable, it allows us to open up creatively, to pursue lots of different ideas, and to arrive at unexpected solutions.
Make It - When the goal is to get impactful solutions out into the world you can’t stay in the realm of theory. You have to make your ideas real. In the end, it doesn’t matter what you use, or how beautiful the result is, the goal is always to convey an idea, share it, and learn how to make it better.
Learn from Failure - Failure is an incredibly powerful tool for learning. Designing experiments is at the heart of human-centered design. So is an understanding that not all of them are going to work. When we get it right, it’s because we got it wrong first. If we adopt the right mindset, we’ll inevitably learn something from our failures.
Creative Confidence - Creative confidence is the belief that everyone is creative, and that creativity isn’t the capacity to draw or compose or sculpt, but a way of approaching the world. It’s believing that you can and will come up with creative solutions to big problems and the confidence that all it takes is rolling up your sleeves and diving in.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate - We iterate because we know that we won’t get it right the first time. Or even the second. Iteration allows us the opportunity to explore, to get it wrong, to follow our hunches, but ultimately arrive at a solution that will be adopted and embraced. We iterate because it allows us to keep learning.
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