Sir Ken Robinson proclaims that we are facing a “second climate crisis,” in his impassioned yet humorous presentation during the 2010 TED Conference of technology, entertainment and design. Sir Ken is an internationally recognized authority in the development of human resources and leader of the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education. He is also the author of many enlightening books on education and creativity.
The crisis, as he states, is linear thinking. Linear thinking is the traditional, critical thinking associated with logic. It is fraught with “if…then” relationships. For example, if you graduate from high school and get good grades…then you go to college; if you graduate from college… then you pursue a career. Our culture is rife with these linear progressions which put blinders on how we view our lives. We (society) generally believe that there is a clear beginning to things and if you follow the prescribed track to its practical conclusion, you will be successful. If you fail to follow the progression to its end, or veer somewhere along the way, you have gone astray.
The product of this linear thinking is an industrial-age, manufacturing model of education and training where “we make very poor use of our talents.” The result is that many people have no real sense of their talents or if they have talents at all. And because of this, many people go through their lives not enjoying what they do. Instead, they endure life. They endure it because that is what they have been told to do. However, there are others who love life and feel that what they do is who they are. These people feel that what they do speaks to who they are; it is their “authentic self”.
But what if we were to believe that our lives are created as we explore our talents? And what if we were to pursue our lives in relation to the circumstances our talents help create for us—to follow a curious path and to discover the complexities of the world and how we fit within them? This would be to see life as more organic and less linear.
So how do we walk a more curious path and what will come of it? We can begin by seeking out problems and finding the connections that tie everything together. Everything is connected in one way or another. Once we find connections, we find possibilities. Being curious is to be similar to how a vine grows. Vines are opportunistic; they’ll grow on almost anything. Put one next to your house and it will grow on your house. Plant one next to a tree, and it will go straight up. Like a vine, we shouldn’t wait for opportunities, we should find them. Opportunities result from problems. So in effect, problem finding is essentially method for finding opportunity. Once a problem is identified, a solution can be sought.
Our traditional model of education has dislocated us from much of our natural curious tendencies and taught us to be compliant, linear thinkers. The whole “thinking outside the box” concept is so appropriate for creating new ideas because our educational model teaches homogenization and creates a normalized type of thinking model where we are not used to looking for problems and finding novel solutions. As a result, people have not sought their natural talents, and therefore, have not achieved their real potential. The sense of exploration that results from curiosity enables people to create their own path and to use their natural abilities to carve a career path for which they have passion. It enables people to have flexible careers that evolve as markets change.
Robinson, Ken. “Bring on the Learning Revolution.” TED Conference. February 2010.http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html?c=115027(accessed 04 22, 2011).