So 73 percent of parents keeping their kids in the financial loop…big deal. It shouldn’t be much of a celebration. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education only about 75 percent of students earn their high school diplomas nationwide. Are we celebrating that too? During my VERY brief stint as a personal trainer in college, I had very a hard time working with clients because while they listened to me in the gym during their workout, they didn’t when they got home. They didn’t have someone at home willing to keep them accountable. My point is that kids may pay attention in class, but without the parents help at home, we are going nowhere fast!
It seems the education in this country isn’t getting any better, yet there is a constant: Montessori. Montessori is in at least 120 countries and this manifested itself best when I was on the Corvallis Montessori Society (CMS) board. Corvallis isn’t exactly an ethnically diverse town and take Oregon State University away and Corvallis might as well be renamed Anglo. I found that CMS had a lot of diversity, partially because of the open mindedness Montessori fosters and since the teaching around the world are congruent. The curiosity of learning that Montessori fosters creates a better community and really has made me a much better marketer.
So what did I learn while I was in Montessori? According to my title, everything, but let’s get more specific. My Montessori experience (although brief) has helped mold me into the person I am today in part because those were my first vivid memories growing up. Many years later I would join the Montessori board in my hometown of Corvallis. One of the requirement of sitting on board was doing classroom observations, which I loved. Since Montessori education has remained virtually unchanged for more than a century, it felt more like the Ghost of Christmas Past took me on a journey of my own past. To be honest, I was always nervous about these visits because when a Montessori child ask you a question, they truly were interested in how you crafted your answer. Learning was a privilege to them and curiosity; the catalyst.
Do you remember your first traumatic experience? I do! I bet millions of people share the same cause of their traumatic experience, but not the same reason. Kindergarten was a scary time and for many their first big social experience, so of course it is going to be traumatic. I was a VERY shy child and so this type of social experience scared learning out of me. The really traumatic part came from the transition from Montessori to public school. In Montessori, guides (teachers) fostered my shy curiosity and I was rewarded for the person I was, while in Kindergarten (RIP Mrs. Stone) I was rewarded if I followed everyone else. I am not saying the public school is terrible; the best teacher I ever had was Mr. Eldon, a public school 6th grade teacher. I got lucky, but so many don’t get lucky. Montessori, because of its structure, is much less of a crap shoot as the importance it put into the curiosity of one’s environment and less on the teacher. The teachers were called guides for a reason; they guided you to unlock your curiosity of learning and didn’t simply teach. Don’t get me wrong I do have a lot of appreciation for teachers as most of my family at one point in time were public school teachers (this is not the same as saying I am not racist because I have a black friend).
The majority of the work we do here at Brass Media, centers around creating engaging personal finance content to help the ADD generation find their love of learning in an entertaining fashion. The benefits of this content in social media can be seen in the conversations that are happening, instead of the majority of information that is best served behind a lectern. In the end I am not advocating that every child should attend Montessori, but as Maria Montessori once said, “We cannot create observers by saying “observe,” but by giving them the power and the means for this observation and these means are procured through education of the senses”
Kids are naturally creative. If left to their own devices with crayons, paint—even a cardboard box, wonderful things often blossom. So what happens as we get older? Many people think kid “lose” that creativity. However, it’s really the grownups who take it away from them—and that’s a real shame.
Think about it. As adults we tend to mold our kids, push them in certain directions, and stifle their natural creative instincts. And it starts early with statements like:
“Don’t color outside the lines.”
“You didn’t do it like I told you to.”
“That’s not how it’s ‘supposed’ to be done.”
“Stop running around and sit still!”
I’m sure you can remember others that were told to you as a child. In an effort to keep life on an even keel, we force our children to conform their activities to a strict set of procedures. And eventually, it beats them down. They start to doubt themselves. They interact less—and even become fearful in certain situations. This isn’t something that just “happens” to them; it’s inflicted upon them.
Spend time with very young children, and you’ll soon notice that they default to happy. They sing at the drop of a hat. They skip rather than trudge. And as a parent I think we need to encourage this—not penalize it—because that creative spontaneity is sorely needed in the adult world of business. Why? Because innovation springs from creative thought. When a child is happy and relaxed rather than stressed, they think better and learn faster. They’re also nicer to people and build stronger relationships.
The same thing happens in business. Companies that create stressful environments, and stifle creativity, are not known for innovation. When employees are shot down for offering up new ideas often enough, they simply stop offering them. They learn not to rock the boat—to just get by and collect a paycheck—and also protect their turf (which doesn’t lead to good relationship-building… or strong, innovative, thriving organizations!)
On the other hand, companies that are always innovating generally have a much more energized set of employees because they have a less rigidly structured environment. They create the space and time for people to doodle, daydream and collaboratively think up out-of-the-box ideas. They reward those ideas—even if they fail—because they understand that it’s essential to encourage that type of thinking in order to keep innovations happening.
For instance, in Google’s ITO program (Innovative Time Off), employees spend 80% of their time on core projects, and about 20% on company-related innovation activities that interest them personally, and it has been a huge success. In fact, it’s reported that Gmail, Google News and AdSense were products that originated from the ITO program.
Another organization that encourages innovation is Adobe. The company created an entire division devoted to innovation, and developed a leadership position dedicated to championing innovation at all levels within the company.
These are just two examples of companies that “get it” and understand the importance of unleashing creative thinking in the workforce. There’s no doubt in my mind that more companies need to shift their culture to encourage the natural creative instincts of their employees. However, as a parent, I think that nurturing creativity must start at home. We need to be mindful of how our actions will forever shape the way our children interact with the world. Let’s encourage them to be spontaneous, creative and joyful. Who knows what innovations they’ll dream up?
And as employees we need to start a revolution of creative thought, empower our co-workers and subordinates to freely express ideas and truly jump into the creative process. We need to push this up to the c-suite and help them to understand the value. Social Media, internal and external to the organization, can help us do that in ways we never could before. Let’s make 2013 the year of opening up the floodgates to creative and innovative thought… at home, at work, and at play.