All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Studying Children in Kindergarten

Last week I started another MOOC and in all honesty, between this #etmooc, #edcmooc, full-time job and family commitments, I’m struggling to squeeze it all in.  However, true to my nature I do the best that I can and from what I’ve learned from MOOCs already is that, “don’t let them overwhelm you!”

What has been a surprise for me is that I find my Google+ communities now more entertaining than watching television. I must be the only person who has not been watching “My Kitchen Rules” and this has seriously isolated me from workplace conversations.

The Learning Creative Learning MOOC is a partnership between MIT and Peer-2-Peer University.

Our first task was to read a paper by Mitchel Resnick from MIT Media Lab called, “All I Really Need to Know (About Creative Thinking) I Learned (By Studying How Children Learn) in Kindergarten”.

When I first saw the title I immediately thought of my 11 year old nephew over Christmas.  Many hours have been spent watching him play.  While I sit on the couch reading my novel, I peer over my book and just watch him move around miniature skateboards and create sophisticated ramps that he flings the skateboards off them.

He mutters and talks to himself; he’s not happy with one ramp design, he’ll create another; he’ll remove stickers from one skateboard and put them on the other. He momentarily stops, turns to me and exclaims something excitedly about some skateboard fact and figure…and I think to myself, *yawn – skateboards, not my cup of tea* and then I feign interest, “really, is that so, that’s nice” and go back to peering over my book quietly observing him play.

This got me thinking. What’s my play?

Is what I’m doing now for my own professional development, the blogging, the tweeting, the creating content, the MOOCing…is that my play?

Let’s face it.  I think I’m like my nephew at work.  I’m the one who is exploring and learning different tools and media; making connections with others around the world, learning new things and applying them to the workplace.  I excitedly turn to my colleagues and mention new and innovative approaches and I’m faced with, *yawn – <insert social media here>, not my cup of tea* and then they feign interest, “really, is that so, that’s nice” and go back to their work.

Resnick explained that, “in traditional kindergartens, children are constantly designing, creating, experimenting and exploring” and that the spiral process can be summarised as ” children imagine what they want to do, create a project based on their ideas, play with their creations, share their ideas and creations with others, reflect on their experiences – all of which lead them to imagine new ideas and new projects.

In my involvement of workplace projects, this process is somewhat similar to what we do already – except for some missing bits that we know we should be doing but time and budget pressures prevent us doing so.

In my experience, I have been involved with project teams who may have a brief by the client but it’s up to the team to devise, plan and implement.  Usually in these cases, the project team gets together to brainstorm and these are times where we are imagining the possibilities.  This is the fun time of being involved in a project (some say, it deteriorates rapidly after that).  After some more analysis we revisit our ideas and see which ones make more sense to explore further.

Where we fail is that sometimes we tend to stick to methodologies too rigidly.   Add to that having to stick to a budget, resource restriction, project deadlines and other restrictions recorded in excel spreadsheets, slowly the excitement fades away.

Whether it’s Six-Sigma, Kaizen, ADDIE or others, sometimes the methodology and framework drives the solution which then stops creativity and innovation dead.

That’s when things start to become boring.

Another limitation is the lack of reflection.

In theory,  project teams know that this is important but in my experience, (and it’s happening right now on a current project I’m on), once the work project has reached ‘implementation phase’ or ‘Business As Usual BAU’, the project team slowly is disbanded and people move onto other more pressing projects.  The mindset then moves to the next project – there is minimal if any reflection about the project.

I believe that the ‘reflection and new ideas’ after a work project is not seen as ‘sexy’ or exciting as the start of a project.  By that stage, everyone is tired and looking forward to moving onto something else for a change.

For adults, maybe reflection needs to be incorporated throughout the project and not just at the end to overcome the above situation.

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About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 20 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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2 Responses to All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Studying Children in Kindergarten

  1. Thanks for this Dave. I agree, ‘feedback’ is more of a relevant word in the workplace that ‘reflection’. Or actually, let me clarify…in the workplace context, feedback is more of a readily acceptable term and practice (in my experience) than the word reflection.

    To me, feedback seems to denote a more active, two-way opportunity for discussion, clarification and problem solving. Reflection on the other hand, seems to denote a more individual practice and possibly not even shared out loud sometimes?

    I don’t know how the business analysts, project managers, change managers and an army of business subject matter experts would take to a request to ‘reflect’ whereas a feedback session is an entirely different matter.

    However, I can also see the importance of reflection in the workplace and an opportunity to gather thoughts, make sense of the project and then consider better alternatives.

    For the projects I’ve been on, there’s been plenty of feedback given throughout the project duration (some positive; some negative – most made us all run around in a panic) that creates a buzz, stir or results us into action but once the project is finished, I cannot recall one ‘post project evaluation’ meeting ever. Or if there was one, it was wrapped up with some sort of celebratory drinks.

    Joking aside, whether it’s feedback or reflection, as long as learning is captured in whatever format, I’m all for it.

  2. Another word for reflection, from a system point of view, is feedback: a comparison between the actual results and the intended ones. The idea is to look for indications that could lead to a change in part of the process, or even part of the original assumptions.

    On the assumption front, I was part of a sales training team laboring to create a condensed “day in the life” of a new sales rep in our organization, as part of the new-hire experience. We wanted to create exercises that made sense and helped people apply their existing skills within our company’s context…

    But when thing weren’t working out, part of our feedback helped us see that the assumption was misguided. We had a long sales cycle, and so no one sales day was “typical” in the sense of “representative of a deal.”

    The transformation was to “a deal in the life.” In essence, we’d time hop over the waiting periods between stages of a deal. Our target audience understood that in real life, they’d have other deals in various phases — but this was an overview we’d have missed had we not done our reflection (analysis) on the results of the first tryout.

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