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Creative Wandering

Introduce ways of thinking to deal with a world of increasing complexity. By introducing the young to Systems Thinking,Design Thinking,Complexity Thinking, Integral Thinking, Agile Thinking, Lean Thinking,Cognitive dissonance & Creative confidence

Photo of Rajendra Bendre
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The idea began when I became a PTA member at my son’s school sometime July this year in Mumbai, India.

In one of the PTA meetings I elaborated the benefits of Systems Thinking and how it helped me at work and how it was being used by the Systems Engineering and Architecture communities involved in very large complex programs.I then proposed the idea teaching Systems Thinking to children. I explained to them how the workshops for children could include learning experiences by means of powerful stories, takeaways and projects that would provide each child with a powerful thinking framework that would help our children in dealing with modern day complexity with Clarity and Panache. Before I knew what’s happening many parent s loved the idea and requested me to propose this to the school.

So it started out with me sending a concept note outlining a tentative approach to the Principal of my son’s school. She was impressed.

However about six weeks passed before we could actually start ‘DOING’.

In another PTA meeting the Principal gladly agreed to take this forward.

Next as per the tentative approach we decided to call the parents of 7th grade to an Introduction to Systems Thinking 2 hour workshop. This happened on the 28th of September 2013. This was phase one of the ‘project’ That was very well received by parents and I told them about forming a parents talent pool to take up individual areas of Systems Thinking. I told them they could use systems thinking as a problem solving approach not just for their children but also for their own lives. With powerful exercises parents realized their own short comings and how they could become aware of the same and figure out ways of overcoming them. However the challenge was to get them to understand how all these shifts in thinking could benefit their children.

====== A little background before the rest of the events==========

Also though the workshop was named Systems Thinking for children it had slides on Creative Confidence and I was talking about design thinking to to the parents as well since I had just finished attending Stanford’s Design Thinking Action lab a few weeks back and I had just finished attending oPEN IDEO Mumbai’s first get together at IDEO’s Mumbai office. I must thank Vishal Jodhani for being instrumental in getting all of us together at the IDEO office. I missed the 2nd Ideate session due to a prolonged meeting at work.

In fact I had visited Stanford’s d.School couple of years ago and was very impressed by it. I have had several exceptional discussions with some of the folks at d.School.

===========End background==========

When parents were asked after an hour of the workshop if they wanted a break it was a collective NO. After 2 hours everyone seemed fresh as ever. I collected feedback from parents and had graphs plotted and they looked pretty good to go for phase 2 of our plan.

After a successful phase 1 we decided to call a larger audience for phase 2. From the feedback it appeared 2 hours was long since a lot of ground was being covered. So this time I had a workshop that was for 1hr30mins. Phase 2 workshop happened on the 12th of October 2013. Again it was a big success and the feedback was - "you should have run this longer" !!.

In the feedback forms received, several parents indicated their interest in volunteering for the workshops and sending their children to the workshops. Very encouraging comments made us decide to go for the next milestone.

Soon we invited parents who had indicated to volunteer for forming a talent pool identification of parents. This happened on the 19th of October 2013. We had a fairly good show up of parents on this front. Since these workshops were on Saturday’s for 2 hrs it was not easy for parents to commit easily to a long term commitment of 10 weeks. However the talent pool identification workshop went really well. The parents were still not sure how things would work out. I told them about EMERGENCE which we had already discussed in my introductory workshops and how we could watch emergence at play after the required seeding was done by good intentions etc. Also I suggested that we have an element of surprise every time in our programs and told parents that the first two workshops out of the planned 10 workshops would be driven by children and was kept a secret until our first workshop with the children.

In the mean time I was in discussion with some prestigious universities for their possible inputs and lo and behold I got real good response. Thanks to the kindhearted folks we also got permission for another surprising event from far far away. Since these are still kept as a surprise at the school I can’t reveal it now until these events unfold and they do their EMERGENCE!.

Next Diwali holiday’s arrived and children would be gone for 3 weeks and we could get delayed in rolling out our plans. However we decided to go ahead and announce the Workshop for Systems Thinking for children from the 9th of November 2013. I had already named the workshop theme as EMERGENCE and we said “ well let’s see what emerges” we need to start “DOING”!.

In this challenge, we want to create ideas with young people, not for them. Outline how you’re planning to involve young people or other end-users (parents, teachers, etc) in designing, iterating or testing your idea during the Ideas phase.

So 9th November we started off the first workshop for children. After introducing a few terms such as EMPATHY, EMERGENCE and SYSTEMS with examples, videos and interactions we went on to do exercises that demonstrated unknowns in our cognitive abilities. How we miss what’s right in front of our eyes and how we badly lack listening skills. We went on to the first surprise activity that set the tone for the remainder of the workshops and in fact set the ball rolling. The activity was to introduce children to aspects of systems thinking that started off with ‘THINKING BIG’ and many more all wrapped in a activity. They were told that they would be in charge of making future workshops a truly learning experience and they could make it as good as they chose to. Soon the children watched a spectacular time lapse video of earth taken from a space station and as they watched in wonder our blue planet in space. They were told that it was now attacked by invaders from space and were shown video footage of warfare in space. Next they were told that each one of them should imagine themselves flying a space craft at 50000 miles an hour . They were told to imagine that they flew their space craft to an unknown galaxy and were shown video footage to help them imagine their trip. I told them to imagine their space craft crashing on a planet. Next each of the children attending the workshop were handed over an activity sheet which had the following text with 13 (1+12) questions to be answered. Imagine that you are at the center of a galaxy thousands of light years away. Imagine that you are traveling all alone in a spaceship at a high speed of 50000 miles per hour! and you crash land on that beautiful planet. 1) Describe the new planet in 2 paragraphs in the space below - for example give a name to your planet, a color, and number of children on the planet, number of moons, sea coasts, vegetation and animals write anything that you feel important for a new planet, anything surprisingly different on this planet. [ LET YOUR IMAGINATION RUN WILD!!!] Now imagine that you are solely in charge of starting a brand new school on this beautiful planet. You will need to come up with ideas for the following questions: 1) Why should the children in your school learn? – Give 3 best reasons. 2) What are some reasons why children can get bored in your school sometimes? – Give 3 best reasons. 3) What subjects should children in your school learn? - Give 3 subjects that children of your age would love to learn. 4) How can your school make children who are not good at some subjects to understand those subjects (Math and Science for example) really well – Give 3 of your best ideas. 5) What can be reasons why children do not understand some subjects? – Give 3 best reasons why the children in your school may not understand 1) Math 2) Science 3) Social Studies 4) Languages 6) How should each subject be taught in your school? - Give 3 ways of teaching each subject of your choice. (Example how should Math be taught? , How should science be taught? , How Should social studies be taught?. How can Languages be taught? 7) What should your school location look like? – Give brief description of 3 locations that children would love to have their school in. 8) How should the class room for your school be constructed? – Give 3 best ideas on how class rooms can be constructed. 9) What should be the seating arrangement of the class rooms in your school? – Give 3 best ways of seating in the class and give reasons for choosing that arrangement. You can draw rough pictures also. 10) What should be the school timing including days of the week and why should it be that timing ? Write a small time table of your choice. Suggest how much time each class should be taken. 11) How can we make learning great fun in your school? – Give 3 of your best ideas. 12) How should exams be conducted in your school? – Give 3 of your best ideas. For example how many exams per year, duration of exam, pattern of exam (objective type, descriptive type, practical type any other that you want to suggest) This changed the Audi visual room into a creative battle ground as children were vying for attention to tell us their answers!. It was amazing to see them transform into an idea generating singularity!. In order to let them fill these sheets for the 2nd workshop on the 16th November we were trying get example answers for each question. Pretty soon everyone wanted to answer. This was the most memorable part of the workshop as children came up with planet’s that had a 24 month year or a 15 day year. Class rooms that had flying seats to exotic locations for schools to different ways of conducting exams. In a short while they were designing schools!. Trust me none of us wanted the session to end!. However we did that and told the children that they had to do this activity alone in total secrecy and no help from anyone. During this time I met with the secretary of the PTA and he told me his 7 year old (2nd grader) had taken a look her brothers activity sheet and wanted to answer the questions herself!. She was going to this from the next day which was 10th of November. Next we had our second workshop yesterday 16th November 2013. Again lot of creative sparks flying as those who turned up despite holidays were again reading out about their planet and their ideas about designing a school all on their own on a far away planet……. THINK BIG soon became an understatement. Yesterday evening when I met the PTA secretary at his house his daughter Rithika came forward with her book with a beaming face and exuding that creative confidence which we all want to see on the face of youth world wide. She taken a big leap to show her work to me and I wanted all of you get a glimpse of the little child’s writing. I am attaching a scanned copy of her writing!!. She has answered just a couple of the questions but to me it looks like a big step for a young child. It would be great all of you as a community could send in your words of encouragement to Rithika which I will pass on to her and then know for sure that she will one day beam herself of top of the world!!. The answers to the above questions will drive the future workshops. The principal has decided to circulate the activity sheet to all the children from 5th grade to 8th grade and provide them time to come up with answers to the questions so that the whole school is buzzing with activity. Next week 23rd of November a very special surprise has been planned and the secret will be let out to the children and parents in a day or two. I wish I could reveal this to you, but sorry you need to hold your breath just like the children are….. The workshops will be covering the following topics as well * Interdependence , * Not afraid to fail * Learning from mistakes * Stepping outside the comfort zone * Problem prevention * Systems Integrity * Balancing Feedback * Reinforcing Feedback * Non-linearity * Creative confidence * Design Thinking

How might you envision your idea spreading across geographies or cultures so that it inspires young people around the world to cultivate their creative confidence?

I would love this vibrant community to make the above questionnaire available to every child on the planet and suggest a means of collecting the responses of all children in a single database that is available for every person on the planet to see and those in the area of big data and analytics should find the pattern of thoughts that in these precious citizens of tomorrow. In these will be the aspirations of every single child. Also refining the concept with your collective cognition would be indispensable!. Of course spread the concept through all available media predominantly Internet & Mobile.

What skills, input or guidance would you like to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

1) I would love this vibrant community to make the above questionnaire (1+12 questions) available to every child on the planet and suggest a means of collecting the responses of all children in a single database that is available for every person on the planet to see and those in the area of big data and analytics should find the pattern of thoughts within these precious citizens of tomorrow. In these will be the aspirations of every single child. 2) Refining the concept with your collective cognition would be indispensable!. Suggest an alternative name if any thing suits better than "Creative Wandering" 3) Help from IDEO to get this rolling could help us see a billion Rithika’s beaming in the future! And by god during that period the nights on planet earth would be bright as day!. 4) While this is in motion I would like help from the community in refining the concept quickly at my son’s school here in Mumbai and replicate the model in other schools and keep refining using feedback from the community and the database. I am attaching an informal framework which can be further refined by the community. 5) Help in stitching/making films that can inspire the children to go into the ideation phase and then into rapid prototyping. 6)Connect the children to a world wide community of perhaps a creative confidence network. 7) Conduct on-line sessions for children of my son’s school for say a period of 1 hour on Saturday’s on a voluntary basis. Helping them build creative confidence, design thinking skills and others as shown in the informal framework attached. 8)Plan to get feedback from children on large systems that they are interested in and help the children to understand as well as visit these large systems such as power plants, space centers, telecom companies, electric distribution systems, oil rigs, airplane manufacturing plants, Google, facebook design centers etc.


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Photo of Ashley Jablow

Wow, Rajendra – what an awesome update you've shared! I'm going to be so excited to hear more progress updates. To Rithika and all the kids participating: Keep up the great work!

Photo of Rajendra Bendre

Thanks Ashley.

Will have more action on the ground on the coming Saturday.

However feedback and suggestions from the community here will help immensely to shape the future of this endeavor.

Photo of Rajendra Bendre

Hi Therel, Here's an interesting update. On 23rd November 2013 we screened a documentary EXTREME BY DESIGN at my son's school as part of our Systems Thinking workshop (10 weekends/2hrs on Saturdays). The students and parents had a great learning experience watching this masterpiece of a documentary that shows Stanford Students solving real world problems in some of the poorest places on the planet for a course Extreme Affordability at Stanford. At the end of each screening parents and children had a live questions answer session with the film maker Ralph King who answered every question with great patience and enlightened all of us.

You can take a look at the excerpts of the video on You Tube, The URL is as follows:

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