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.
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”!.