Humans have an innate disposition towards innovating. Whether it is figuring out how to keep ourselves warm and cooking our food by building fire or reducing the time it takes to travel to distant geographies through the automobile or airplanes, we have become good at finding elegant solutions to difficult problems.
In kids, it is especially enjoyable to watch the development of makers in action. Whether it is the first time they build their own structure with Legos or creating a slingshot using rubber bands & sticks, kids really like to make things. You can see the tangible expression of their joy because they instantly want to come and show off what they’ve built.
Over time, the inventions become more complex and require an increasing amount of skill. Yet, as the bar is raised, they do not back down or become intimidated instead they rise to meet the challenge.
In the current environment, technology is the maker’s workspace and their inventions span an impressive range of robotics hardware that can replicate human movements to software applications that can imitate human intelligence.
So, what can we do to encourage the development of the next generations of makers.
Let them express their creativity
From drawing pictures to molding clay, successful makers must gain a comfort in translating the ideas in their heads into tangible physical or digital representations. Over time, they can begin to practice these skills in computer aided design applications. But, the key is to allow kids to develop their creative design signature and flex those muscles as early and as often as possible.
While society often romanticizes the idea of a lone, brilliant, socially-aloof genius; the reality is that more often than not groundbreaking invention comes from a team of talented individuals. This can be as simple as enrolling your child in team sports or having them join the band or orchestra at school. These activities help them to develop their individual skills while recognizing that they are part of a larger effort and they no matter how great their individual talent, they will not accomplish much with the help of others.
Facilitate solutions-based thinking
Get future makers comfortable with answering the why before they advance to what or how a given solution might be accomplished. For example, if the project is to build an autonomous vehicle, the why might be: ‘create a transportation solution that minimizes the impact of human error’. With this in mind, it begins to make sense to build an autonomous vehicle (what) that leverages computing power and sensor technology (how) to make real-time decisions that optimize for safety. Or, they might suggest a completely different solution. The goal is for them to understand why they are building what they are building.
Develop a continuous improvement mindset
Most great innovations start with a somewhat suboptimal output that is long on vision and short on results. If future makers develop the belief that their first effort must be a home run, they may get frustrated when the reality is otherwise. However, if we teach that the first effort is simply a starting point for feedback and that once we have a prototype we must find which areas need to be improved to meet the ultimate project vision, they can internalize and gain comfort with a continuous improvement mindset & approach. Then it becomes less about analyzing the total quality of the first effort and more about finding what areas are most in need of improvement and going after those elements to ultimately achieve the solution.
What are some other examples that you have found helpful in encouraging the development of the next generation of makers?