Thursday, April 5, 2012

Entrepreneurship: Creativity & Ingenuity Now

Source: ASIDE, 2012
Building on our earlier posts about entrepreneurship in the elementary classroom and whether it is possible to raise entrepreneurs, we believe when kids are given the opportunity to be creative in their thinking and to actually take their idea to fruition, they begin to picture themselves as entrepreneurs. We can see the results this year with our current 6th graders who went through the entrepreneur project last year. We introduced the concept of social entrepreneurship with them, and they now are putting together their ideas to raise money for a cause, such as the school’s Pencils for Peace program, or are making a loan through the Kiva organization to help others around the world. What we noticed was that the 6th graders went straight to work on coming up with a concept for a project and could see the benefit from the work they went through the year before, because they knew exactly what to do.

Source: Kid Entrepreneurs
The process of trial and error to figure out problems with regard to construction, cost, and time makes kids think on their feet. It builds essential life skills that they need to know. It helps develop their ability to be creative problem solvers, work independently, and deal with the possibility of failure. Above all, it lets them think creatively, which is at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy. It is also at the top of the list for what Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) think, too. The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study surveyed 1500 CEOs in 60 countries and 33 industries from around the world. They ranked creativity as the most important factor for future success. Without this skill, it will be difficult to adapt to changes in a fast-paced, growing, complex world.

While many of the ideas that our students come up with are not totally new, it is the process of trying to develop a business from its first inkling to its final execution that’s important. Not everything needs to be new and original. Sometimes a simple improvement can change the way people think. In a recent Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition newspaper article, “Re-inventing Inventing,” Andy Jordan described how a new company called Quirky uses the power of the community to select new ideas to take from design to market.

It astonished our kids that the simple concept of changing an electrical power strip from rigid to flexible generated 22-year-old Jake Zien approximately $30,000 a month since his invention, Pivot Power, went on sale. It is stories like these that play a role in making real-world connections and inspiring kids to think differently. Sometimes a small change can make a huge difference. Best-selling author Peter Sims makes this point throughout his book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries.

Quirky is just one of a handful of online businesses that seek to make the invention process more open to amateurs with bright ideas. “Our job is to act as sort of shepherds of our inventions,” says Quirky’s 24-year-old founder, Ben Kaufman. “People will submit ideas to the site in various forms." For him, "Invention is just sort of ingrained in us as human beings. If you look at kids playing, they’re inventing,” says Kaufman. “And for some reason, just society or whatever it is just scrapes it all away from you, and makes you feel like you can’t do it.” (WSJ Classroom)

We want our students to be inventive with their approaches to learning new things, playing with ideas, and creating ways of seeing differently. We shepherd them daily through lessons, and so why not shepherd them as entrepreneurs?

Our goal is to carry entrepreneurship in some facet through our entire middle school to keep kids thinking that their ideas matter and could very well be the next big thing. We can't guarantee we can raise entrepreneurs, but we can definitely get them to think like ones.


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