Thursday, April 9, 2015

Only Those Who Dare – Motivating Kids To Think Like Entrepreneurs

Source: ASIDE, 2015

We’re in the midst of our fifth season working with our elementary students on the entrepreneur project-based learning unit. Even with the flexibility in our curriculum to teach, we still find that each year it gets harder to get kids to extend themselves, to take a risk, and to dare to be different.

Not that a car commercial could change all that, but lucky for us, Cadillac launched its new ads during the Academy Awards to promote its latest luxury sedan. In all four commercials, the last frame appears with the line:

 “Only those who dare drive the world forward.” 

We wrote it on the board without the credit line. Surprisingly, kids, teachers, and even some administrators who visited the classroom remarked about the statement. Of course, we then gave credit to Cadillac. By not associating the carmaker with the word “drive,” it changed the interpretation of the quote, making it a far more powerful statement about human motivation.

Most of our students didn’t realize that the carmaker was a 112-year-old company, nor that the association with the word “dare” represented a company not afraid to reinvent itself by making connections with other innovators such as fashion designer Jason Wu, “Boyhood” director Richard Linklater, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. It even promoted the social media connection with its #DareGreatly hashtag. Needless to say, it became our mantra for the spring. Those who dare to think, see, and do things differently change the way we think.

We piggybacked “The Daring, No Regrets” video from Cadillac with the motion graphic “What Is Innovation?”, designed by Rafa Galeano and written by Fast Company blogger David Brier. Brier’s post on the making of this video describes his own inspiration for the theme and the motivation to use his essay to make a motion graphic on innovation for others.

It provided our students with another view of how ideas, from the discovery of fire to their own electronic devices, came from the motivation of others who saw the potential in their creations.

Perhaps the last four lines of this video drive home the point we want our kids to understand:

"So what is innovation?
Those other dots.

The ones others miss.

And having the certainty to know that the dots you see are not only valid, but necessary if the world is to move forward."

Providing opportunities for students to see the potential of others driven by need, or a desire, helps them to let go, to dare. We want them to not only see the possibilities of being an entrepreneur, but also to embrace the notion that it can be a reality. That’s when we showed them 11-year-old Lily Born’s Kangaroo Cup. That made the most impact on the kids and their ideas.

NO SPILL CUP from Bryan Munoz on Vimeo.

Lily wanted to build a better cup to help her grandfather who has Parkinson's disease. Lily's advice to fellow pre-teen entrepreneurs actually applies to all ages: "Don’t freak out if you screw up or fail, because you’ll fail a lot before you get it right." She also says, "Don't be afraid to ask for help." She used her ingenuity to rethink how best to change an ordinary cup to help others. She dared to make a change and never gave up on her idea. This video made an impact on the students.

With a little ingenuity, Lily redesigned an ordinary cup to function for someone with special needs. More importantly, she started making prototypes at the age of eight. It took three years and plenty of iterations before going to market.

Source: Imagiroo

Creativity takes time, and it’s not a simply "point and click." Cultivating that initial idea remains the hardest part for our young entrepreneurs. We push them to think beyond the craft kit, bake sale, or carnival game. Frustration often sets in because immediate gratification isn’t the name of the game. It takes hard work, failure, and perseverance.

Accepting feedback, or a simple, "no, that idea won’t work," sends some off in tears. They come back. Some build a prototype to prove their idea works, some return with a new iteration based on an earlier model, and others completely scrap an idea for a new one. Great! This is exactly what we want. We only have a semester, not three years, but nudging them out of their comfort zones is all part of the process. And sometimes, it’s not an easy thing for many a 10 year-old.

Steering learners away from settling on the status quo forces them to see the potential of taking a chance on their ideas. Dare to be different, dare to take a risk, and dare greatly. As educators, we believe it will foster their entrepreneurial spirit for a lifetime.


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