It’s always refreshing to listen to Sir Ken Robinson talks about education, as he always has such a funny and approachable way that helps you understand the issues. No wonder his first TED talk has been one of the most popular ones amongst the thousands available online. I am quite sure his latest TED talk about creativity and education will attract a great following (http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley.html). In this talk, Robinson explains why the education system in many countries are not working, with high dropout rate and low effectiveness. He reasons that part of the problem is the command and control system that is practiced by many of the developed economies, where a central authority dictates what and sometimes even how to teach, without regard to the personalities and individual talents of the students. He argues that instead, schools should opt for a climate control system to create the right environment for children to use their natural curiosity and talent to learn and grow. He cites the metaphor of the Death Valley in California, which has always been barren as it almost never rains there. One year, Death Valley was suddenly covered with flowers and vegetations when some rainfall came, and people realised the valley was actually not without vegetation, they were just dormant . The conclusion is, with the right environment, people will naturally let loose their talents to create and thrive, rather than let them lay dormant.
But how do we create the right environment. For this I think we can turn to another very popular TED speaker Ben Zander (http://www.ted.com/talks/benjamin_zander_on_music_and_passion.html). Ben is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and with his wife Ros he has written a book called “The Art of Possibility” to document how he turns around his orchestra where everyone is a leader, are fully committed and contributing, and thoroughly enjoy what they do with passion and energy. Ben first comes to the conclusion that he needs to create the right environment for his orcheastra to come alive when he realises that the conductor is the only person in the orcheastra that does not make a sound, and has to rely on every member of the orchestra to do their very best to work together to create beautiful music. In the book, he describes the 12 points which he believes are important in his quest, which are equally applicable in other environments. I still remember the impact I felt when I first read the book, especially Rule No. 6 – don’t take yourself so seriously. How often do we get angry or all worked up because we do not get our way? More often than not if we can calm down and look at the situation from different angles we are more than likely to find other possibilities, and realise that our anger is limiting us in a box we create for ourselves. I can still remember how this simple rule helps me lighten the pressure I put on myself and creats room for creativity to happen. I have to remind myself once in a while when things got too tense or if I am too self-centred and it works every time.