Every now and then I get hit by something that reminds me of the many reasons why I like sports so much and why I consider it to be one of the great, if not the greatest, tools to teach us core values and social skills.
This current NBA season saw 2 great and very well known players switching teams, together, from the Boston Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are both are at the end of their careers and took this move as part of a true constant which is giving room to youngsters to step up.
As they came back to play at Boston for the first time after the trade, they were surprised by in-game tributes payed to honor their work and effort with the Celtics, which lead to an end of the 23 year title-less streak in 2008.
It’s impossible not to get emotional with these videos. The tribute the Celtics did is so so full of sophisticated touches, it just feels absolutely fulfilling. From the soundtracks, through video parts of important moments from each player’s career to mashups with movie scenes. It’s stunning.
And most importantly, the crowd’s reaction, as shown on one of the two videos, when they held a sign saying TRUTH, which as Pierce’s nickname.
Those simple gestures that touch these core values, is what sports is very good at teaching us. If we stop to think of the concept of TRUTH, for instance, it’s easily spotted on the night-in-night-out constant delivery of answers on court, in this case, throughout Pierce’s career.
It’s reminds us that TRUTH is something we seed and grow, everyday.
Here’s the video from the Paul Pierce’s tribute:
Another masterpiece from Tina Seelig - so good! Reading her books feels like an empowering opening of the eyes to the world around us. Makes me want to read it all over again.
Now, moving towards Abundance, from Peter Diamandis who blew my mind since I watched the TED talk under the same name, a few years back. Insanely looking forward to it!
This video is absolutely stunning. For various reasons.
"Homeschooling makes me happy" or, as most websites that covered this TED talk call it, "This is what happens when a kid leaves traditional education", is the story of Logan LaPlante, told by himself, a 13-year-old kid who happened to drop out of school - or should I say, taken out by his mom - to get educated through what is getting more and more commonly known as the "homeschooling method".
When I saw this video’s link on my Facebook thread I got curious to know more. The reason why is that I’ve been wanting to better understand what is the homeschooling mindset (and system) like, because I personally agree that the traditional teaching system has gotten a bit, well, traditional. When the technology evolution curve, aka Moore’s Law, grows the way it does is hard to think that the way we learn and process information will remain the same. Of course it won’t. So it doesn’t make all that much sense that people (specially kids) are being taught practically in the same way they did one century ago: in a classroom, seated in rows, facing front, listening to the teacher, no talking.
The world has changed a lot in the past 20 years, particularly due to a rapid acceleration of technology evolution with the advent of the internet. This change has done amazingly good to mankind in many areas, such as health, communications, information and also, education. But it also has turned the world into a more complex system. One indicator of this could be the amount of work done by people nowadays. When we look at the number of hours people work today as opposed to what they did back in the 70’s and 80’s, it is clear that we’ve done a great deal more, that the job of one individual today is that of a group of 4 or 5 people back in the day. Technology plays a huge part enabling us to achieve that, but if being full time “connected” is a great to stay in touch with friends and the world out there, it also means that you get to work anytime, from anywhere.
We are indeed experiencing at peak of productivity in mankind and there are no clear signs of slowing this down yet, which of course has consequences. Paradigms are being broken (gladly), one by one, when any new app or technological service comes up - see Instagram and Kodak, just to point one example - however this constant pressure for productivity that comes from the fear of simply being wiped out of the market at any given time has turned humans into pathological chronic desperate beings. We are desperate do deliver. Anything, everything, all the time. Our rush to get everything done at work (and in our personal lives) has led us to gradually and unconsciously (?) replicate ourselves the acceleration of technology, which is worth remembering is exponential, in our learning and working lives. I’m not saying the educational system doesn’t have to change, if I were, I wouldn’t be so interested in learning about homeschooling, and it’s proven that the system, as it is today, does not suffice for enough creative problem solving, as Tina Seelig amazingly writes in her book inGenius.
I agree with Logan LaPlante’s quoted statement that “education today is focused in making a living, rather than making a life”, and hacking, as he provokes, is nothing but a great mindset more people should have in other to challenge and change this system we’re in, to be able to solve more complex problems from a more complex world in order to achieve “a life”. But whether or not homeschooling is the best way to learn this is a different question.
Our brain could be divided in two big areas which are the cognitive and the non-cognitive parts. Cognition is “the the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”; while non-cognition is basically everything related to our emotions, senses and instincts. Whether we are in a classroom listening to the teacher or at Starbucks (as Logan likes to praise) watching a TED talk, we are activating our cognitive side by building knowledge from understanding as it is. In the end, it’s just a matter of where you’re getting the stimulus from and to that I must agree that, well, watching tons of TED talks could indeed speed up your lateral knowledge (concept by Edward de Bono), but I wouldn’t go that far by calling it ‘learning’. Nobody learns to ride a bicycle from simply watching videos, as I wouldn’t say I learned about quantum physics only from watching a TED talk. I could say I read about it or got to know more about it - but learning, to me, is a different thing. It’s about being able to apply something you’ve absorbed.
Back to Logan LaPlante and his homeschooling, it was incredible to see all the jaw-dropping positive comments people wrote about this video. Writings ranged from “what a mature kid he is” to “this kid is sensational”, although I saw a very well memorized and trained speech right there. And I not so sure if this kid is really happy as he says he is.
To begin with, kids at that age don’t have a broad understanding of more complex and subjective concepts such as ‘happiness’, simply because they lack living time to collect enough experiences to compare and make judgments. They might say they are happy about playing video-game or unhappy about going to (traditional perhaps) school, which are simple actions and tasks, but to say are happy about life is a completely different approach to the concept of happiness. Logan too many times sounded like he was reading a well written script that advertised homeschooling, as seen at around 04’10” in the video. Overall, his sober tone, his gentle gestures, his side-to-side easy walking, even his smart and charming jokes showed enormous maturity - yes - much more of an skilled adult. So where did the kid go?
I personally got a little bit worried when he mentioned that he’s “not afraid to look for shortcuts to get better and faster results”, not because of the intention itself which is great and it is what is basically done when playing a video game, for instance, but more because it got me wondering why is this kid in such a hurry?
Also, when he later said “Time and nature is really important to me. It’s calm and quiet and I get to just log out of reality” (08’57”), that’s when I got really worried. Why is kid talking about logging out his reality? Isn’t he the one who earlier said he’s amazingly happy about this life? That’s contradiction right there. And I’m not trying to point flaws in a kid’s speech, but when a kid is giving a lecture about learning methods at age 13 I think we all tend to get a little bit more concerned.
And to me, that’s what leads to the most critical point of this subject.
Technology has democratized access to information. But information is not knowledge, and what I’m getting used to see out there is people saying they know about stuff they haven’t experience yet. To me, this is the basic issue with Generation Z - youngsters who were born online (or born when internet was out there).
They sure learn fast. They have quick thinking and are agile are relating subjects. But they are an entire generation that grew up upon immediate feedback and unlimited access to information - which, not to be mistaken, are two amazing things, when dealt with care. Unlimited access to information has been mentioned above. Positive feedback, think about anytime you post something on facebook. Let’s say you got a new bike or your girlfriend broke up with you. All the dozens responses that come within the first 5 minutes are immediate feedback. Youngsters get a lot of self fulfillment from this as they are feeling they’re being heard by someone, which itself has broken the paradigm of on and offline, virtual and real. Along with this example, there are many others like shopping online and receiving your product almost instantly, but this is only to illustrate that there’s a whole new contingent of people who simply have whatever they want, when they want it, and they are growing intolerant to time.
That’s why Logan LaPlante, age 13, is talking about doing things faster, quicker, better. Because to him, that’s already very important. He has this notion of “the faster, the better” (which itself is questionable and the basic principle of the now new movement of ‘slow design’) But it so happens that the world doesn’t quite function this way, the Internet may do, but the real world is a different story.
To live as a human (and mostly like as any other animal) is to live in society, that means, with others. Humans, specifically, aren’t good at being alone. We are social creatures - not in the “virtual” sense of social, and this is another long talk - and we function better when surrounded by other human beings. Mankind established a long set of laws and rules in order to be able to live as a society, and to survive at that requires another set of skills other than what we called the cognitive skills. We need non-cognitive skills.
To be in groups, to work as a team, to be a leader, to learn to loose, to understand that success can come after frustration; this are all non-cognitive learnings we take in as we grow. Sports is an amazing example of a discipline that teaches these important principles, that’s why it is called ‘physical education’ in (traditional perhaps) schools. And in a world where everyone is having easy access to information and adding it up to their experiences’ knowledge, having non-cognitive skills is what is the main differentiator in the so-called market. That’s what emotional quotient is. And it doesn’t really matter how skilled you are in science, math, computing or any other TED “discipline”, if you are someone who just doesn’t know how to work in a group, you’re screwed.
That’s the reason I got even more worried when Logan LaPlante showed his Starbucks’ picture where he’s sitting alone studying, earphones on, disconnected from the world around him; whereas we should maybe be seeing a different kind of picture, a more of an interactive kind of atmosphere. When he said that one of the best things about leaving traditional school is that he “gets to write about skiing, rather than rainbows” as his former teachers would ask (would this be a bit of an extreme example?). He’s clear emphasis on “what I want” and “what I like” throughout his talk is what scares me. There’s many “I’s” and too few “we’s”.
To me, Logan isn’t yet this all happy person he says he is. To me he is just a kid who, like many other kids I see out there, happens to watch a lot of adult stuff and copy adults’ behaviors (which is fine for what it is and also a sign of premature maturing). But pretty soon his character will be fully developed and I question whether or not his homeschooling will actually help him develop his sense of collectiveness, his non-cognitive skills, or if it will only accelerate his maturity even more, towards an already absurdly fast-paced world.
To me, this video is about where did the kid Logan go.
So long Glimmer…welcome inGenius! Learned absurdly tons about the history of design through the amazing trajectory of Bruce Mau told with a refined touch of an incredible narrative from Warren Berger.
Now it’s time to back to Tina Seelig and her amazing storytelling fulfilled with inspiring cases and class journeys under the always comforting tone that reminds me that power is within us.
Tom Hulme from London’s IDEO branch talks about the concept of designing for emergence upon 4 basic pillars:
1- Accelerate evolution
2- Consider constrains
3- Serendipity favors the connected
4- Grab the opportunities
It’s fantastic to feel we are living in such exciting times. Even though, as he states, the world seems to be getting more complicated (which I disagree - I’d rather say it’s getting more complex) with the constant evolution of technology that almost accelerates it ahead of us, it’s very true that great possibilities are happening out there and we can no longer think about (and predict) things and occurrences in a linear way.
This is simply thrilling to me.
The fact that now products and services released to the world are taken over by people who get their hands on them and actually evolve them is absolutely amazing. Companies create one thing and people evolve on that. I know this could be scary for companies and the feeling of not knowing what’s going to come next may feel to some people a bit uneasy, but to me is the beauty of life. It’s what makes me feel alive.
Although I much agreed with the 4 pillars Tom Hulme referred to along his talk, he seemed to consider they are all part of the context separately. I’d rather think that the four of them are all connected in way.
To my mind, the fact that a great number of companies out there there are fostering this new ecosystem by applying a design for emergence mindset (where you don’t know the future applications your product/service will have because it is designed in an open way for everyone to change and evolve it) is what, in the end, renders evolution acceleration. Accelerated evolution ends up creating more and more possibilities for us to connect with each other in various ways and, hence, allows more opportunities to happen in front of us.
Moreover, it is up to us, though, to spot those opportunities, to be connected and to let the beautiful serendipity to do the rest.
The power of prototyping is enormous, however I guess not very many people recognize this.
It’s funny to think of how we loose this touch with time. When we are kids, building with our hands is something quite natural, and it starts simply from the fact we touch almost everything we see in front of us in order to feel things and understand them. No wonder Lego is such a popular toy, not only from the fact it’s playful, kids can create pretty everything they think of, but also from the educational stand point, because it allow kids to manage their resources (Lego pieces) to build what they want. So in practice it foster kid’s abilities to build to learn.
As we grow older, other things get in our way. From folders filled with sheets of paper of homework to be done, to electronic devices that more and more do everything we need and don’t need. From school we go to university and then the working life. Computers, desks, papers and endless meetings fulfill our days, our weeks, our years. Soon enough we realize that it’s been very long since we last used our hands like we used to when we were kids - to build to learn. Most of our decisions are made based on negotiations and a great deal of assumptions.
It’s even funnier to think of how much more we’d get things right if we only used our hands a little more.
So today I found myself explaining to my dad the importance of prototyping and I did a terrible job trying when I brought the Lego example. My dad gave a look that I could almost hear what he was thinking - “So you think playing while working is a wise thing to do?” or “So is this what design is about?”
I thought about our talk for the rest of the day, till eventually I found this video from the making (prototyping) of Google Glass. It had been a while since I first saw it, I wish it were fresher in my head so I could’ve used it as a great example to my dad.
Anyways, this goes for him (and for me too):
We prototype to iterate solutions. The more we fail, the sooner we will succeed.
We prototype to act before we can come up with answers - creating opportunities.
We prototype to inspire. To build empathy.
Ultimately, we prototype to learn.
The Aquaduct is an amazing vehicle that filters water by paddling. You fill in the back tank with undrinkable water and, as you ride back home, the motion of the paddles pumps and filters water all the way up to the front compartment - which is detachable and can be brought inside the house.
I loved it for the fact you can also filter water while stationary by releasing the clutch right below the seat. But I wonder if carrying that much water in the tank is an easy task - especially for women. The video doesn’t make clear if the bike has gears to ease the ride. Another thing that grabbed my attention was the wheels - they look like the regular types you get in a normal city bike, but they seem too thin to be ridden carrying the heavy weight from the water tank on non-paved roads or mud terrains.
All in all, it’s an amazing initiative. Probably needs a bit more of iteration.