When my boys were quite young I started to encourage them to continually and perpetually look for a better way to do anything and everything. I used to joke around with them saying: “your dad is the laziest guy they will ever meet because I am always looking for a better or easier way to do things so that I can finish up the stuff I don’t like doing and get onto the stuff like do like doing like riding our bikes, or playing games or just hanging out”. I also gave my boys permission to stop me when we were working on anything to offer a suggestion on how they thought we could do the task in a better or easier way.
Over the years there have been countless times that my boys have offered suggestions or walked me through their ideas on doing some task that ended up in a me saying, “Yes, your right this is a better way, thanks let’s do it your way”. Many years of working with my boys have also helped me to realize that the better way isn’t aways the easier or faster way. We also learned that there are times the easier way may initially seem faster, but if you weren’t able to do things well enough and had to do something over again the better way could actually be the easier and faster way.
My boys aren’t really boys anymore; they are young men. The other day we were exploring how to design a braking and cornering drill that they could use in their Down Hill mountain bike training. They both want to move up the professional ranks in their sport and realize that they need to go faster which means that they have to learn to brake less or at the optimum moment and to corner better, so setting up drills that they can practice on a daily basis is really important. They use a variety of tools like GoPro cameras and Freelap timing equipment for feedback on their training so they are always discussing the best way to use the technology to enhance the learning or training environment.
My younger son Caleb is a stickler for doing things better so he was suggesting that he and his brother need to use two Freelap timing stations. One timing station at the beginning of the turn where you would start braking and one a few metres past the exit of the turn so that you can use a timing split to accurately gauge the improvement of braking at different times and places. Using a split would also control the differences in how fast one peddled up to the brake point and would give you are more accurate representation of the difference in breaking would make on your exit speed on the turn. You have to understand that the professional level of their sport the difference between 1st, 2nd or 3rd place in a race can be the difference of a few hundreds of second so gaining a half seconds on a few turns on a race course can make the difference between being on the podium or finishing out of the top 10.
His older brother Levi suggested that using one timing station would be good enough to give you an idea of where to brake and how much of a difference it would make so we all had a good discussion exploring if the level of accuracy the two timing stations and the timing split would be necessary. We came to the conclusion that it probably would be better to have the accuracy the two timing stations and the split would offer but we were not sure it would it be necessary. Since we have access to the equipment my boys are going to test it out.
If you don’t know, give it a go — is the approach my boys have always followed even before Ken Robinson referred to this idea in his Schools Kill Creativity TED Talk. I have always been careful to nurture and help them maintain that natural or intrinsic inquisitiveness all young children have and that they seem to lose within a few years entering into our formal education system. I have also looked for ways to help all learners, I am responsible for, regain or stimulate that natural inquisitiveness that is so important for learning.
It is exciting to think that the desire for, or the pursuit of, the better way may of had it roots in those early years when I encouraged my boys to maintain their natural inquisitiveness and to always look for a better way to do anything and everything. This attitude, or perhaps mindset, will enable them to improve their training and help them with their racing careers. I also think it will help them in many other aspects of life. By constantly looking for the better way they will constantly be asking question and looking for options that will help them solve life’s challenges. Hopefully they will never be satisfied with doing things the way they have always been done but will continually look for a better way.
The pursuit of the better way is what I like to refer to as the learner’s mindset and is something that I believe is central to our human nature. It is more foundational than Carol Dweck’s growth mindset in which people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. Dweck argues that the growth mindset will stimulate a love of learning and foster a resilience necessary for great accomplishment and can simply be adopted by adding the notion of “not yet” to a negative belief about one’s ability or talent. The learner’s mindset is even more foundational to George Couros’ innovator’s mindset considering his assertion that the innovator’s mindset takes the growth mindset a step further by focusing on using one’s ability to learn and to create or the belief that our abilities, intelligence, and talents are developed so that they lead to the creation of new and better ideas.
The growth mindset is crucial to opening one up to learning and the innovators mindset is crucial to motivating one to create new and better ideas, but both require that natural or intrinsic inquisitiveness that we see in infants, toddlers and young children who haven’t yet had this spark of curiosity and creativity quenched by our educational systems. I am not alone in this assertion – that schools kill the natural desire to learn or as Ken Robinson states Schools Kill Creativity. We also see a similar fundamental belief that children are pre-adapted to learning and have a natural curiosity from learning theorists like Jerome Bruner. Carol Dweck’s lament of her elementary school teacher labeling her and starting her down the spiral of the fixed mindset is not an isolated story and it doesn’t take much for each of us to think back to a time when we were labeled or categorized and put into a position of believing that we just didn’t have what it takes.
Perhaps if we focused on nurturing and supporting this natural inquisitiveness and predisposition toward learning we would be much further ahead and wouldn’t then have to attempt to restore or rebuild what we have torn down in the first place. Fortunately, the human being is the most amazing and resilient learning entity on our planet so even if our schools do kill creativity and standards based assessment systems quench the natural natural or intrinsic inquisitiveness of the learners mindset it only takes a little bit of choice, ownership, and voice given through an authentic learning opportunities to kindle that spark of the learners mindset.
This is why Dweck’s notion of “yet” is so powerful. Not yet sparks our intrinsic inquisitiveness, flames the fires of our intrinsic desire to learn and stokes our learners mindset.
Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Couros, G. (2015). The Innovator’s Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity. San Diego, CA: Dave Burgess Consulting Inc.
Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Random House Publishing Group.
Robinson, K. (2016). Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity? Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?utm_source=tedcomshare&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=tedspread