TED Conversations

Chad Brown

Technology Consultant, chatterdom

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Engage our children in helping us solve our toughest problems.

The concept behind brainstorming, mind-mapping, etc. is to have a group engage in an energetic, positive, collaborative session to generate new ideas that may represent outside-the-box thinking and where no ideas are bad. Kids do this every minute of every day and with energy to spare!

What if "take your kid to work day" wasn't to parade your kid around and show them how "real work" is done but rather to enlist their help in solving problems?

What if play dates didn't involve taking the kids to Chuck-E-Cheese's to let them "burn off some energy" but rather idea generating sessions?

Our children are just like us...only better. Children have no preconceptions or predispositions. They view the world innocently. They see a big blank canvas on which to draw and have all of the colors to draw it in. You have to wonder what sort of untapped positive energy these little ones contain and, more importantly, what they could do with it.

We could give our children a sense of purpose early in life, the ability to work as a team, to accept different perspectives on the world they are growing up in and much more. We always talk about making the world a better place for our children. Maybe they should have a say in how we go about doing that.

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    Nov 22 2013: Hi Chad, and welcome to TED conversations:>)
    I absolutely agree with everything you have written above. Maybe, if we listen to children enough, they can make the world a better place for all of us! They learn very quickly, when given the encouragement and opportunity, so we can start with some of the basics. A friend of mine was a kindergarten teacher for many years, and engaged the kids in very simple mediation and conflict resolution practices.

    Have you seen this TED video? I love it because it is so practical and meaningful!
    http://www.ted.com/talks/john_hunter_on_the_world_peace_game.html
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      Nov 22 2013: Thanks Colleen! I agree. Children are such quick learners and so eager to dive into things. And, I think they remind us all how to be better versions of ourselves.

      My brother actually did his masters work in conflict resolution. These types of conversations are the ones that he, my dad, and I have every time we get together. We just find a Starbucks (or other coffee shop), commandeer some comfy chairs and try to solve the world's problems...over coffee! :)

      Thanks also for the video recommendation. I haven't seen that one yet, but I will definitely check it out.
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        Nov 22 2013: Yeah.....my friends and I do that too.....have some GREAT conversations about EVERYTHING and say at the end of the conversation......there.....we solved everything......or......they ought to elect US to positions of world leadership!!! LOL:>)

        Let me know what you think about the John Hunter video. From what you have expressed, I think/feel you might like it:>)
  • Nov 22 2013: Chad,

    Have you read Walden TWO? Suggest you might find it interesting. I like the idea of introducing children to real problems and seeing what they can do with them but brainstorming? Do not think that is the right method and there has been a lot of articles against brainstorming recently. My personal experience has not been good with brainstorming and think it is facilitated coercion to get pseudo consensus.
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    Nov 21 2013: I think this could be a good idea if applied appropriately. Many children in my country don't know about what all kinds of jobs in our society are really like. So when the school students try to figure out what occupation they want to take up or which direction they want to head towards for their future , they could have a perceptual and concrete experience of where their inclination lies through the true business or manufacturing activities. But their main jobs are still studying at shool.This could be an extracurricular activity. If I were a child, I'd be excited to find out my job interest with it.
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      Nov 22 2013: Great point! I was initially thinking more broad-spectrum with teaching the kids general skills. But, you are absolutely right. We are giving them the opportunity to determine which of these types of activities they like as well.

      So, perhaps in addition to brainstorming ideas, we could add prototyping, modeling, etc. (obviously simplistic versions of these) to give the kids a more rounded view of what they could do as well as have some fun and get some additional inspirations from them too!
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    Nov 22 2013: Chad, What you speak of is the old fashioned think tank. Put them in a room and let them talk it up. That is great for adults. I have done this and it was great. We were surprised at what was taken from the session.

    However, your talking about kids. So lets make this fun and provide the opportunity to succeed.

    Here is the idea. Not mine ... U of Washington if I recall was having a problem in mapping a certain chemical formula ... so what they did was to have the IT department put all of the criteria into a game and the end game would be he formula. If I recall the solution was reached after six days of the "game" going public by a 11 year old.

    Education can, in this case, be a blessing and hindrance ... Kids do not care if that chemical will not bond or not .... give it a shot. We say the math is not right ... the kids says move the green one next to the red one and see what happens.

    The Army Tank Trainers made a game of the tank and put it in the club. Young tankers would spend money and time attempting to be the best ... out of class real time training ... the quality of the grad went up exponentially.

    So what I am saying use the "toys" of the generation to engage them. When it stops being fun they are gone to what is fun .... NEVER forget they are kids. Burn out is possible at any age and could affect the learning attitude.

    This you can take to the bank from a 70 year old kid on his second time around. LOL

    I wish you well. Bob.
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      Nov 22 2013: That is the same concept John Hunter uses for the World Peace Game, which I provided the link for. He took real world challenges, and put them in game form, which created more curiosity and enthusiasm.....great idea!

      From one kid to another Bob! We don't stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing:>)
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    Nov 22 2013: I haven't read Walden TWO but I can relate to your issues with the misuse of brainstorming in a coercive setting. I have been on teams where coercion and group think were challenges and usually to arrive at someone's agenda.

    It's a shame when things like this happen. But I would caution against placing blame on the tools. Team building/productivity tools are quite affective when the team is led by a positive influence. These tools virtually always fail when led by an individual or upper echelon of people who's focus is on their own interest rather than the outcomes of engaging the team in these exercises.

    Good luck to you and with your team! Don't give up on the tools!
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      Nov 22 2013: Do look at the research on brainstorming. Wayne is reporting correctly on what research now suggests about that tool.
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        Nov 22 2013: Interesting. I understand that group-think is often a challenge and, as Wayne pointed out, coercion is as well. I just did a cursory check of articles relating to issues with brainstorming and they are each pointing out these challenges as well.

        However, ideas like those would suggest that team collaboration as a whole is a bad idea, which we know isn't true. So, the question becomes, "how do we facilitate positive, energetic collaboration among members of a team?" To me, I think this answer begins with having the right team and in the right environment.

        There are definitely individuals, groups, and entire environments that are not conducive to the positive energy these sessions require. But, I would submit that we--as human beings--should be continually seeking out individuals, teams, and environments that DO promote positive thoughts. This idea applies not only to our work environment but our communities and families as well.
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          Nov 22 2013: The research does not at all suggest that collaboration as a whole is a bad idea. I am sure as you pursue further research on this subject, you will get thoroughly up to speed.
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    Nov 19 2013: Do you believe that children of the age for Chucky Cheese are well equipped to tackle the complexity of our toughest problems and to anticipate the myriad of consequences of feasible solutions?

    But there is no need simply to speculate about this if you know any small children! Why not experiment yourself by gathering together some kids of that age, which sounds like preschool and grade school from your description, pose some of these problems, and see what they say? It could be a birthday party activity, maybe. Or visit a class at school that is already working on such a project. I remember my son's second grade class doing a debate on saving the rain forest. Observing how small children engage about such issues, their depth of understanding, and so forth would probably be useful to you.
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      Nov 20 2013: Great idea on running an independent study on this! My conversation was initially sparked by a discussion I was having with friends regarding Cameron Herold's talk (referenced in this idea). However, based on the responses I have received to my idea, I am actively searching for a great group of kids to engage in this type of thinking.

      Speaking to whether kids are fully equipped to handle the complexities of the problems we are trying to solve, no. Kids are still developing their critical thinking skills. They need guidance. But, is that truly any different than adults right out of college with an MBA? Do we allow them to solve problems on their own or do we team them up with more experienced individuals? How about a mid-career person? Do they get the toughest challenges or do we also pair them with more experienced people based on the challenges at hand?

      Conversely, do we dismiss the ideas of people at these levels simply because someone in the universe knows more than they do about the problem? Or, do we engage them in the conversation and allow them to provide new insights that the rest of us haven't thought of yet?

      Whatever the problem we are trying to solve, it exists because we haven't found a solution yet. Why limit our search for that solution to only those we deem "worthy" of having the conversation? Inviting the ideas of other "less worthy" people into our conversations just may surprise us.
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        Nov 20 2013: Well, as I wrote, you will find many grade school classes already talking about such issues and the students then doing so in more thoughtful ways as they move through school, scaffolded by the teacher, each other, and written materials. By high school, of course, kids are sitting on local government committees and doing Model UN.

        If you want materials for running such exercises with kids, you will find a wealth of them online, I expect! Here is one lead. http://www.fpspi.org/topics.html One of my kids did this about 15 years ago as an 11 year old. The site has materials starting for 4-6, I think. Odyssey of the Mind has materials for k-3.

        And here is a description of Model UN. There is now, apparently, grade school participation. It used to be high school mostly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_United_Nations
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          Nov 20 2013: Very cool! We had Model UN when I was in school as well. But I really like the future problem solvers program. Thanks for providing this direction.
  • Nov 19 2013: Our children are not better than us. They are simply children. How many children have you raised? Children do not need a sense of purpose. Simply being is plenty of purpose for them--they're just fine with it. Adults and whiny adolescents need a "sense of purpose", because they have lost the joy of being. As for offering different perspectives--have you ever heard children talk about the world at large? Their solutions won't work. It's all well and good to say "Just have a party and say 'I'm sorry'." It wont' happen and it won't work in the real world.
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      Nov 20 2013: You are clearly against this idea and I can appreciate that. However, the thought that someone--who has presumably raised children--believes that "children do not need a sense of purpose" is truly saddening. We all need a sense of purpose and especially children.

      Kids begin life playing make-believe games where they are superheroes or knights on a quest. There are scads of electronic games to enhance these pursuits. They try out for basketball and football teams and they play to win because it's fulfilling. And, they fall in love at young ages too. Adults call it "puppy love" but to them it's very real and exactly what they have been programmed to do based on thousands of years of genetic hardwiring.

      We all need a sense of purpose. And yes, obviously children need guidance from more experienced critical thinkers to convert their raw ideas into usable realities. But, to dismiss a person's--even a young person's--idea as irrelevant based on our own preconceived bias that it will be ridiculous says more about the person receiving the idea than the person generating it, don't you think?