Excerpted From: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner for GalTime
In the past, our country has produced innovators more by accident than by design. Rarely do entrepreneurs or innovators talk about how their schooling or their places of work -- or even their parents -- developed their talents or encouraged their aspirations.
Three of the most innovative entrepreneurs of the last half century -- Edwin Land, the inventor of the Polaroid instant camera; Bill Gates; and Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook -- had to drop out of Harvard to pursue their ideas. Apple's Steve Jobs; Michael Dell of Dell Computer; Larry Ellison, founder of the software giant Oracle; and the inventor Dean Kamen are other famous high-tech college dropouts.
So what would it mean if we were to intentionally develop the entrepreneurial and innovative talents of all young people -- to nurture their initiative, curiosity, imagination, creativity, and collaborative skills, as well as their analytical abilities -- along with essential qualities of character such as persistence, empathy, and a strong moral foundation?
What can parents do to nurture these qualities? What do the most effective teachers and college professors do, and what can they -- and the young people themselves -- tell us about how schools and colleges need to change to teach these qualities?
Finally, what can we learn from those who successfully mentor aspiring entrepreneurial innovators? These are the driving questions in this book.
How Do We Develop Young People to Become Innovators?
If we agree on the need to develop the capabilities of many more youth to be innovators, and if we agree that many of the qualities of an innovator can be nurtured and learned, the question now becomes, what do we do? Where do we start as parents, teachers, mentors, and employers?
Research shows that human beings are born with an innate desire to explore, experiment, and imagine new possibilities -- to innovate.
How do children learn such skills? In a word -- through play.
And it's not just infants and children who learn through play.
Joost Bonsen, who is an alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently serves as a lecturer in the world-famous MIT Media Lab, talked about the importance of the famous tradition of pranks at the university.