"Being innovative is central to being human." Bonsen told me. "We're curious and playful animals, until it's pounded out of us. Look at the tradition of pranks here at MIT. What did it take to put a police car on a dome that was fifteen stories high [one of most famous MIT student pranks], with a locked trap door being the only access? It was an incredible engineering feat. To pull that off was a systems problem, and it took tremendous leadership and teamwork.
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"Pranks reinforce the cultural ethos of creative joy." Joost added. "Getting something done in a short period of time with no budget, and challenging circumstances. It's glorious and epic. They didn't ask for permission. Not even forgiveness."
These students were playing -- just doing something for the fun of it. Play, then, is part of our human nature and an intrinsic motivation.
Passion is familiar to all of us as an intrinsic motivation for doing things. The passion to explore, to learn something new, to understand something more deeply; to master something difficult. We see these passions all around us and have likely experienced them for ourselves.
In more than one hundred and fifty interviews for this book -- lengthy conversations with innovators and their parents, teachers, and mentors -- passion was the most frequently recurring word.
Pure passion, by itself, is not enough to sustain the motivation to do difficult things and to persevere -- in love or in work! In my research, I observe that young innovators almost invariably develop a passion to learn or do something as adolescents, but their passions evolve through learning and exploration into something far deeper, more sustainable, and trustworthy -- purpose.
The sense of purpose can take many forms. But the one that emerged most frequently in my interviews and in the interviews by the authors of "the Innovator's DNA" is the desire to somehow "make a difference"
In the lives of young innovators whom I interviewed, I discovered a consistent link and developmental arc in their progression from play to passion to purpose.
They played a great deal -- but their play was frequently far less structured than most children's, and they had opportunities to explore, experiment, and discover through trial and error -- to take risks and to fall down.
Through this kind of more creative play as children, these young innovators discovered a passion. As they pursued their passions, their interests changed and took surprising turns.
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They developed new passions, which, over time, evolved into a deeper and more mature sense of purpose -- a kind of shared adult play.