Innovative thinking comes about from the little bits of what we know and the unexpected convergences of how we think. Innovative thinking is transformative; it takes an idea and uses outside the box thinking to realize how something that works well, might work really well. The question, particularly for young minds, is how to get them to recognize their innovative ideas and which conditions allow them to come up with an innovative idea.
As an example of innovative thinking, Apple and Steve Jobs are always first in line to make this point. For instance, Apple’s inventions and innovations sought to make highly advanced technical products, which any 3 year old could use. The goal was to push the boundaries, within the confines of simplicity, making the possible adoption of a technical way of life realistic for non-technical people.
The key here is to find two sides to a coin and make both sides of the coin valuable. With Apple, the innovation is complex tools that are easy to use. The innovation works because it exists within realistic boundaries – that of, usability. It also provides people with another option – one that is similar but rife with differences – to PC’s, or the conventional norm.
To develop innovative thinking for individual students means allowing them independence in thought that is based in an understanding that there are natural laws and social norms that should be taken into account. This means allowing subversive or oppositional thoughts, which is not something parents and teachers naturally instill in children.
In English classes, it’s common to tell students that they must learn the rules and conventions of language, grammar and written expression if they are to break the rules effectively. This is a good entry point for divergent, out of the box, rule-based thinking. The more conventional knowledge that a student has, and the more liberty to think creatively about it, then there is a greater chance of fostering innovative thinking.
Generally, these ideas don’t occur when a person is in a passive mode, more often than not there is some other type of activity going on. It could be walking down the street on a rainy day that a person lights on how to invent the perfect umbrella or an idea can occur during the middle of night, when someone is fast asleep. Both of these activities are less passive than they may seem and both are rich with unrelated, but active cognitive functioning.
When and where these ideas occur is something that each individual should note reflectively. Parents, teachers and tutors should ask students to describe how they came about an idea so that the student is able to develop the reflective thinking that will allow them to evaluate their own ideas. Doing so will enable for a child the necessary confidence in their thinking abilities that will bring about the liberty to think innovatively.
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