Robinson began by reminding the audience of the power of the imagination. "All cities owe their existence to imagination," he said. "It's this power of imagination will take us into the future -- or not. And it's this kind of imagination that's most at risk. I think we squander it. Not only squander it -- but suppress it ruthlessly."
Robinson went on to talk about his concept of "the element," which includes:
- Discovering what one's talents are. Doing something for which one has a natural aptitude. Doing something with which one resonates. "Many people have never discovered their real, natural talents."
- Doing something one loves to do. "People achieve their best when they do what they love."
He said finding one's element(s) is not only essential to finding personal fulfillment, purpose and meaning, but it's essential to the balance of our communities. Plus, he said it has a bottom-line economic implication. "We are living in times of absolute revolution," he told the audience of more than 500 people. "Revolution demands that we think differently."
He urged people to pay attention to what assumptions they make and what they take for granted. "Things we take for granted turn out not to be true," he said.
Robinson suggested this country has a "crisis of human resources" in which people area unaware of what they are good at, what talents they have, and how to do what they love to do. "Human resources are often buried deep," he said. "You have to go looking for them."
He said the conditions need to be right for these resources to reveal themselves -- and then one has to be ready to do something with them when they appear. He used the example of the flowering of the normally barren Death Valley in 2005 as an example how deeply buried seeds can lay dormant for scores of years waiting for the conditions to be right to sprout and flower. "Death Valley is dormant, not dead," he said.
As always, Robinson critiqued education's overemphasis on particular kinds of thinking and learning (a la his TED presentation on "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" which has been viewed online by a couple of million people).
"Education was devised to develop a particular type of talents," he said, adding that people think they are not smart because of the hierarchy of what kind of thinking is taught and shown importance.
Robinson shared what the three founders of The Blue Man Group are doing to address the lack of creativity in education. They have founded The Blue School. This will be something to watch -- if not participate in.
His final message came from the tag line of his book:
"Finding your passion changes everything."
I was honored to also participate in a pre-lecture Roundtable on "Innovation in Our Schools" with colleagues from education, arts, business and government. The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum hosted the Roundtable as a means of bringing together creativity advocates from different fields to move forward creativity and education topics. The question the Aldrich organizers asked was:
"What does it look like, feel like and sound like when all of the partners in a student's learning community (i.e. peers, teachers, administrators, parents, coaches, community organizations, businesses, etc.) model creativity and innovation in a way that serves the student?"A brief summary of responses included suggestions to focus on:
- What "success" looks like and how it is defined -- and to include such components as passion, talents and creativity, as described above by Ken Robinson.
- The power of process.
- Communicating creative and critical thinking processes.
- The "making" of things.