The last thing you want to do is raise a child who’s just a dull drone, pouring out memorized facts as though facts have the power to save the world. You want to raise a child who will be valued in a future workplace for being creative, confident, and innovative.
But how can you build creative, confident, innovative ability into your child (and yourself!) right now?
In this fascinating 8-minute video, former Yahoo! executive strategist and bestselling author Tim Sanders provides brilliant research-based insight into where creativity and innovation actually come from.
Here’s how I believe you can make these principles of creativity and innovation come alive in your kids:
1. Let your kid know that genius isn’t necessary to accomplish great things.
Sanders says that it’s a myth that great innovations come from lone wolf inventors who have sudden “eureka moments” strike like lightening from the sky and change the world. “We want to be heroes,” Sanders says, “so that’s how we tell the story.” Actually, though, Sanders says, true genius creativity comes from another place altogether. It comes from collaboration.
2. Explain to your kid the tremendous value of collaboration.
It can be liberating to a 12–22 year old to realize: “Hey, I don’t have to have all the answers! It’s OK if I have one piece of the puzzle and someone else has another piece of the puzzle. It’s even OK if 20 other people are also contributing pieces of the puzzle. We can work together, and in doing so accomplish something bigger than I could ever do on my own.”
As Sanders says: “Little ideas combine with other little ideas, and these improve into game-changing ideas.”
This realization—that it’s OK to have only one piece of the puzzle—helps kids to relax. It relieves pressure and anxiety that can actually stand in the way of creativity and innovation.
3. Talk to your kids about respect for others being foundational to true creativity and innovation.
While you’ve on the topic of collaboration, parents, please teach your kids that respect—valuing what others bring to the table—is absolutely necessary for collaboration. Start now. No bullying. No teasing. No labeling others for what they do or don’t have. Make it a point as early as age 12 (or younger) to see all people’s inherent strengths and value them.
4. If your kid shows leadership talent, explain to him or her the value of leaders bringing talented people together and giving them space to collaborate.
The key, Tim Sanders says, is to “marshall people together, spot innovations, put people together into a ‘creative soup.'” People think Steve Jobs was a great innovator, Sanders says, but Steve Jobs himself said: “All I did was notice patterns and put people together to finish projects.”
5. Encourage your kid to look for answers in unlikely places.
Tim Sanders puts it this way: “Shatter the myth of the expert.”
It’s a myth, Sanders says, that “experts” can be relied upon to swoop down like Superman and supply creative answers. “Most of the great solutions to vexing problems come from ‘the edges of a domain,” Sanders says, from collaborators who aren’t stuck smack dab in the middle of the space where the problem is at its worst.
“Experts,” says Sanders, “too often fail to collaborate. They don’t want to cede control over their process to anyone outside their little world because they don’t value (other) voices enough. They try to be a lone wolf.”
Until you believe that genius is a team sport, you will never give up control.
6. Emphasize patient step-by-step problem solving as the key to creativity and innovation.
“If you no longer depend on a big eureka idea to fall out of the sky and change the world,” Sanders says, “you meet more. You think more. You research more. You settle with small pieces of progress that add up to momentum.”
It’s liberating for kids to know that success doesn’t come from being a genius lone-wolf miracle-worker. It’s energizing and exciting for kids to realize that plain old-fashioned respect for others and patient problem solving (skills anyone can develop) can take them as far in life as almost anything else.
Sanders says: “The difference between good organizations and world class organizations that win—that sell 20% more than their nearest competitor—the only thing they have in common is they’ve broken this myth (of the expert)—they understand that every deal is about rapid problem solving and no one person can solve the problem on their own.”
7. Encourage academic confidence, not just academic compliance.
I (Jeannie Burlowski) help students ages 11–24 develop true academic confidence in my one-afternoon class called The Strategic College Student: How to Get Higher Grades Than Anyone Else by Studying LESS Than Most Other People.
This class helps students to feel extraordinarily confident in academic settings, so they can let go of fear and anxiety, settle the matter of their personal competence once and for all, and then step boldly and bravely into creative collaboration and innovation in high school, in college, and in their future careers. To learn when this class will next be made available, subscribe to my free weekly email updates using the form on this site.
You can view the brilliant 8-minute Tim Sanders video that inspired me to write this post by clicking here.
There’s no part of parenting more important than setting your kid up for successful college and career life.
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Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, author, speaker, and podcast host. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, NerdWallet, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.