../Morning Post
Posted October 4 , 2010
Guest Column

Where We Go From Here - Combine Education and technology for creativity
By Larry Kilham

"The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were." - John F. Kennedy

It is time to turn America into a nation of inventors again and for the whole world to work together to deal with the many challenges and opportunities that are upon us. From garage inventors to multinational corporations everyone must make a fresh effort at creativity and innovation including using the vast new resources of the Internet and the computer clouds.

There is a need for a new kind of thinking in the face of the recently available mountains of data-data instantly accessed and conveniently packaged like a supermarket consumer product. Imagination opens your room to fresh air, bright outdoor light and new ideas. Creativity and innovation is the way out to new frontiers. And education is the basic force for insuring productive change from generation to generation.

The Individual, the Internet, and the Truth

All over the world people are sensing that knowledge and information have become a common resource and tool, and that has led to whole new Web services, "social media" such as Facebook and Twitter, and Web-based megacompanies such as Google and eBay. Collective thinking, however, can lead to mantras based on questionable science. People can all start thinking that honeybees are dying because of insecticides; and when reinforced by Internet chatter and talk shows, the group diagnosis becomes the Truth.

Therefore, anyone finding newly discovered "scientific" revelations and discoveries on the Internet should be skeptical. Scientific detachment would indicate wait for some time to pass, seek other opinions, and search for probing questions to test the new and often popular theory. Opposite points of view or broader perspectives about the issue should be sought in all cases.

Imagination and creativity, integrity, a sense of wonder and truth, persistence of inquiry--these keep us above the turmoil and herd mentality of the Internet. They allow us to profit from the inexhaustible information resource of the Internet if we keep our sense of perspective and good judgment.

A New Awareness and Education

Public awareness and education will be required if we are in a paradigm shift with respect to knowledge acquisition. Otherwise, we could be in for an era of increasingly misunderstood big science and misapplied analytical technology and methods at the enterprise level.

We must inculcate the value and methods of good research in our student population. As they enter the enterprise world, be it public or private, profit or non-profit, they must have and maintain a critical attitude towards information, knowledge, truth, creative ideas, invention, flights of fancy and imagination. They must realize that the pursuit of new scientific insights must include focusing on finding truth among all the information and not just processing the information itself. Without the sense of importance of empirical truth, the relevance of reality is lost and progress is stalled.

Education's Role

Formal education is very important for entrepreneurs, but as has always been the case, many of those with creative minds tend to be impatient and often drop out of school before they complete their formal education. They become frustrated with the formality and rigid structure they perceive to be endemic to classroom education. There doesn't seem to be any room left for the mind to wander, catch a glimpse of a new vision, or pursue it wherever it may lead.

When students become employees in industry or government, they often will find more interest in new ideas than seemed to be the case in schools, especially if they are employed in technical areas such as engineering. However, deficiency of essential formal education often shows up as lack of essential technical knowledge or communication skills.

Our schools have what students need in terms of both technical education and communication skills, but two things need to be done:

1. Get children interested in creative accomplishment at an early age and keep them focused on this throughout their lifetimes.

2. See that the students who are interested in innovation, invention and entrepreneurship don't drop out of school prematurely, foregoing the learning and appreciation of the additional technical education and communications skills that they will need.

This motivational process starts at the top-with the President of the United States-and carries through political and business leaders, parents, clergy, educators and many others. When Russia launched the first orbiting satellite, there was frenzy in the United States not to fall behind in the technological race. We put our man on the moon first, and this goal has faded out. Now the world is faced with larger and sometimes irreversible problems of environment, climate, food, water and energy, and a new sense of mission must be developed.

Towards the New Frontier

Times of insight and creativity come and go with the ebb and flow of unexploited knowledge and with society's sense of urgency for new solutions. The industrial revolution and World War II were eras that saw surges of insights, creativity and invention. Now the world can benefit from a combination of bright new minds coming up through the educational systems, well-equipped laboratories and shops, and the new information sources of the computer clouds; but there is an apocalyptic sense of the world running out of time. Also, many people feel a sense of "Why bother?" because it appears that the world has run out of possibilities.

People must see that the whole universe is available to them and that creativity has never been more important than now. Children should realize that there is an infinite future for them. Society's failure is failure to give them hope and encouragement.

Now is the time for the men and women who dream of things that never were. Their dreams are the starting points in great creations.

About the author: Larry Kilham is a speaker and consultant specializing in new product development for high tech companies. He is the author of the forthcoming book, "MegaMinds: How to Create and Invent in the Age of Google." Larry and his family are successful inventors and entrepreneurs with many patents and awards. He has a master's degree from MIT and has founded three companies. To find out more about Larry's speaking and consulting, please contact him by email at lkilham@gmail.com or by phone at 505-310-7600.

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