January 15, 2016

Failing Fast (and Other Things Kids Should Learn)

Failing Fast (and Other Things Kids Should Learn)

Early this week, Collective Campus hosted our pilot Lemonade Stand - Business School for Kids program. We hosted over a dozen children and taught them business-building basics, running them through the lean startup methodology, building business model canvas, prototyping - they even got to play with a 3D Printer and print their first designs.

While most parents we spoke to in the lead-up to our program were very positive, some parents disagreed, arguing 'kids should be allowed to be kids', and business was not something kids needed to learn, especially during the holidays.

The unfortunate and uncomfortable truth is schools are not adequately preparing students for the future. At the current rates, 65% of Australia's economy faces significant disruption - every one-to-two weeks, an S&P 500 company is replaced, and automation and robotics are predicted to take over 30% of existing jobs by 2025. Disruption is moving faster than ever, so kids need to become adaptable and empowered to take control, rather than stand still.

So how do schools prepare students for the age of digital disruption? Here are three things schools should be teaching children to make them future proof.

1. Fail Fast, Learn Fast mentality

Gone are the days of 'avoid failure at all costs'. While school tests and exams may not necessarily reflect this, students need to understand that failing is ok, as long as they aim to fail small, and treat each failure as a learning exercise.

When Chrys Bader- Wechseler, co-founder of Secret app spoke to us, he told us he learned to code in his youth by modifying computer games, and that he biggest learnings came from fixing something he had accidentally broken.

By only choosing the safe path, and spending heaps of time and resources planning for every possible outcome and variable has resulted in the dearth of innovation and growth in many a company. By avoiding failure at all costs, companies (and students) alike miss out on valuable learnings, meaning when they eventually do make a mistake (and it's usually a big one), it's usually one that has much more significant consequences. A student's learning should always reflect this - to grow quickly and differentiate themselves, students need to learn it's ok to fail, to break things, and never to make that same mistake again.

2. Coding and Programming

With old, manual jobs becoming replaced with disruptive technology and virtually no industries left untouched or unchanged by digital technology, digital literacy has become almost essential in all jobs. New industries created or enabled by new technologies, such as Internet of Things, Machine Learning, and AI will also spring up; in fact, by 2020, it's estimated there will be one million unfilled programmer jobs in the US. This represents more opportunity than ever for those who understand code.

However, just as all students who learn to write won't become writers or all students who learn math will become mathematicians, coding too has become one of the fundamental skills all children should learn.

Learning how to code isn't just going to be important in employability. Coding teaches children new ways of understanding a problem and creating solutions, helping them adopt a procedural, step-by-step method of tackling tasks at hand. It develops a powerful hybrid of analytical and creative thinking, allowing people to problem solve in a procedural method while also allowing for self-expression and creativity.

3. Design Thinking

Design thinking is a process designed to create solutions to come up with ideas and fix complex problems. It's a human-centric process, integrating the possibilities of technology and requirements of the problem at hand into a framework of thinking that fuels innovation and creative thinking.

Although starting off as a method designers use, design thinking can be applied by anyone to any problem. Children can be taught design thinking in its most basic form so they can learn how to ask the right questions when addressing a problem, how to mine the information for the insights, and to create solutions from an inside-out perspective.

As an example of teaching design thinking to children, one of the exercises we used during our Lemonade Stand program was pairing the kids up and getting them to ask each other about their morning routines, with the aim of finding out how to optimise each others' mornings to get a better start in the day. The kids were encouraged to ask probing questions to get deep insights into their partner's routine, habits, and emotions, before drawing solutions. While children often have the propensity to come up with out-worldly, technologically unfeasible solutions, the overall goal of thinking outside the box can easily be achieved through simple exercises like these.

The most powerful thing about Design thinking is that it allows children to see problems as a whole, rather than to come up with fragmented solutions that form a stack. It also gives them a chance to embrace ambiguity that often comes with ingenuity, allowing them become creative with their solutions and look for opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked. The design thinking process also encourages the 'fail fast, learn fast' philosophy, encouraging children to learn and iteratively improve on their solutions. It's an adaptable way of thinking that children will be able to take with them long after their education has finished.

Want to learn more about how to prepare students for the future? Collective Campus is running a free panel talk called "Getting Students Ready," featuring a packed panel of industry experts in education, including thought leaders in the ed-tech, STEM, design thinking and startup space. Click here to register your spot!

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Josh Li

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