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Cultivating your Child’s “Inner Innovator”

At Coding for Treasure we believe ideas matter more than almost anything else in the new tech economy. In a world of rapidly evolving automation and artificial intelligence it is the people who come up with unique and valuable ideas to leverage this new tech who are the leaders. Intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm are key traits to the innovators of today and tomorrow. In addition to innovative ideas, grit and comfort with ambiguity are key attributes employers like Google are looking for.

The Coding for Treasure difference is that we focus not just on teaching tech skills like coding & robotics to kids, but that we create a space for joyful idea-generating, creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking.

What can you do at home to help your budding innovator develop his or her propensity for developing new ideas?

Ask open ended questions

When your child comes out with a totally off-the-wall idea (time traveling dinosaur museum, invisible flying cars, you know what I’m talking about!), try to resist the urge to scoff at their ideas. Instead probe to get more details.

Why would this invention be good for people?

Who would like it?

How would it help people?

What type of people would like it (kids, parents, grandparents, etc.)?

How much would it cost?

These are the types of questions top tech product designers must ask themselves when creating successful products. It doesn’t matter so much at this point the “how” of it, whether its physically possible or not. If thought-leaders always started by focusing on limitations we wouldn’t have planes, smart phones or any number of the incredible inventions we all rely on today.

Just help your kid develop the ability to express their ideas and think through use cases, value proposition & marketing. These are skills that will serve them, whatever their future career might be.

Get them to diagram their ideas

Being able to get ideas down on paper is an important skill. When developing a new product, tech leaders usually rely on teams to implement their vision. Rare is the individual software engineer who comes up with the idea and implements it themselves. Even Mark Zuckerburg has a huge company behind him to implement his vision for Facebook. With a team of 3 or 4 its possible to communicate verbally, but scale that to organizations of hundreds or thousands, and other types of communication become necessary. This is where documentation becomes very important in the tech ecosystem.

Did you know there are entire career paths that involve specialization in analyzing business opportunities & providing documentation so engineering teams know what to build?

When your child comes to you with a new idea, encourage them to document it. The documentation could be in several forms:

  • Drawing – simplest way, great for even the smallest kids, crayon & paper will do just fine!
  • Diagram with labels – for kids who can write encourage them to add labels to their drawing to explain the parts and how things work
  • Written description – hand written notes, or more formal typed description
  • Prototype – this could be a series of drawings showing different use cases or even a clickable version or video animation for more advanced tech kids
  • 3D model – build a model with legos, clay or other materials to who how the invention would look, how big it would be in 3D

Encourage your child to share these with friends and family to get feedback on their ideas.

Offer constructive criticism

Its really important that innovators are able to express their ideas and welcome feedback, both negative and positive. New ideas are frequently met with a lot of resistance in the real world so someone who is championing an idea needs to be prepared and not crumble at the merest negative comment.

A word of caution on this – we need to create a safe space for kids to express themselves and not feel they will be attacked or put down.

Constructive criticism seeks to help build up ideas rather than tear them down.

For instance if your child is working on an idea for a tele-porter that takes people to the moon, rather then immediately saying the idea is stupid or absurd, you could instead ask how people will breath once they get to the moon…or if they might be able to use virtual reality to visit the moon so they wouldn’t have to deal with  the difficulty of space travel…just offering ideas or other ways to look at a problem will help kids develop their own ability to think through big problems.

 

We hope you found this article helpful and will work on encouraging your kids to grow and explore new ideas.

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