On Being Prolific

From a long forgotten resource I just pulled up while getting ready for a meeting:

Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. In a study of 2,036 scientists throughout history, Dean Keith Simonton of the University of California at Davis found that the most respected scientists produced not only great works, but also many “bad” ones. They weren’t afraid to fail, or to produce mediocre in order to arrive at excellence.

In short, when pulling together ideas, go for quantity first.  Assessing for quality comes much later in the process. There are those in this network of mine whose productivity I marvel at, and whose quantity of great ideas and inspirational thoughts appear ceaseless.  In fact, I feel like people like Miguel, Angela, and Kevin should be given a stipend for the resources they’ve given me over the last year or so–so many times people have commented something along the lines of “where do you find all of this stuff?”  In actuality, it truly finds me.  That is due to two elements: the fact that I have opened my learning up to a network, and the fact that that network is as prolific as it is. 

I have been accused, most recently by my wife of coming up with bad ideas when we are looking for a solution.  I’ve been known to spew out near gibberish in brainstorming sessions, and I’ve wasted many a meeting figuring out several ways how not to solve a problem.  But I’m OK with all of that.  I am fine if you think I’m irrelevant at times, or slightly off-center.  Because sometimes, in all that randomness, I might just hit the mark.

The same can be said for what we are teaching our students to do now: here is all of the randomness, love the madness and embrace it, but be able to recognize that gem when it comes through.

Our networks are becoming our genius, depending on how well we set them up.  Countless ideas, some duplicate, and others unquestionably unique, stream to us through the various channels we select.  Edison’s ideas that never left the lab, our bad ideas that turn people’s heads in meetings, lessons that should have taken off but tanked–all of these serve the greater good.  We keep moving forward and we keep having that next idea.  Culture being what it is, and accountability being as high-stakes as it is, it still leaves us room to allow for failure.  Not horrible, career-ending failure, but reflective and constructive failure  in a culture that promotes risk-taking.  Is your classroom set up to encourage that?  Is your school set up to encourage that? Are YOU set up to encourage that?

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2 thoughts on “On Being Prolific

  1. My classroom is set up for that. In fact, I talk to students about why it worked or didn’t work, and learn from that. I am working on making the failures of students more of a new place to start in their learning. This is tough as in a high school, we are truly tied to content. Some of that content does not lend itself well to PBL. I still try. I really have nothing to lose and so much more to gain.

  2. Love the analogy. It has only been recently that we seem to be embracing failure in class and saying, “Ok. That didn’t work. What should we do instead?” And pulling the kids into the thinking sparks their ideas, too. I find it envigorating working this way.

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