If You are Going to Fail - Fail Fast!
By Wallace Huey
I remember when I was a young man and had hang gliding as my hobby, I wanted to create a different kind of hang-glider. For months I sketched different designs and was completely infatuated with the notion of making a breakthrough in the design of hang gliders.
I collected all the hundreds of different designs in a file that grew ever thicker. Did I act on any of these ideas? No - they were just ideas, creative ideas but no action.
As a result I spent many months developing this notion of creating a breakthrough in hang glider design and learnt nothing of any real value. The whole process was purely theoretical.
You see we live in the real world for a reason. Of course thinking, especially creative thinking, is helpful. But it must be developed into action for learning, and therefore real value, to develop from our ideas. I am going to call this juxtaposition of creative thinking and action, creative action, as this captures the essentially grounded nature of the process.
Engaging in creative action over creative thinking keeps us in touch with reality. It helps us to be on a path of quick and repeated failure and an example of the 'fail fast' process now so beloved of leading edge companies. For creative action that leads to fast and frequent failure generates many opportunities for learning and that learning is what generates real progress and eventual success.
This can be illustrated in the life of my friend who used to be a car mechanic. As someone who was a mechanic in the old school of fixing cars (he actually repaired things and not just automatically fitted a new part) he had a lifetime's experience of thinking and doing at the same time. You might say he was an archetypal Mr Creative Action and one of his favorite sayings was, "There shouldn't be a difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is!"
I quote Mike because his quip is both funny and instructive. Unfortunately in our education system there is an over-emphasis on learning by thinking, as distinct from learning by thinking/doing. Even today we still have serried ranks of students sitting scribbling notes from listening to lectures. This kind of learning, I would maintain, in many instances no longer serves us. We need to come down from the clouds and have our feet on the ground in our education services.
Our company, Trans4mind, is based in a Technology Center for high potential small businesses on a college campus. This is a wonderful place for learning, because we have both the theoretical learning environment provided by the college's business and computing schools and the hands on practical work that we do as companies. In our own case we are beginning to work more and more closely with the Business School as a vehicle for testing out our ideas in a practical way. This relationship works two ways, because the Business School recently ran a project with our own business in the Technology Center where marketing students in the college created a social media strategy for Trans4mind. This meant they were working on real life problems with real life business people.
For me this points the way forward. Now we need to drive this thinking/doing learning approach into the primary and secondary levels of education. The major block here seems to be the established methods of teaching coupled to the exam system and the need to assess the performance of individual students.
However I am convinced with a bit of creative action, coupled with failing fast, within our education establishments, this problem could be easily overcome. Then we would have an education service fit for the 21st century.
In 2000, after a profound spiritual awakening, Wallace wrote his book, Unfold Your Wings and Watch Life Take Off, a poetic manual that takes the hand of the reader and gently guides them toward a powerful realization of inner guidance.