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Frederik linked to this short video of Sir Ken Robinson. It’s not a new talk but a section of his session at the RSA about changing education paradigms. Specifically the bit in which he talks about divergent thinking (it’s not brilliantly shot but it gets the point across and you can also watch a longer RSA animate of the talk).

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Seeing this powerful reminder of the dominance of convergent thinking (the kind of thinking that believes there is only one answer to a problem) in not just education but also in the world of work made me wonder whether in tough economic times, this imbalance within companies gets worse. My hunch would be that as pressure intensifies on reaching short-term targets, the desire for certainty and efficiency increases, leading to a propensity to favour singular solutions that often lead to incremental gain. Making decisions is no bad thing, but this leaves little room for the kind of continuous cycle of divergent and convergent thinking (or creating and making choices) of the kind that Tom Hulme of IDEO talked about at Google Firestarters, and which inevitably creates greater opportunity for real creativity.

This reminded me about that well-linked-to but exceptional Forbes piece late last year by Steve Denning, writing about the ideas contained in Roger Martin’s book Fixing The Game. The article, and the book, talk about why maximising shareholder value is (in the words of Jack Welch) “the dumbest idea in the world”. Not just because it encourages the worst kind of short-termism, but because CEOs and senior management are hugely incentivised to focus most of their attention on the expectations market (the market in which investors assess the activities of a company today and form expectations as to how the company is likely to perform in the future, which in turn shapes the stock price of the company) rather than the real market (“the world in which factories are built, products are designed and produced, real products and services are bought and sold, revenues are earned, expenses are paid, and real dollars of profit show up on the bottom line”).

It’s a compelling example of misplaced value. The kind that can lead us to focus on the wrong targets, the wrong measures, the wrong things. The worst thing is that such imbalances can have huge consequences in both education and the workplace.

HT to Tom for the Forbes link

Image by: TomWilson

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