Sir Ken Robinson – His concept of the ‘Element’

Well, since I have nothing better to do on Christmas Day, than be sick and spend it in my bed, I thought I would flip through some of Ken Robinson’s (website) videos to get inspiration for an article I’m working on. Ken Robinson is a leading British educationalist living in LA since a decade. He consults Fortune 500 companies, governments and educational institutions. In 1998, he led a national commission on creativity, education and the economy for the UK Government. ‘All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education’ (The Robinson Report, 1999).

The man has a wry, British humor; he is entertaining and has a special way of bringing his message across. I heard him first speak at TED, and was quite touched by this words. Let me try to summarize the things I found out about his ideas…

Many people (I dare to say ‘most’ people) leave their schools without having an idea about what their real creative abilities are. Ken starts with this paradox: most children believe they are highly creative , and most grown ups believe they are not. What happened in-between? His first book was about this problem:  Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative (Wiley/Capstone):

His second book is called The Elements – How finding your passion changes everything. 40 years of experience is compressed in this book. His core philosophy, I think, is this: “The element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels.“ Also… „The Element shows the vital need to enhance creativity and innovation by thinking differently about human resources and imagination. It is also an essential strategy for transforming education, business, and communities to meet the challenges of living and succeeding in the twenty-first century.“ (taken from Ken’s Website)

His understanding of human resources (great lecture at LA Public Library): It’s a dormant potential that lies somewhere deep inside. If you cannot create the right „conditions“, it will never be tapped. He correlates the environmental crisis with the impending human resources crisis – the roots of both crisis, he believes, go back to the same intellectual, cultural and social movement of the industrial revolution. The roots of our educational systems also go back to that period of time. Schools were ‚fordist’ models of production – children going in at one end and coming out of the other end ‚qualified’ for doing xyz. This linear assumption is today getting replaced by a more non-linear, organic evolution of individuals. While in the industrial age educational institutions fulfilled the ‚demand’ of the labour market, today, it’s more about individuals who can create new ‚potentials’ in the marketplace. There was no demand for the theory of relativity (or the ipad?).

On the one hand, he believes if people can connect themselves with their own talents, it changes his/her relationship with the environment. That involves a different approach to one’s life in general. On the other hand he speaks about the environment that can foster this connection between human beings and their inner creative centres. At this point, he speaks about the city (i was happy to hear him say this, as I’m looking for more support for my theory of ‚educational urbanism’. Cities as a whole can help to create this atmosphere that helps us to connect with our individual and maybe collective creative centres).

To sum up, here are a few positions of Ken:

1. Everybody is creative; creativity can be taught. 2. “Creativity is having regional ideas that have value(Ken’s definition of creativity!)”. 3. Create more balance between science and art subjects (students enjoy arts even if they are good in the sciences, or the other way round). 4. We need a diversity of talents (The Italian Renaissance was not built up with maths only) 5. Physical environments tell you ‘how’ you have to behave: change them so that people can see things differently, not do things the same way. 6. ‘Subject’ aren’t a very good idea. ‘chemistry’ is an interrelated set of relationships, concepts, modes of analysis, certain areas of exploration and focus…but it’s not a separate ‘subject’. (Probably he’s heading here for ‘project oriented’ lerning?) 7. Organisations are not functional machines, they are more like (breathing) organisms: with individuals that have values, motivations, aspirations (or lack of aspirations) and they are in relationships. They reciprocate with their environments – good organisations are those that help to enrich the environment they depend upon. 8. About educational ssessment: assessment is important, but applying a regime of standardization narrows down the scope of potentials of learning. Standardization can help to diagnose a situation, it cannot be the purpose of education. 9. …and finally we must find a way to ‘individualize’ our educational system (more to these points in later posts).

And this is what I’ll take into my Christmas musings:                                                   What are the conditions where human talent can flourish??

(The above mentioned points were taken from Sir Ken Robinson’s web site and the lecture he gave at the LA Public Library in 2010: ” A new view of human capacity)


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