Problem-identifiers, not problem-solvers

October 2013

From Daniel Pink:

In a recent study, Pink said school superintendents rated problemsolving. “The premium has moved from problem solving to problem finding as a skill,” Pink said. “Right now, especially in the commercial world, if I know exactly what my problem is, I can find the solution to my own problem. I don’t need someone to help me. Where I need help is when I don’t know what my problem is or when I’m wrong about what my problem is. Problem solving is an analytical, deductive kind of skill. The phrase ‘problem finding’ comes out of research on artists. It’s more of a conceptual kind of skill.” So how do educators help kids become problem-finders when they don’t know what the problem is or where the next one might be coming from? “A lot of people hate this word but I think we have to take it seriously, which is relevance,” Pink said. “There’s something to be said for connecting particular lessons to something in the real world.”

from Tony Wagner, from Creating Innovators

Quoting the Director of Corporate Applications at Pella: “Where innovation comes in is in figuring out the right problem to be solved, the right question to ask, and then figuring out a better way to solve the problem. You can’t just come up with a solution for today’s problem. Nothing stays the same.”

…applying “design thinking” [there are very specific “design thinking protocols”] to a range of social problems. [not just “critical thinking, but “design thinking”]

Wagner, commenting on Ed Carryer’s class at Stanford. Ed is the Director of the Smart Product Design Laboratory in the Design Division of Mechanical Engineering:

“Most conventional high school and college academic courses share three fundamental cultural traits that are radically at odds with the culture in Ed’s classes…. First, they reward individual competition and achievement versus Ed’s focus on teamwork; second, traditional academic classes are organized to communicate and test very specific subject content expertise versus the problem-based, multidisciplinary approach in Ed’s classes; third, conventional classes rely heavily on extrinsic incentives—grades and GPA—unlike Ed’s, which rely more on the intrinsic incentives of exploration, empowerment, and play—or what Ed calls whimsy.” (p. 57)

traditional Ed’s class
reward individual competition and achievement, focus on teamwork
organized to communicate and test very specific subject content expertise problem-based, multidisciplinary approach
rely heavily on extrinsic incentives—grades and GPA rely more on the intrinsic incentives of exploration, empowerment, and play—or what Ed calls whimsy.”
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