Get on the roof!
[Blog post written by TomTod fan, Jean Paddock. Jean recently participated as a panelist at an Idea X Community Ideation Panel. Jean is currently employed by Aultman College as its Vice President of Academic Affairs. She additionally teaches chemistry and science both at Aultman and in the community. She and her husband Thomas reside in Bolivar, Ohio where they can be found with their puppy, Linus, when they’re not out adventuring!]
When I was in middle school, I was charged with dropping an egg out of a 2 or 3 story window and having it survive the fall as an intact egg. That was the assignment. No rules. No limits. Just figure it out. I don’t remember working out ideas or drawing up a plan. I remember being at home with an egg in some kind of cushioned container and attaching it to a parachute made out of a disposable plastic shopping bag. I remember knowing that I needed to drop it from a high distance to practice and not being sure how to do that. I remember my dad saying “Well, let’s get on the roof!”. No hesitation – just get on the roof. (And we did! It was awesome! Dad kept me safe, and that’s how I practiced my egg drop ideas.)
How many of us do that for curious kids? Do we tell them to get on the roof and facilitate their exploration OR do we make them pause? Do we tell them to rethink the beginning idea? How many of us encourage curious adults? How many of us challenge the norm in projects at work? Do we embrace new ideas or do we inadvertently squash a new approach or trial? Are we too afraid, bound by process, legal fears, regulations, and requirements? Or, do we just try it, make it work, and see what happens?
Today, I think we’ve become rule-bound and regulation-driven. It’s an easier approach to regulate and legislate to minimum standards that protect what we worry about. (There are some rules and regulations that are valid and necessary, but I think the pendulum has swung too far.) I believe that holding on so tightly to the minimum is partly responsible for leading us, as a nation, to lagging outcomes (economically, educationally, etc.). I would argue that dependence on rules and regulation doesn’t propel us toward long-term success. Long-term success is harder and more nebulous. It arises from creativity, encouraging and empowering new ideas, channeling them (in an ever increasing world of connectivity) to trial, and challenging the status quo for the greater good. Sometimes we see success and sometimes we see failure – both are equally valuable!
So what can I do? What can you do? I don’t know if the egg broke or not, but that’s not the point of the story. The point is that my dad encouraged and empowered me without hesitation. How am I an agent of encouragement and empowerment? How do I personally or through my interaction with others encourage ideation, empower a thoughtful idea, channel ideas and dreamers toward each other, and most importantly, help myself and others find a way? Let’s do it! See what happens! Learn and grow! Seek long-term success! Get on the roof!