What can I say? What follows is a very powerful observation about learning by my brilliant husband, Dave. Enjoy!
I remember when I was growing up, I had my fingers in everything. I couldn’t help myself. I always had to pick things up, and if I could, I’d take them apart. I remember my Mum pleading with me, “Look with your eyes and not with your fingers”. I was fortunate that I grew up with Lego, Meccano, the most amazing chemistry set, at least two soldering irons, etc. I built my own Scalextric cars, which were pretty good, but were never quite as fast as the best you could buy off the shelf, but that wasn’t the point.
I was also fortunate that I went to a “technical” school after passing the now infamous “11 plus” exam. The school had great labs and workshops, and I was further encouraged to think with my hands, but in a much less creative way. There was no crossover between the subjects. I even remember that “Art Metalwork” and “Engineering Metalwork” were taught by different staff in different workshops. At age 14 I wanted to study car maintenance (remember the Scalextric) … but it wasn’t an option for me as I was on the “academic track”. Slowly but surely I was encouraged to think less and less with my hands.
Now in my early 50s, I’m rediscovering how much fun it is to build stuff. There’s so much going on right now. I’m not sure who’s leading the charge, but the folks at IDEO have been enormously influential, as has Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk of 2006, which now has over 25 million views. Prototyping, playing and building are key concepts in the plethora of frameworks for innovation and creativity that are being published just now. It’s as if we’re coming out of the dark ages of creativity with a whole bunch of new tools to play with. It’s very exciting.
At a personal level, I have a Raspberry Pi that has opened up a whole new world of stuff to build. I once again own a soldering iron and I have more hand tools than will fit in their box. I’m making stuff again, and my brain is energized. At a professional level, I’m doing some really interesting work with IDEO’s Human Centered Design (HCD) toolkit, and I’m finding inspiration in the increasing interest in workplace innovation. As a society, I’m hoping that we’re entering a renaissance for thinking with your hands. Sorry Mum, I just can’t help myself.