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Sir Ken Robinson – Creativity Champion

Sir Ken Robinson died just recently.  Author of “All Our Futures”, a book that asked the Government to change its approach to education and perhaps most famous for his TED talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?“.

I was invited to lunch with Ken at Warwick University just around the turn of the century, long before he did his famous TED lecture.  He invited me thereafter spotting that I’d released my first book “Best Practice Creativity“.  In truth, I did not know much about him at that time, so of course, I did my research.  Ken had a working-class upbringing, suffered from Polio at the age of four, and consequently had a very hard time at school which he reflected upon in later life.  But he never seemed to let his condition hold him back from learning and enquiring.

We had a wonderful dialogue, not least because of our shared interest in creativity but also because of our backgrounds, Ken in theatre and drama, and mine in music as well as science.  We found much in common and some indifference in terms of our diverse experience and the findings that command and control teaching and management produces low levels of achievement and attainment.  He, from his experience in theatre and mine from my experience in teaching for the Open University MBA programme in Creativity, Innovation, and Change.   We also shared a lot on what might be called whole brain teaching and learning, finding ways to engage every student through cross-curricular teaching approaches.

Sometime later, I heard that Ken was somewhat disappointed that the report on creativity in education commissioned by the UK Government had been ignored in many respects.  I suspect that this was simply because he was too far ahead of his time.  He left the UK shortly after this.  I remember Ken saying many years later when we net in London, that the Americans listened to him better when he moved to the Getty Institute, perhaps because he was an eccentric Englishman.  I thought more about our conversation to this day when I included some reflections on our dialogue in the book “Leading Innovation, Creativity, and Enterprise”.

I hope that Ken’s messages will reach politicians now that we are having to re-think education for the information age.

The simple upload – download model of knowledge via examinations has been outmoded for many years and has come into sharp relief under the COVID crisis.  The simple absorption of knowledge is now less relevant than the ability to apply knowledge to solve problems and seek opportunities.

We need more people like Ken in the world to help us find better solutions to complex problems.

One of the great joys of our conversation was our shared love of music.  It seems fitting to end with Ken’s favourite song from his Desert Island Discs programme.

 

Peter Cook
Peter Cookhttp://www.academy-of-rock.co.uk/
PETER leads Human Dynamics, offering Business and Organisation Development. He also delivers keynotes around the world that blend business intelligence with parallel lessons from music via The Academy of Rock. Author of and contributor to twelve books on business leadership, acclaimed by Tom Peters, Professors Charles Handy, Adrian Furnham, and Harvey Goldsmith CBE. His blends his three passions are science, business, and music into unique inspiring keynotes based on the art of storytelling. His early life involved leading innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs including the first treatments for HIV/AIDS, Herpes and the development of Human Insulin. 18 years in academia teaching MBAs and 18 + years running his businesses. All his life since the age of four playing music. Peter won a prize for his work from Sir Richard Branson after his mother claimed he was a Virgin birth. He now writes for Virgin.com.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Peter — Like many, I mourn the loss of this compassionate, wise, and oh so humorous-when-it’s-needed person.

    But the good news is, educators don’t need to wait for your request to come true. “I hope that Ken’s messages will reach politicians.” Educators have much more freedom than they think they do to change their school’s operating system and beliefs. They don’t need to wait for politicians’ blessings because they’re unlikely to come. Many of us have written about schools needing to identify their singular purpose, their North Star, what they really want to work toward on behalf of their kids. And then they need to have the discipline to say “Yes” to certain activities and “No!” to others. And they need to have FUN doing it. It’s the only way to ensure Sir Kenneth’s legacy.

  2. Thanks very much, Peter.
    I’m a lifelong teacher and a lifelong musician. I also worked for some years in HIV/AIDS education and training. Small planet, eh?
    I published Learning Chaos: How Disorder Can Save Education in 2016, frustrated by how much our schools find creativity threatening. I work mainly with tall kids now (adults), and I ask them at the start of every session: “Let’s assume that creativity is the default setting for human beings. What barriers have we paced in the way and how can we demolish them?” Then it’s off to the races.
    I’d love to connect ([email protected]), have you show up on the back2different podcast (people from all over the world having conversations about pushing forward instead of pushing back) You can check it out at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1171136 Finally, I’d love to talk about music. Here’s a tidbit of what I do with that: https://chirb.it/PE2nD5
    Be well, and thanks again,
    Mac

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