When Ken Robinson talks about “being in your element” for me he is talking exactly about the same thing as Joi Ito does when he refers to his friends, the people volunteering in networks such as Global Voices, Mozilla, Creative Commons, Wikipedia, Ubuntu, people involved in the revolutions all over the world to build something new and sustainable from the bottom-up. I would say these people are in their element. They love what they do, they do it well and their work ignites their passions. Since I do know quite a few of them, I know that this sense of commitment gives their lives direction and purpose. They have indeed found their element, the sweet spot in their life where the things they love to do and the things they are good at come together.
In other words they proof the “element-theory” in practice. This might not be rocket science, but it’s something completely human and – as a matter of fact – something very natural. And what it also proves is that when many people in their element come together they create an environment, a culture, in which new things can flourish and emerge. In such cases we are NOT talking about re-inventing an old system or reforming it – these cases represent totally new structures ready to face the challenges of the 21st century. They also show that growth doesn’t only mean growth calibrated in economic terms, by numbers, by ROI. Growth in these cases has a much broader basis – and that broader basis is society. Their endeavors help society to grow as a whole and help improve all our lives: in education, in government, in media, in politics, in enterprise.
I think it’s important that we connect these things and that Ken Robinson and Joi Ito connect and set new, concrete examples. Examples which others can follow. They do indeed have the capacity to do so … It’s about bringing two worlds together – the traditional teacher crowd and politicians (Ken Robinson’s crowd) and what I call the true believers (Joi’s crowd). Tie these connections and create something even better …
The entire set-up, the format of the talks, the “celebraties” was very TED-like – but not a bad copy at all! Ciudad de las ideas focuses on the same ideas as TED – but they distinguish themselves by including the youth and keeping the prices affordable (about 1200 Euro for 3 days, best category and 500 Euros for the way-up balcony seats)! It was very good to see so many students around! Made it very lively and refreshing!
Most of the participants came from Mexico, only a few Americans and hardly any Europeans.
My major takeaway from the festival – besides great conversations and the excellent food in Puebla – was the staturday morning debate on “Religion and God” – not because of the topic but the way it was presented. Very vital and agile format (in short: 3 vs. 3, giving statement first and then in a second round argueing against each other … then commented by a “neutral” person) … I really hope they will upload the video soon.
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. It celebrates the diversity of intelligence, the power of imagination and creativity, and the importance of commitment to our own capabilities. In a humorous way Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the element and those that stifle that possibility. He shows that age and occupation are no barrier, and that once we have found our path we can help others to do so as well. 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.
I’ve had the chance to talk to Sir Ken at the The Aspen Ideas Festival. Here are the “snippets” packed in a youtube player:
Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. It’s a message with deep resonance.