Tag Archive: creative problem solving

Leadership Skills

Continuing with our previous discussion on leadership, we talked about ‘command and collaborate’ style of leadership. Though these are contradictory terms, but today’s leader has the skill to be flexible and adapt to the situation to achieve the common goal of the group/followers.

The most important in the list of leadership skills is knowing that there is no leader without followers. Thus remember the followers and the reason why they chose to follow you–was it your charisma? or the commonality between your and their goal? or your leadership style? Remembering your followers will help you be an adept leader.leadership skills

The goal–What was the goal which you set out to achieve? The vision that you built–be it as a student, as a competitor, as a parent, as an employee or as an employer–you should be working towards your goal achievement. While it may also happen that once you’ve achieved a particular goal, your role as a leader diminishes or importance reduces, thus you have to create new common goals as well as keep yourself and others motivated.

The way to achievement. Your actions as a leader set an example for your current and future followers. As they say, the journey is as important as the destination, similarly, the manner in which you achieve your goal is as important as the goal itself.

Become an aware leader. Not everyone can become a successful leader. Good leadership skills include the fact that a leader doesn’t always makes the right choice or decision; but leadership skills include capability to identify and accept whether it was the right or wrong decision for the achievement of the goal.

 

 

Music, Brain Development & Personality

In the first few years of life, each child’s brain develops complex network of brain structures and schemas that lay the foundation of more mature processes such as emotional development, facilitate decision making and shape the persona. Experiences of children during preadolescence and adolescence greatly impact their later lives,  affected by the architecture of their brains. This also impacts their future learning skills and capacities.

According to a major research by Janet DiPietro (2000), during the years between 9-13, a child’s brain starts a process during which it eliminates unnecessary neural connections and schemas and starts focussing on the maintenance of the associations that it uses. These associations are made very rapidly based on the child’s environment and even small stimuli that a child comes in contact with.Music and Personality development

The importance of music and its role in a child’s brain development and personality development is an important debate in education psychology today. Music is universal and cross-cultural studies show that all children who are given exposuree to music have faster brain development with stronger neural connection and better emotional development. Brain reacts to music to de-stress thus leading to better stress management capabilities and reduces cases of depression and anxiety. Music therapy is an upcoming concept becoming more and more popular and successful in helping children cope with stress and anxiety.

Music and language have always been used as modes of expression. There is music to express any kind of emotion and feelings. Music has the capability to encourage creativity and intellectual development of a child.

Music also activates the right hemisphere of the brain, thus impacting right side processes such as creativity, artistic expression, musical intelligence, intuition, expression of emotions, reading/recognizing other’s emotions, recognizing faces and color etc. Thus, it becomes imperative to add music to children’s routine activities and life, stimulating their brains and intellectual development.

At Smart Shrubs, music, dramatics and aesthetics module focuses on training participants make use of music and aesthetics to cope with stress, stimulate creativity and make it a part of their routine perception, thus shaping their personalities and decision making capabilities.

 

Culture and Child Development

Culture is most commonly defined as set of ideas, behaviours, values, beliefs, traditions and attitudes that exist and are followed by large group of people usually living in a similar society, in a given time frame and coming in contact with similar circumstances. ‘ Cultural Values’ as we refer to it are usually passed on from generation to generation. They become the typical means in which we give upbringing to our children.

Any society undergoes a cultural shift from time to time, specially with changes in technology and mobilisation of parents. For example, you may have noticed that parents who have moved out of the country because of their jobs or have chosen to immigrate, their children usually follow the cultural norms of the adopted country/city but at home they are taught the same values as their parents have been. With internet being accessible, smart phones, play stations etc. one can notice that the playing behaviour of children has changed over time and just over one generation; and because of the exposure, children are ‘growing up faster’, and by that I mean they are becoming more mature in some ways and losing out on learning on others. Thus culture and child development are closely related.Culture

Cultural bearings also have an important effect on the communication skills and communication patterns of children. By this, we don’t only refer to the language they speak, but also the non verbal language and the nuances and acceptable and unacceptable behaviours and words. The intrinsic attitude that is imbibed during communication with others is loaded with the culture the speaker has learnt. The interpretation by the receiver is also unconsciously affected by the cultural background. Thus there will always be some loss of message unless we form strict rules or become part of the same organization and learn the new ‘sub-culture’.

It becomes important to have preadolescents and adolescents become aware about how culture affects their self concept. There is an important link between self and culture. It plays an important role in formation of self identity and attributes. Children are born with no culture at all. It is when they come in contact with the social surroundings as they grow up, they learn to define their world, and thus culture and place themselves in this world, forming their self concept and identity.

Culture comprises of a lot of symbols–like language, traditions etc. Culture, its meaning and understanding–the immediate environment, the geographical and then the concepts that are taken as universal are pivotal and affect development of emotions, behaviour patterns, thought patterns, decision making capabilities leadership skills and  long term visions and trajectories as well as self esteem and formation of self.

At Smart Shrubs, we understand how important this is in a child’s development. Thus we focus on the overall theme of culture and help our participants understand the essence and fundamentals so that their mind becomes free of the shackles and they reach a stage of self development from where they can make fair choices.

Feedback To Do’s

We all must have talked about the word ‘feedback’ sometime or the other–be it feedback to our bosses, our subordinates or our relatives–even our kids. But more often than not, it goes wrong or we fail miserably in doing so. Why? The journey of feedback is more important than the end result.

Imagine yourself in a situation wherein you know that something is not right (please pay attention to the words..’something is not right’ & not ‘something is wrong’). Its something you want to talk about, discuss, maybe you perceive it as a problem which needs a solution. But the ‘frustrating’ part is that the other has a completely different outlook. But until you talk about it, you will end up in a vicious circle of thinking and then over thinking about it–but with no solution thus making it a never ending process.

One might feel that its easier to say and advise than be in a situation. Lets take a common situation that parents come across “My kid doesn’t take up any responsibility”. Isn’t it ironic? On one hand you are calling your child a ‘kid’ and on the other you also expect them tFeedbacko take ‘responsibility’. Here, we need to define, what responsibility? Are you expecting your older child to take the responsibility of your younger child? If yes, then that would reflect that you trust their thinking and decision making capacities. If yes, then when you are defining their schedules, asking them to join certain courses, defining their time limits etc. etc. etc. why not include them?

Children have the most amazing thinking capacities. They come up with better solutions than you can imagine! The reason being that their experiences are wider and more open contrary to thought that ‘they don’t know what life is’. The fact that they don’t know much is their strength. They don’t get confounded by the cultural what to do’s and open up their minds to imaginations beyond what is constricting you. Here are a few ‘feedback to do’s’ …

  • Its best to keep the communication channels open with your children. Feedback is a two way communication. If you want to give feedback, then learn & ask to feedback from your children as well.
  • Its best to trust them so that they can trust you.
  • Its best to make them smart but not at the cost of their innocence, imagination or creativity.
  • Let them participate in their own lives. So next time you are building their schedule, please ask them to do it and extend your helping hand instead of telling them.
  • Use certain words like ” I want to discuss something with you” or ” I need your suggestion”; and then participate.
  • Build some communication rules such as neither you nor you children will use gadgets such as phones or ”whatapp” while discussing something with you. Children will leave their phones, but remember YOU also have to leave them for the ten minutes you are spending with them for a good quality discussion.
  • Let them explore and explore with them.
  • Don’t punish yourself or feel guilty. You are as old a parent as your child is. So you are learning along with them. They are born in different times than you so their environment is different. And the different environment is being provided by you only! So learn and grow with them.

The environment that children grow up in greatly affects their personalities. Parents always give it their best. So add one more thing to your ‘to do list’–Open up to share the experiences of your children.

 

 

 

Education, Creativity & Personality Development

_DSC0285 (1)I was just watching a Ted Talk by Seth Godin how on schools have been following the decades of training procedures. It is interesting to note that he starts with a simple pleasantry “Good Morning”–something that children all over the world are taught by teachers and trainers alike in all schools–be it a public school, a private institution or a government funded NGO run initiative. While there is nothing wrong in exchanging a simple “good morning”; what Godin very subtly pointed out was that the training and conditioning to follow a structure and a methodology starts right from beginning.

He uses the analogy “industry products” –children across are being taught what different industries expect them to know and learn when they go on to make their careers and take up jobs. They are given an incentive called “salary”, which keeps them motivated enough to follow the instruction. Yet, at the same time, there is also an expectation to do something different and stand out from the crowd. But how do we expect our children to do both? Aren’t we confusing them?  Aren’t we killing their creativity?

No doubt that the most important years of education are the school years. We entrust in schools that they will provide the best of education to our children, make them creative and finally aid in personality development by equipping them with Life skills. These life skills and personality will finally help them achieve and be successful in their professional and personal lives.

At the same time, the very same schools are not providing their students a platform to grow and learn. How much of openness to experience are they taught? How self aware are the students? Aren’t most of the students following a trend instead of setting one? Do they have a will-to-meaning?

Teachers have a very important role to play in student’s personality. They are becoming more aware and realizing that instead of being trainers, they need to become coaches and facilitators. They have to coach students into becoming life long learners, who are not the industry kids but give way to their creativity. Students should be given an opportunity to build something interesting. A great performance in school or grades does not necessarily lead to success and happiness. It is the association with something interesting.

As Godin puts it, children should be coached to connect and not collect. It is this collaboration, connection, interest that will shape their personality into becoming happier and successful.

 

The Little Scientists : Personality Development

Personality Development “Children think differently than adults”–its a famous quote by Jean Piaget, who mostly influenced the modern thought in cognitive and developmental psychology.

According to Piaget, children go through four key process or changes which spans into adulthood and greatly shapes their cognitive thoughts and thus helps in personality development. Children actively explore the world and environment around them. Therefore, they are little scientists on a voyage of observation and assimilation.

The Sensorimotor stage (from infancy to 2 years): The environment is explored and knowledge is gained by infants through their sensory experiences and manipulation of objects around them.

The Preoperational stage ( from 2 years to 7 years):  At this stage, children learn through ‘free play’. They are aware of the rules of the game but struggle with logical explanations for changing rules and being open to the idea that others can have a different point of view or different opinions

The Concrete Operational stage (from 7 years to 11 years): At this stage, continuing from the previous stage, children find it difficult to change the rules and methodologies. But at the same time, they begin to understand that there are different logical explanations to same experience. The understanding of the abstract and hypothetical starts.

The Formal Operational stage (from adolescence to adulthood): Logic is assimilated and given as an explanation to events and experiences. Children begin to understand the hypothetical and gain the abilities to understand deductive reasonings understanding of abstracts ideas.

Children also acquire important adaptive and cognitive concepts such as schemas, assimilation, accommodation. 

Schemas refer to categories that children form of knowledge and information that help them interpret the environment, objects, people and events. It includes both category of knowledge and process of acquisition of knowledge.

Assimilation is a process taking or adding new information to the set schemas. It is subjective in nature because children modify the information or experience to fit in the already existing schemas.

Accommodation is the process in which children modify or alter the existing schemas because they have received some new/very different information which does not fit any existing schemas.

Equilibration –all children aim to acquire a balance between the process of assimilation and accommodation.

Equilibration is an important concept since children want to strike a balance between using existing knowledge, acquiring new knowledge and forming new schemas. It is the state of equilibration that helps them move from one stage to another.

All children go through these stages naturally. But when given the right training and exposure to right concepts, the schemas they form are more facilitative and broader in quality. This helps enhance their problem solving skills, becoming more creative as well as attaining a higher understanding of logic.

Parents play an important role in this process. A facilitative environment by parents is a must in appropriate acquisition of these stages.

Leadership

When asked to define Leadership, Peter Drucker famously said, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things”. The most successful leaders have a vision and an insight into the needs of the environment. But what is the right recipe of a successful leader? None. Every child has a unique personality that gives an ability to perceive the environment from a certain vantage point. When we can develop is the self awareness, social awareness and how to make effective use of communication and personality capabilities.

There are many different leadership styles. Each style will be most appropriate for different audiences, followers and situations. The goal is the most important for an effective leader. To achieve the goal successfully, it is as important that the trajectory for the achievement of growth path is right.LEadership

Most recently, researchers have pointed out that while at one end of the spectrum lies having complete authority and control over people and situation, the other end signifies too much of freedom to followers (which often leads to chaos). There needs to be a balance on this spectrum and what is known as command and collaborate style of leadership. Command and collaborate are contradictory terms,  but each leader today needs to engage in both. According to the situation, there must be a flexibility to either become a hard wired, authoritative leader who resolves the problem and presents the solution, collaboration would entail brain storming and being a good listener to reach the most creative solution to any problem and taking the final decision.

Leaders must be consistent with their espoused values and visible traits. Successful leaders need to have a balance EQ, SQ and IQ. A good leader would work on his/her strengths and accept weak points, so that the followers or the group fill the gaps.

Leadership can be learnt and trained. A good leadership is not only needed during corporate situation, but every day life. Communication, collaboration, persistence, commitment, self awareness and motivation are some of the leadership traits that, when acquired at the right age, lead to a more effective leadership personality.

Communication-Transaction Analysis

The model of Transaction Analysis was first given by Eric Berne–a theory for analyzing the interaction between human behavior and communication. While many would believe that its most important implication lies in professional life, but nevertheless, pre-adolescents and -adolescents already show a preference to one kind or way of communication over another.

The assumptions behind the model are:

  • Everyone is both OK
  • Each person should be accepted as they are
  • People take responsibility of self
  • People modify their behavior to seek physical and emotional nurturing from others

According to the PAC model, based on the childhood experiences and role models, personality can have three ego states (ego states are one of the sources of behavior):

  • Parent Ego state (Nurturing Parent Ego State & Critical Parent Ego State)
  • Adult Ego State (Objective, Ethical in character)
  • Child Ego State ( Free Child/Natural Child Ego state & Adaptive Ego State)

Transaction Analysis takes into account the interaction between different ego states in people. There can be multiple ways or types of interactions that determine the behavior.

It is not only verbal, but non verbal or body language (known as ‘strokes’) also that form a part of interaction or communication.

An individual always works from different ego states in a lifespan or in different situations. Being aware about ego states. both of one’s own as well as others, helps determines the relevant mode of ego state communication/interaction to attain the final purpose of communication.

Creativity

journey so far copyRobert J. Sternberg, a cognitive psychologist, defined creativity as “…the process of producing something that is both original and worthwhile.” Creativity is a built-in perspective of approaching problems and situations in a novel way. This novelty is not abstract but applicable to solving problems. Thus, creativity is an important aspect of problem solving skills.

While in a group, the goal might be same, but creativity involves reaching the goal in most efficient and different manner. For example, all students may be required to write an essay on same topic, but they may have different approach to do their research work about the topic, like different points, elaborate on different areas and finally each one will write a different essay. But the student who will write a concise, concrete essay with most relevant information will be awarded the maximum marks.

Creativity can be developed.  It is a concept, a habit, a perspective that can be learned. Unlike the common belief that creativity lies in the abstract, it involves a detailed methodology behind any behavior. One needs to be thorough with the problem at hand, well researched, as well as work towards becoming an expert. An expertise is essential since it gives one all the relevant information required in order to reach the most efficient solution in least time.

Appropriate levels of risk taking behavior is also a part of creativity. This is what is referred to “thinking out of the box”. Taking the minimalist risk of moving out of the comfort zone and thinking innovative enhances creativity. Of course, one may not always be correct, therefore, chances of learning from past mistakes/failures should be given and leveraged upon.

Training oneself in creativity is one of the best means to develop it. Engaging regularly in creative decisions, projects, assignments, approaches (even it means a trial and error method) helps build confidence in oneself and enhances creative skills.

Most importantly, it is of utmost importance to think positively and approach situations, people and problems with an optimistic approach. Focusing on giving oneself a chance/opportunity to be creative helps is more efficient decisions and negative moods hamper creative thinking. Therefore, being in positive/good mood is the key ingredient of creativity.