Necessity is the mother of invention.
Paint rollers, insulin, butter tarts and life jackets. These are all Canadian inventions and the main theme of Governor David Johnston’s and entrepreneur Tom Jenkins' new book called Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier and Happier.
"We want that eight-year-old girl in Regina, who is thinking about starting a company, to be inspired by hearing a story of a similar young woman in New Brunswick doing something phenomenal,” Mr. Jenkins said.
According to Johnston, over 100 lesson plans have been created by educators for use in the classroom all across the country. The obvious goal is to inspire entrepreneurship among impressionable students.
This is an outstanding idea, but we must be very careful how we approach this topic. Entrepreneurship can be one of the most exhilarating, self-satisfying careers around. Setting your own goals, hours and salary can be extremely enticing.
The challenge is that for every successful life jacket, there are plenty (and I mean a number of MEGA ) of failures. Spend some time in silicon valley and you’ll quickly see that great ideas do not always end up in success stories. People face bankruptcy, mental health issues and straight-up fatigue when they’re chasing down dreams. As one notable entrepreneur said “It’s about the hustle.”
Children are born innovators. They’re naturally altruistic, they revel in helping solve problems and if you ever watched a kid build a fort - they’re ingenious. Teaching kids to be innovators is redundant. They already process the skill set. It’s raw and not entirely efficient, but given enough time and space any kid can innovate.
Instead of teaching them innovation, we should focus on building up the core competencies of any successful entrepreneur: grit, tenacity, commitment, communication. These are common themes among the most successful innovators (see Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, Chris Sacca for more information).
By far the most important skill for future innovators is teach them to look for interesting problems to solve. Much of our success as an innovative nation comes from necessity. The life jacket, insulin and dump trucks are just a few examples. Instead of providing materials to a kid and tell them to invent something, push them up against and real world problem and step back.