Sam Asano's Let's Invent: Encourage younger inventors
THIS IS an imaginary replay of a conversation in a middle school as the student was nearing graduation.
Teacher: “Well, I have not been happy with your grades. You seem to be bright and often demonstrate excellent intellectual drive, but quite puzzlingly you fail to achieve good grades. You don’t seem to apply yourself. Your path to a leadership school wouldn’t be what I recommend. My suggestion is for you to apply to a trade school and learn the skill of draftsman. That way, you could always support your family if you apply yourself.”
The student: ….silent…..
Guess who that student was? The kid wasn’t an ordinary kid. He was Albert Einstein. Despite this teacher’s discouraging remarks, he didn’t suffer much in coming up with the theory of relativity, which established the basic mathematical principle of the universe.
However, I am not interested in discussing men like him, whose intellectual power and insight was world class. Instead, I want to talk about our children. Einstein rose to his great mathematical discovery despite the teacher’s discouragement. However, he was an exception, and not an average person, although the teacher didn’t know it.
I received this email from a reader named Rick Winling from Maine. I print his email as it is below:“Hello Mr. Asano,
Thanks so much for writing and sharing your wisdom. I am from NH, now living in Maine, and just stumbled across your article on invention types (a step at a time, eureka!, and fantasy land-the paraphrasing is mine in order to explain the article to my daughter and son, who are 10 and 7 respectively).
So sorry for such a general and open-ended question, but how in your view can parents stimulate the creativity and innate curiosity in children in a world where the x-box or TV content is just as much a part of reality as a tree outside?
I have two little budding inventors whom I fear might become content to sit back and watch the world rather than impact it...we have tried explaining to them that but how in your view can parents stimulate the creativity and innate curiosity in children in a world where the x-box or TV content is just as much a part of reality as a tree outside?
I have two little budding inventors whom I fear might become content to sit back and watch the world rather than impact it...we have tried explaining to them that electronics must be used in balance with exercise, etc., but the “balance” tends to escape us as working parents. Any general philosophies or specific strategies?
Again, thanks for writing...the article alone was fodder for a very nice discussion about the incredible minds of inventors!
Here is my reply to Rick (I have edited some and added some lines to my original text):
One most important practice the parents must do is never to be a naysayer. This goes for both husband and wife. What I mean by naysayer is to express discouragement by words (…it won’t work, it’s a waste of time, it’s been tried before, why aren’t you doing homework now? etc., etc. … ), as well as even using a faint facial expression of your disapproval, disdain and other ambivalence. In this regard, parents must be extremely careful not to make any verbal statement or physical gesture, or both, implying that either parent doesn’t like the idea, thinks it’s unimportant or a waste of time. Even a statement such as “I am busy. Talk to me later,” would not be good.
Parents, just listen to me.
When your kid(s) says he/she wants to work on an invention to solve a problem he/she sees, that is one of the best things that could happen.Whether his/her idea iswrong, too idealistic or too complicated to achieve, it doesn’t matter. Cherish the moment and secretly rejoice!!!
Why, you ask? Why can’t we discourage him/her because the idea is silly or won’t work? The reason why you must not discourage him/her is that: The kid is taking a chance. That is the fundamental quality of being an inventor. As parents, you have to help the kid get accustomed to take risks. He or she might fail. He or she may succeed only half way, but the lesson they learn in the process is invaluable. They will always remember the experience through their life.
Now, if you think his/her idea is silly or impractical, and express your negative opinion in words, facial expression or just silence, the kid finds out that the idea wasn’t approved. That disappointment and feeling of rejection go a long way to steer his/her future career away from risk-taking and invention as well as innovation.
Parents, do not destroy the buds by stepping on them. They may grow to be a magnificent tree. On the other hand, a kid whose parents have been naysayers, would turn out to be the second generation naysayer to his/her children. This negative process repeats itself. Sadly.
Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle, who speaks and writes English as a second language, was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who’s improved our life. He is a businessman and inventor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems and is credited as the original inventor of the portable fax machine. He developed a data tablet used in the retail point of sale to capture customer signatures when credit cards are used. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.