Sir Ken Robinson Spreads Creativity, Innovation

GVL / Robert Mathews
Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element, speaks during the 2013 Community Reading Project conversation held inside the Field House.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element, speaks during the 2013 Community Reading Project conversation held inside the Field House.

Stephanie Allen

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The point where talent meets passion is what New York Times best-selling author and world-renowned leader in education and creativity development, Sir Ken Robinson, describes as “the element.”

It’s a place, which he discussed in his book, “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything,” where creativity thrives, proctoring happiness and personal growth. But as Robinson explained to several hundred Grand Valley State University students, faculty and community members yesterday, allowing creativity and innovation at an early age is an important part in finding one’s “element.”

“Part of my advice though is to parents, is to pay attention to your children and try to see them as individuals, and see what it is that draws their interest,” Robinson said. “Very often, people are pushed towards things their not much interested in.”

His presentation, “Leading a Culture of Innovation,” was part of the Frederick Meijer Lecture Series and GVSU’s yearlong Community Reading Project. During the 7 p.m. presentation, and a morning breakfast discussion held by the Seidman College of Business Alumni Association, Robinson emphasized that there are several issues within the current education model that restrict people from finding their passions.

“There are constraints in the system of education, which people have to labor under,” Robinson said. “One of them is, is that there is a very narrow view of intelligence that tends permeate education, the second is, is that there’s a great pressure from the standards movement to narrow the curriculum, so many areas where people may well find their passion, tend to be excluded from education, it’s increasingly becoming more and more narrow.”

Jeff Chamberlain, Frederick Meijer Honors College director, said Robinson was one of the best-fit speakers the lecture series could have, with an already established online presence with one of the most-viewed Ted Talks, ever. His presentations appeal to just about everyone, including business people, liberal educators, and students, Chamberlain said, which lets the whole GVSU community get involved in finding their creative passion.

“What I hope he does is, first of all, is reinforce what we’re trying to do, and that is to help every student, and ever person at the university find their place and their niche to free them up to be innovative and creative and to be prepared for the 21st Centutry that we’re going into,” Chamberlain said.

Robinson has consulted with governments around the world on economic and creativity developments, received numerous medals and awards in the U.S. and United Kingdom, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 for his assistances to the arts.

Although he never intended “the element” to be a series, his knowledge led him to write a sequel to the first book titled, “Finding Your Element: How to Discover Your Talents and Passions and Transform Your Life.”

“The first book was really meant to draw attention to something I think is very important,” Robinson said. “That, if you find things that you’re good at and that you love to do, your life is transformly. And that’s to every walk of life.”

The sequel, to be released May 21, gives people principles and practices to finding their “element.”

“The question people kept asking me over time was, ‘So, if I haven’t found my element, how do I do that?’” he said. “And I said, well just buy another copy of the book, you know to be funny, just kidding – buy it off your friend. But then I thought, I do know something about this and there are things I want to say about it, so 80,000 words later, here we are. And it became, in a way, a natural sequel to it.”

Robinson’s presentation should have given attendees a feeling of empowerment, and a freedom to try new things, Chamberlain said. He said people don’t learn hard data from Robinson’s discussions, but come away with the information needed to see and prepare for all the possibilities ahead.

Because finding an “element” can come from many different forms or processes, Robinson said.

“Sometimes finding your element is like that boy, who walked into the radio station, it’s a moment of awakening,” Robinson said. “It is an epiphany in that sense, there is a before and after moment. But it’s not always that way, sometimes it’s not love at first sight, like it often is with people, it’s falling in love overtime. It’s like realizing you’re actually in love with somebody you thought was just your best friend.”
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