Thursday, 11 February 2016

Learning - Its Child's Play

Playing With Gloop   (
As babies and children we are amazing - curiosity bootstraps our learning through play, exploration and experimentation.

We learn how to walk and talk before we can read an instruction manual. Can you imagine reading an instruction manual for how to walk .... put one foot in front of the other just doesn't match the true complexity of the reality we master.  Babies learn to walk through curiosity and trial and error exploration and experimentation. Robots reading the program in the instruction manual have all sorts of problems - so much so that new techniques with machine learning using "baby steps" of trial and error exploration and experimentation are proving more effective than programming.

One of our greatest scientists knew all about the power of curiosity and play. 

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious” ~ Albert Einstein
“Play is the highest form of research”  ~ Albert Einstein

Children Play Like Scientists Work - they try things out, experiment, test things, break things and inquire - just as if they are doing scientific research. Failure is not an option .... literally ...  "that didn't work ... lets try this instead" its not thought about in the adult way -its just something that happens - its all part of the fun - its an essential ingredient of play and learning.

"Any sufficiently advanced work is indistinguishable from play" ~ Seb Paquet

We see the stories about the workplaces and cultures of those creative and innovative companies with their beanbags, toys colourful surroundings and "move fast and break things" cultures. The relationship between playfulness and innovation is no co-incidence - try your own experiment - have a meeting in the standard corporate boardroom and then in a nursery. The corporate boardroom is designed for authority and formality ... the environment suppresses imagination .. the nursery is designed for play - it stimulates the imagination. 

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” ~ George Bernard Shaw

When people ask me about ways to promote creativity and innovation ... I always say "start with a nursery". Stimulating environments help stimulate the mind and help stimulate social interaction. Don't over design your nursery - an eclectic assortment of things helps to stimulate chance cross connections. As you can imagine Google has plenty of nurseries - usually very colourful and "arty"but one of the best I came across at the London Google HQ is what I called "The Nemo Room" - no doubt highly designed but it looked like someone had gone down the local junk shop and bought any old furniture and slung it all together. There was a plain chipboard bench, a Fools And Horses type cocktail bar and all sorts of armchairs - scuffed up and most with stuffing coming out. Its the sort of effect you can of course do your self by going down a real junk yard - the thing is - rathe than the sterile type of standard office furniture this promoted conversation and what I would call juxtapositional thinking.

The only thing we can't predict is the future - its unwritten ... its uncertain.

"Play is about exploring the possible. In times of rapid change, exploring the possible becomes an essential skill. We don’t have maps for the territory of tomorrow. As a result, all citizens must become explorers of this emerging world. The best way to prepare for the emergence of the future is to learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty. To be comfortable with uncertainty, one must remain fluid, receptive and creative — in a word: playful." ~ Tina Barseghian (The Power of Play in Learning)

A Curious Mind Knows No Limits - to learn just start playing  .. its only natural - we just have to create the conditions.

To live and learn - hit the play button!

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