Eunice Likoko’s Debate Article

Robinson Ken(2010)

Book Review: Out of our minds by Robinson Ken(2010)

Introduction: The essence of the book

“Out of our minds” is an interesting read that speaks about imagination and creativity (pgs.

139-166) and its role in development and providing relevant solutions to the world problems

and specifically in leadership (pg.219). The author talks of the evolution of imagination and

creativity in a human being from childhood to adulthood. He argues that while most children

believe they are creative, most adults do not consider themselves creative. He therefore goes

ahead to elaborate on the character and attributes of education that different education systems

have; and the effect of this on the creativity of individuals as they grow older (pg.49).

In a nutshell his arguments stipulate that education systems are tailored to produce labor for

the existing economy and this puts individuals in a mold that destroys their creativity (pgs.49-

108). The aim of this book is to challenge the readers to realize their true creative potential.

Robinson ends the book by saying that, “It is often said that education and training are the

keys to the future. They are, but a key can be turned in two directions. Turn it one way and

you lock resources away, even from those it belong s to. Turn it the other way and you release

resources and give people to themselves. To realize our true creative potential…we must learn

to be creative.”

Book review-Out of Our minds by Ken Robinson

As we celebrate Robinson’s literary achievement, first I disagree with the idea of creativity

as a goal which we need to pursue and an as a necessary end to embrace. Thinking about

education as Robinson’s main example of things that kill creativity, we need to remember that

even education as a concept was itself a creative idea once that was embraced and celebrated.

However with time, we are able to see the ills of an education system as elaborated by the

author. Therefore, by having creativity as a goal we run the same risk in the future.

Secondly, I disagree with the author’s generalization of the ills of education. Both formal

and informal educations have had tremendous success acting as custodians of important

societal information. Education acts as a working medium of passing this information from

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one generation to another. Furthermore, many new ingenious inventions have been discovered

through the education system that the author criticizes in this book, “Often we are educated

out of creativity.” (pg.49). Overall, as much as I would not throw out all of the books content

as that would be ‘throwing out the baby with the birth water’, I would recommend the readers

to read this book with a critical mind as some of the arguments are not entirely accurate- or it

may be a case of seeing two sides of the same coin.

Debate article

Out of our minds is an out of the norm book. It is a paradigm shift. Reading the book, I get

the urgency and spirit of the writer. I can sum up the arguments presented in this book into

one phrase, “Everything must change!” Essentially the book challenges us to examine and

question the current education system in relation to its relevance to our day to day lives.

Dan Roam in his book, ‘The back of the Napkin’ (2009) explores the use of pictures to aid

the process of problem solving. Roam’s book, validates the idea of creative thinking which

Robinson’s book, ‘Out of our minds’ is advocating for. Roam brings back pictures into the

boardroom and makes the process of solving a problem visual and fun. “In two minutes,

you’ve captured your own idea, shown it to others and passed it along. That’s how visual

thinking works, and that’s how to solve problems and sell ideas with pictures.” Roam (2009,

pg256) I agree with the call to creativity as it appeals to more of our senses making us more

engaged in our work process. The assumption here is that this will translate into an effective

decision making process in which the decision makers own the process more.

One of the education related themes that Robinson explores is assessment. He argues that

the role of assessment is dichotomous in nature; a description of one’s performance and a

comparison of one’s performance. He also says that assessment plays three roles- diagnostic,

formative and summative (pg.277). The problem is that while assessment tests one’s ability to

recall knowledge, it fails to take the creative side into account. “The net effect is to increase

the emphasis on some forms of learning and to lower the status of others.” Robinson (2010).

From my experience drawing, doodling and coloring despite being enjoyable and relatively

easy to enjoy, is a kindergarten thing. The boardroom is a place to PowerPoint slides, and

projector screens to maintain a generally intellectual theme. This is a social construct that

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shows the accuracy of Robinson’s arguments.

Looking at the myriad of challenges facing the world today, the challenge is to use these

learning paradigms to find solutions for the world systems both at a local or international

level. The greater challenge is how to ensure every individual is personally involved in the

process of looking for solutions and implementing them in order to deal with things like

pollution on a day to day basis.

Recently, while working on a project management class project on seeking for solutions to

the problem of lack of housing in South Sudan, my group and I had to brainstorm on possible

sustainable solutions. Part of our challenge was to integrate the knowledge we have received

in our university education while maintaining a ‘free spirit’ that will allow us to dream of new

and probably non-conventional solutions. We read widely and sought advice from different

quarters. The surprising thing is that most books and advice we received encouraged us to

look up what has already been done and pick a most suitable option that would be relevant

in the South Sudan context. While I appreciate the value of learning from others to avoid

re-inventing the wheel, it is interesting to note that there was hardly any encouragement

to dream of new ideas and seek new crazy and exciting ideas like building sustainable tree

houses in South Sudan or living in a sustainable hot air balloon! A serious indication that

what Robinson refers to as ‘creative culture’ has been eroded as we grew up and experienced

formal education.

Therefore in the ‘Out of our Minds’ spirit , the questions we constantly need to engage with

are; How do we learn from others while creating room for and encouraging a culture of

creativity? How do we exit the proverbial box and maintain a culture of “thinking outside the

box”? How do we maintain an education system that is not restrictive but frees everyone to

engage in the creative mess that gives unlimited chances for individuals to try out new ideas

both in school and in the workplace? How?

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