How Innovation Engineering Inspires Us to Ask the Right Questions

Russell's Mind Map for homework
Russell’s Mind Map for homework

My son’s homework was to set 3 goals for this year & ask 3 questions. He insisted he could not think of any goals or questions. He said, “We’ll learn whatever the teacher wants to teach – why set goals?” I said, “You can influence how the teacher teaches with your goals and questions.” He didn’t seem interested.

So we drew a mind map, a technique we use in Innovation Engineering. He started with the word “school,” then added whatever words came to mind, and built out.

By the third & fourth level out, he was starting to say intriguing words. I asked him to put an orange mark beside his 3 favorite words in the map. He would use these words to write his 3 goals:

1) “I want to help teachers.” – generated from the words teacher > personality > nice
2) “I want to show creativity to my work.” – generated from drawing > daydream
3) “I’m going to learn new & interesting ways to learn.” – generated from drawing > entertainment

Next I asked him to put a green mark on 3 words that made him curious or made him wonder. He would use these words to write his 3 questions:

1) “What will we learn about in history?” – generated from learning > history
2) “How will I make a difference?” – generated from no specific words – but it came in a rush
3) “What do you eat for lunch?” – generated from lunch

When he wrote “How will I make a difference?” – it hit me like a ton of bricks. That’s the real question, isn’t it? That’s what kids want to know. And the fact that he didn’t even want to answer these questions when he started – that’s the fear of making mistakes or being shut down. It’s the fear of even having hope because it’s “safer” to just do what you are told.

I hope people ask the questions that matter. That’s why I do Innovation Engineering – to walk them down a path to the questions that matter, to put their fear in a box for a minute so they can be a full person.