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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Today we use solving the “education system” problem as an example of how changing the question can lead to different solutions. When questions are too abstract, we get very low quality solutions.

We are in the “Ask” portion of the FAST Innovation Model (Focus, Ask, Shift, Test)

Be sure to watch the previous videos!


In the last video, I talked about the Goldilocks Principle and how we sometimes ask questions that are too abstract.

Today, I want to give you another example of that. Some work was being done in the U.K. by a non-profit to improve the education system. Think about that for a moment. The education system. Education systems and the Goldilocks principle, obviously it is too abstract. There is too many moving parts. Education system is teachers, teachers’ pay, curriculum, classroom size, infrastructure, nutrition, busing, technology. The list goes on and on. Trying to solve the education system problem is way too complex.

So instead, when looking at the problem, what they realized is maybe first of all, we don’t want to talk about the education system because that’s the process; it’s the means to an end. The end is a child’s learning. How do we improve the way a child learns?

Now, think about the question. Education system or a child’s learning. Fundamentally different questions, which are going to lead to fundamentally different solutions…

They took it a step further. What they did was they asked the question, “What is the one thing that has the greatest impact on a child’s learning?” If we want to improve a child’s learning, there must be one thing that’s scientifically proven to have the greatest impact. The answer is parental involvement, positive parental involvement. Not helicopter parenting as some people do, but actually engaging in a positive way in the child’s learning is the great means of getting a child engaged in learning.

When they ran a challenge to find how do we get positive parental involvement to get a child to learn, they found a solution in Bogota, Colombia where they have 100% parental involvement. It’s a fascinating solution. They would have never gotten to that solution had they looked at education system by changing the question to positive parental involvement, they got a very different solution very quickly.

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