Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Sir Ken Robinson speak at the University of Saskatchewan as part of the Gail Appel Lectureship in Literature and Fine Arts series. His talk was titled Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative which focused on how our educational system and businesses are structured in ways that suppress creativity and imagination. He is convinced that we are at the start of a revolution as we are starting to recognize these limitations we have placed on ourselves.
Robinson presented an interesting study that showed how 98% of 1,500 children between the ages of three and five scored at a genius level in regards creativity. With those same children that number dropped to around 40% only five years later. By the time they were over the age of fifteen, the number was a measly 2%. The reason for this as Robinson posed, was that the children had been educated in our system. They had been conditioned to believe that there is ever only one answer, or one way to solve a problem.
If children are being taught to solve problems this way then they are obviously taking this with them to the workplace. What we end up with is people who feel they have a job and not a career. They feel that they are limited in what they can do, and are expected to work a certain way – the normal way. That natural sense of creativity has been suppressed for so long that the idea of trying to readopt it is not even on the radar.
What we have to do as educators and business leaders is create an environment that fosters creativity and imagination. The good news is that this is starting to get recognized in many organizations, and is being addressed. I’m happy to say that Point2 has been taking on this battle for the last year or so. We understand that creative minds will not only make our company a leader in the industry, but will also grow our team professionally and personally.
Like I said above, this is a battle. You don’t just say you are going to do it and it will magically happen. What we have found in our quest to create a culture of learning is that we have to come up with creative ideas to get the ball rolling. It’s kind of a catch 22 – we have to be creative in our ideas to develop a creative work environment.
We have implemented a weekly professional development program for our team and are constantly trying to make it more useful. We encourage trying to solve problems in a variety of ways and failing fast is always an option. And I love Marcos Tarruella’s idea in his most recent post, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast. And keep in mind that it is not just the leaders driving this, but the entire group as a collective. As always I am interested in hearing from others on how they get their teams’ creative juices flowing.
Sir Ken Robinson spoke about the myth that a human’s number of brain cells is finite, and as we get older we kill more and more of them off in a variety of ways. As it turns out humans can stimulate the growth of brain cells by exercising their mind through creative thought and imagination. I’m not sure how many brain cells actually exist at Point2 at the moment, but I’m pretty confident that it is rising.
Today Joel and I spent the day in Vancouver at the BCIT Career Fair.
“We don’t hire smart people so we can tell them how to do their job, we hire smart people so they can tell us what the best way is to get the job done .”
That was my catch line that I came up with this morning for describing Point2’s development philosophy relating to Agile. It seems like a punchy and yet very accurate way to describe how things work at Point2. It invariably was followed by some chuckling after the first half, and then a look of intense interest after the last half.
The BCIT career fair is a fairly large event with 115 companies participating from a wide variety of fields ranging everywhere from healthcare providers, RCMP, to IT and Software Development.
We got out booth set up this morning which was fairly considerable to many of the other larger companies that were attending the event.
The first half hour or so of the event was reasonable with a person coming by to talk to us every couple minutes. It turns out that there are a few fairly specific IT type courses at BCIT, and some of them matched up great with the requirements for our systems administrator positions we’re currently advertising for. By the time the career fair had been going for an hour we were flooded by a constant deluge of students from these programs asking us “hey are you the IT guys so and so told us about?!”. We literally had a line up of people waiting to talk to us for the entire day. Whenever we finished talking to one person, 2 more were in line waiting.
So what did we learn by attending this career fair? A few things stand out for me as quite obvious:
- Even in Vancouver competing with Vancouver IT companies, our company is set apart from the competition because of our development practices. Agile and XP practices are very attractive to young developers and the fun relaxed atmosphere of our company helps a lot as well.
- Even though Agile and XP are nothing new, most people in school still haven’t heard of them, however once explained to them, they love the concept and want to be part of a company that uses them.
- Most people still have not heard of pair programming or TDD.
Most people love the idea of pair programming, especially when combined with Scrum team practices.
- There are FAR more specific programs available with regards to systems administration and web development than there were when I went to school. There are courses that teach web development that cover java, C#, ajax, asp.net, css, webservices etc etc. Nothing like that existed 10 years ago. It’s great to see.
- The market for jobs in Vancouver is getting dry. We had many people talk to us who didn’t care where they had to move to find work, they just wanted work.
- There were way more women than I expected showing interest in both the systems administrator role and the software developer roles. I’m interviewing two women tomorrow for positions that both seem promising.
- Moving to Saskatoon is not as hard of a sell as we thought it would be. I would say that about 10% rejected the idea outright, 40% were open to it but not sure, and 50% said it was no problem and they would move to wherever they could find a good job at a good company. The guy running the booth across from us said that we should be on the City of Saskatoon payroll for all the recruiting we were doing for the city, are you listening Don Atchinson?
Those are just off the top of my head. There are other thoughts i’ll be able to put together later once i have more time to think about it.
So programs from BCIT, I can’t believe how many are available. CSIT seemed to be the most common one from the people we talked to. It turned out that our job description for a System Administrator pretty much matched line for line the curriculum for their course so most of those students were quite excited. You’ll have to look for yourself at the wide variety of things offered as the list is quite extensive. BCIT Computer Courses Offered
Tomorrow will be another exhausting day. I managed to line up 7 interviews for developers tomorrow that i’ll be conducting in our Vancouver office. Joel has 4 interviews for sysadmins as well. It’s obvious to both of us that there’s a lot of talent in Vancouver, we just need to move some of it east Opening a Vancouver development office is starting to look more and more attractive…. maybe some day.
By: Chris Dagenais