Innovating in the Right Places?

It’s a funny old world.

Here’s an article I spotted some weeks ago from Fast Company in which they set out to recognise the world’s 50 most innovative companies for 2015:

Fast Company – 50 Most Innovative Companies
(Click on the link to read and review the 50 companies)

Please take a look at the list before reading on.

First off, let’s excuse the USA-centricity of the list – that’s kind of inevitable! Then, I ask you to think about two things that have been troubling me since I went through this list a few times;

a) In the Western (wealthy economies) world, populations are aging – and quite fast. The baby boomers are reaching retirement in vast numbers, living longer, but not having looked after themselves so well along the way, not always in the best condition!

And yet, when you look through this list of 50 companies how many could really be said to be innovating for this demographic? How many are grasping the opportunities to bring enhanced quality of light in the older years (whilst also, I’m sure, they would make a great deal of money from these people)? It seems that somehow serving this burgeoning population of oldies just doesn’t get innovative people excited enough to want to do great work for them – even though the money would surely be good.

b) Putting aside those that relate to passive leisure (and arguably the nonconstructive wasting of time) such as HBO, Netflix etc. and those whose products or services impact all age ranges (Google, Apple) there are so few companies in the list who can be said to be innovating for future generations, for children or, more particularly, for the radical changes needed in how tomorrow’s society learns and is educated.

Is this just a reflection of the fact that Industry and the world of commerce is still so hell-bent on the short term, driven and motivated by desire for quick money, the quarterly P&L and instant results, or do we just have a generation of innovators who are plain selfish and can’t be bothered to apply themselves for the future?

In similar vein and again with the future as much as the present in mind, I’d have been much happier to see some organisations that were making significant contributions to solving or addressing environmental issues.


We Need to Care …. Wow, Who’d Have Thought It?

Here’s an interesting article from Mindshift that makes a brief visit to some of the latest research findings about the power and influence of belief, expectations and attitude in learning outcomes.

Mindshift Article – Believing in Possibilities

There are a couple of aspects of the piece that left me saddened. Firstly, that some of these things really need to be said. Over 10 years ago i coined a phrase that has been part of the bedrock of all my approaches in education; “We’re not here to teach stuff, we’re here to teach children.” What I sought to convey was that the child and not the silly old nonsense in the textbook (or our administrative convenience) had to drive decision making processes of every teacher and administrator in schools. The second concern was the fact that the author of the article felt the need to acknowledge that despite the growing mountain of evidence, mainstream education is so woefully, painfully slow to change.

Somewhere, do we have to face an unpalatable truth that dare not be spoken – are there vast numbers of people in education who actually, really don’t care very much about children? People for whom it’s a job to be done to pull in a salary, for whom the idiosyncrasies of individual children are a pain in the neck?

I believe the writer is spot on when he talks about the crucial impact of care and acceptance for a learner to truly flourish and fulfil their potential. let’s face it – vast numbers of children today can’t even find much of these in their own homes, let alone in their school.

The final paragraph that talked about the critical fifth ‘C’ really struck a chord with me. That fifth C is Character – something I made a very particular point of including in the four core values of our current school. We’re in the early stages of the school’s development, but it’s heartening that Character already figures on the agenda in discussions amongst teachers, teachers and students and in the leadership team. In time, I believe the importance of Character and effective development will see subtle changes that will further enhance the ways that we build character development in to the school experience of every child.

The Importance of Sleep

Here’s an interesting story from the BBC about a school in Scotland that is ‘teaching’ sleeping – I couldn’t agree more with this.

Informally, I carry out my own research when talking to students in our school and quite frankly get horrified at how little sleep they are getting on school days.

What scares me even more is when i see write-ups suggesting strong correlations between sleep deprivation and diagnoses of ADHD. Many of the children diagnosed are put on to powerful drugs such as Ritolin.

I fear that one day we will have no choice but to acknowledge how the potential of these children was blighted by a simple lack of creating positive healthy routines in their lives around the issue of sleep.

But, then it will be too late to do anything about it.

BBC Article on Sleep

Sleep Deprivation Effects on Children

If there is one thing that has continually disturbed me since i came to India, it’s how late children go to bed. I couldn’t understand it when i was in a restaurant at 10.00pm at night and would see so many children still running around. As time has gone on I’ve come to know the full extent. Let’s not even talk about the number of children getting up and going to school (after their late nights) without eating any breakfast!

There is an increasing amount known these days about sleep deprivation and none of it is good. And, i’m not even just talking about the older students who perpetuate the silliness of their parents’ generation – somehow fooling themselves that staying up until some ungodly hour staring at a book is a great way to prepare for an examination the next day. The fact that we were stoopid enough to do it in our time does not mean it should be continued – each generation is supposed to learn something from the mistakes of their elders!!

My concern is probably more with the small children, little children who are simply not sleeping long enough and are therefore going through the early part of their lives in a severely sleep deprived state. There appears to be a strong connection scientifically proven between sleep deprivation and ADHD, where the two have the propensity to worsen each other (see articles below)

ASCD Article
Web4Health Article
Psych Central Article

Now, when we know all of this why would so many otherwise caring, devoted parents who want their children to excel in life consciously put their children at risk in this way? This is, I guess, a plea for more family discipline for the sake of our children. I’d love to hear more children tell me about regular bedtime routines that start early enough, include real quality time interacting with one or both parents, reviewing the day in a quiet peaceful manner, reading a story and off to sleep at a good time.

Sweet dreams, children ….. for a brighter future !!!!

Kids and Media

This was an interesting, but very scary article from last week’s India Today about the current trends of children and media.

I wish more parents took these matters seriously. For one thing, it would make life a little easier for those of us parents who do care. There are few things harder to deal with than a child with a sense of injustice because they believe that all the other children are getting access to something that you’re not letting them access.

India Today article

Scary Statistic!!

Within the developed world (which includes the developed bits of the developing world!!), a child, on average, spends approximately 50 hours a year talking alone with his/ her parents and 1,500 hours a year in front of a screen (PC, TV, movies etc.)

And some of us wonder why media material has more impact on them than we do? The other thought that went through my mind was if our interaction with our children is really only 50 hours per year (barely an hour a week!) we had better make sure it’s good interaction! Because, if half of it is nagging, criticizing and battles then we need to be ready for all the consequences.

Crisis in West Bengal

This week I met up for coffee with an old friend of the school, Mr Ray Kancharla of Save the Children. He is just back from West Bengal, so was able to give me first-hand feedback of the horrendous state of affairs he witnessed there. He described many areas as being in a worse state than witnessed in Bihar after the flooding caused by the Kosi dam breech in August 2008.

There was a good piece of news. Compared to past severe cyclones the death toll was relatively modest as people were able to take shelter, usually in the school buildings. However, this has contributed to the relatively muted press attention to the tragedy. This, in turn, has been made worse by the apparent reduced political will to provide meaningful relief (because the state is ruled by the out of favour communists).

The result is best described in the document attached here from Save the Children:


As was the case in Bihar, so here in West Bengal, one of the biggest risks is that during all the upheaval and trauma child traffickers can reap a rich and tragic harvest.

It will probably not be too long before the monsoon arrives, by which time it is vitally important that immediate help and aid gets to these people. Then, they need longer term help to get back on their feet. The waters have still not receded. The waters are saline, meaning that supplies of drinking water have been ruined for some time. It also means that cultivation of their land won’t be possible for many months.

When school restarts I will be looking to form a group of students and/ or parents and teachers who want to organise some fund raising so that we can help out the best we can. In the meantime, if anyone wants to donate or do something more immediate, you can find all the details on the Save the Children website.

Save the Children

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