You Might Break Something
The person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck...If you’re not willing to fail then you cannot possibly innovate. - Seth Godin
It is becoming more and more critical that we really think about what we are saying to ourselves and teaching our children about the work we do.
What happens in science class isn't science. What actually happens in science class is:
Young people follow such instructions to demonstrate that they know how to go through the steps of doing science that someone else did 300 years ago.
But what happens when young people try to innovate? Well, when they try to innovate, be a Maker, or try to understand what doesn't work, they get criticized--marked down.
Unfortunately, our young people don't live in a world where they are challenged to be creative, but rather to look like the people who came before them.
Makers are different. Makers understand that if something might not work, then they are truly making. If something might not work, then it is important because it is risky. It is risky because it can be criticized, rejected. Someone can say, “I don't like that,” or, “It doesn’t work right,” or “I don't want it.” Responses like these are hard to accept. They are scary, but fear is an indicator of what you should do next.
The reason why so many people are afraid of public speaking is not because it is dangerous. It is because if you stand up and say what you want to say someone can turn to you and say, “No, you are wrong.”
That is why making and public speaking are worth doing.
Seth Godin has taught me that if you say, “Innovation is great but this is so important, failure is not an option,” then what you’ve also said is, “neither is success.” Because all innovation is, all hacking is, all creating is, all science is…is doing things over and over again…failing and failing and failing…until it works.
So the next time a kid comes along and starts hacking a Raspberry Pi and you ask, “What are you making?” and she says, “I don't know yet.” Try not to feel so uncomfortable. Sure, she might break something. But the idea of breaking things is where we are now. You can either break something or follow the instructions and get it just right, like the 1,000 other people before you. But that's not what Makers do.
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Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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