What’s Your Problem?

We’re surrounded by problems. We have designed our day around the activities that we deem to be mandatory while minimizing the resistance we feel towards them. Everyday we are resisting that task we know needs to be done. Whether it’s taking out the garbage or folding laundry, there is something you know needs to be done and you are avoiding it.

But what if we stopped to think about those activities and decided what it was that we did not like about them. Is it possible to turn this activity into something we do enjoy?

This week we are challenging the kids in our Inventor's Paradise Summer Camp to review their day and look for “problems” that they would like to avoid. Can you picture it? Waking up in the morning and looking around? What is the first thing you encounter that you don't want to do? Brush your teeth? Make your bed? Then what? Maybe finishing your reading homework and having to tie your shoe laces.

These can be considered problems, irritations, time consuming or just something less than enjoyable. Either way, if you feel this way, chances are that others do as well and THAT's an opportunity.

Next comes finding solutions. Developing solutions IS a skill and something that we are not born with. It is a muscle that we need to exercise or else we just become complainers and that person who calls the cops because the music from the Ice Cream Mans truck is disruptive.

We ask them to invent a solution to this problem that can be as elaborate as a robot that will make their bed and clean their room on command to a simple clip that will keep their shoes tied and stop them from coming undone. We love their uninhibited imagination and we are consistently inspired by the depth of ingenuity a 7-12 year old possesses. At that age, they don't think in terms of limits, logistics and "reality". They just think what would be cool and how it could work. It may sound silly and cute but when you look at someone like Elon Musk, he still holds this type of solution oriented thinking. A skill that NASA, Ford and Toyota lost a long time ago.

With their newfound belief that they can make a difference in their lives with a simple solution to an everyday problem, we ask our KidPreneurs to step outside of themselves to develop their observation skills to help others. They begin by looking at a day in the life of their parents or siblings. What is a task or chore they do not enjoy and can we use our new creative solution thinking to make the life of someone we love a little easier? We continue to challenge our kids a little more by asking about ways they can apply the same newfound skills to the world outside of their home. They have found ways to help community members such as inventing ways of identify everyday household items for the visually impaired, removing plastics from the ocean and even developing a community space for their city!

It's fun for them and fun for us to explore the wacky and wild ideas they come up with, but more often then not they also come to a realization about half way through the week. There’s a moment when a student decides that an idea is also a possibility and with the right resources, it can become real! It’s at this point that even their language takes a turn from “we could do this...” to “I can do this…”

You see, in this camp, it isn't just theory or talking about problems and make believe robots. They take immediate ACTION as well! For every solution they develop, they create a prototype invention to test, adjust and test again. It becomes real for them and the confidence they build when they can see that their ideas are valid and possible are priceless.

There’s magic in the smile of a child who’s just found a way to make a difference in someone’s day. It’s incredibly exciting for us to watch the discovery of their ability to impact others. We believe that kids are naturally curious and willing to try new ways to make the world around them a little better.

What seems to be the age when we decided to accept the “problems” around us and stop looking for creative solutions? Our Inventors Paradise Summer Camp has reinvigorated my curiosity and inspires me to see my day’s challenges as puzzles and problems as opportunities. Who doesn’t love solving a puzzle?


Teamwork Makes the World Work

Think of anything in the world that has brought goodness, innovation, salvation, or anything else of the like, that was done with just one person. Think hard.

It's a quick answer, nothing. Yes, one person might have been the catalyst, the voice or the idea, but no "one" was able to do it alone.

Martin Luther King Jr, yup, he was amazing. He was the voice, the idea but he couldn't have made any change without his supporters, political figures (of good and bad) or the media, as limited in reach as it was back then.

How about a more modern example. Elon Musk. Yup, he's the voice, the idea, the vision, but he has a HUGE team behind him making the ideas become a reality.

Yes, learning entrepreneurship holds so many key skills that are critical to help any person excel in life these days, such as public speaking (often done alone), innovation & problem solving (often starts alone), and Resiliency (so important to have this within each and every person). But if you truly want to bring ideas to light, create a movement or have people around the world utilize your innovation, you must also learn how to work within a team; Not an easy task for many of us.

So how do you become "good" at teamwork? How do you learn how to play well with others and utilize a team to run faster and jump higher? The same way we do everything. Exposure, Practice, Reflection, and Practice some more.

The earlier we can expose children to working in teams, while offering leadership opportunities, the sooner they can learn to "switch" between the two, and yes, there is a definite art to the "switch". And "Exposure" isn't a one time thing. The more often they are exposed to teamwork situations, the more perspective and "Practice" they will earn. But don't forget about Reflection. Without this, the rest is a waste, truly. This is where you are a critical partner in this. Se below

When working in teams, and when practiced well with plenty of reflection, you can actually learn to be the BEST leader in a team environment.

  1. You Learn Empathy in a Team.
    If you have ever had a "bad boss" then you know how defeating it can be. Sharing ideas becomes less than exciting when the "leader" creates an environment of negativity or shuts others down quickly. This is where reflection is key. Often a bully is a bully because they were bullied themselves and did not take the time and space to reflect on that experience. For kids, it is easiest to want to lash out as revenge. It is up to parents, teachers and coaches to help them reflect with space so they can turn those experiences into lessons of empathy, rather than a demonstration of an "appropriate way to act".
          * How did this make you feel?
          * What would you have rather they said to you?
          * What would you do in that situation?
    Ask questions and allow them the space to answer and connect the dots.
  2. You Feel Confident in Your Weaknesses Within a Team.
    If you become a leader of others too quickly, you can often feel a heavy weight on your shoulders. You may feel like you should be a jack of all trades and know the right answer to everything. The reality is, you are probably really great at some things, and less so in others. When in a team, you get to seek out that which is diverse and unique about one another.
    Would you want to build a house with only a team full of plumbers? That's not too helpful. But, if you are a plumber and others on your team are framers, electricians, roofers, and so on, you can quickly learn that others bring massive value you can be thankful for, while also recognizing that the "house" couldn't be complete without you as the plumber. Leaders don't have to know everything. In fact, the strongest leaders know what they are weakest in and are A-OK with it. It is their job to create a healthy environment so that everyone can do what they do best.
  3. You Can Learn to Take Risks Within a Team.
    If you are the leader of a group, or a one-man-show, it can be more difficult to take risks on a new idea because if it fails, it's all on you. But in a team, you can take a risk by asking someone else who is "stronger" in that area to help, advise or contribute to what you are thinking. If your idea seemed like a good one in your head but you didn't think through the logistics properly, since it isn't your area of expertise, wouldn't it be nice if Jessica were there to help walk you through it? As a leader, who is usually in a position to make a final decision, if you don't look to your team for guidance, one bad, ill-informed decision can have devastating effects on you, the business, and everyone on your team.
  4. You Can Learn Leadership By Being Led By Great Leaders
    We have all had that one bad boss, but what about that great one? Or perhaps they were a great teacher, coach, parent, etc. What made you feel like you were contributing? How did they handle disagreements? Decisions? Before jumping into a leading role, watching others can help you gain perspective on the type of leader you want to be.

Sports are great team settings, so are group projects at school. But what if the stakes were higher? What if your child could get practice by working with a new group of peers to build a business and compete with another group doing the exact same thing? Tensions could get high. Leaders may emerge. Teamwork will have it's ups and downs. But no matter what, in the end, they will reach their goal of launching a business and raising money for a great local cause.

That's the basis for our Lemonade Stand Challenge. A 1 week, full time camp for students just 7-12 years of age offered in July & August. With that kind of diversity in age, incredible things can happen. Democracy is often utilized for decisions. Highs and lows are experienced with each new module they embark upon in their launch. But we didn't forget about reflection. Each day they have plenty of time to bond and be friends with fun in the sun!

This summer, seek out camps that encourage teamwork that works towards a goal. Where the kids are their own leaders, not the camp councilors, making "big" decisions and finding one another's strengths through the process. But then be sure to help them reflect on their experiences each day. Ask them questions and see what insights they have drawn. These skills and insights will fuel them for decades to come.

For more information or to view our Summer Camp Schedule, Click Here