Sarah’s Diary Episode Three

Jenny couldn’t wait to read Sarah’s diary, but there was one problem. The diary was over 100 years old and in very fragile condition. She was restricted to reading it in the Special Collections sections of the library and had to wear special gloves to protect the diary. That meant that she could only read a few pages at a time.

As she began to read the early entries, she began to realize that the diary entries were not only a fascinating glimpse into the family but also provided important insights into the origins of innovation as an individual trait. This was the missing link she had long been pursuing. It also gave her a sense of the natural development of the innovative mind, and why so many manufactured attempts to spur innovation are failures.

Jenny decided to include entries form the diary in her class on innovation. She wanted her students to live Sarah’s experiences as much as possible. In effect, she was creating a virtual reality experience embedded in the 19th century.

The first entry she chose to use in her class was from January 12, 1889.

“We took Matthew to the woods today so he could experience nature in winter. Elizabeth and I taught Matthew what Mom had taught us. He was especially fascinated with dogwood trees. We showed him the little    flower pots on each branch and explained how they would open up in the spring. Then we showed him how to recognize dogwood trees by their shape and bark. I hope the ribbon we put around the tree will still be there in the spring.”

As Jenny read the excerpt, the students listened carefully. She could tell that they were imagining the scene much like they would experience it in a virtual reality world. Then she asked: “So what does this excerpt tell us about developing the personal traits necessary for an innovative mind?”

The students seemed stumped. They seemed to be stuck in their vision of what innovation was. To them they had been conditioned to think of innovation as being something you created in a lab or a garage. What could a dogwood tree possibly tell them about innovation?

Then Jenny asked: “What were Sarah and Elizabeth teaching Matthew?” All of a sudden a light seemed to turn on. Students began to realize that the diary entry was about developing the innovation trait of observing.

As Jenny explained, “We think of an innovative person as being curious, but you can’t be curious without observing. Innovators often fail before they make a breakthrough. The ability to learn from failures is also dependent upon having a keen ability to observe. Now think about how you developed this trait. I’d like you to tell me how you would integrate the development of observation traits into our educational systems.”

What followed was one of the best in class discussion Jenny had ever had.

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“Observation is like a muscle. It grows stronger with use and atrophies without use. Exercise your observation muscle and you will become a more powerful decoder of the world around you.” – Joe Navarro (Authority on non-verbal communication)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.