In this module, parents will learn strategies to think creatively and critically by developing and training effective skills to approach issues, problems, and everyday life challenges from a fresh perspective, in a way that is referred to as “thinking outside the box”. Being creative and able to think outside the box is commonly classified as an innate ability, a talent that you either do or do not have (N.B. creativity is also addressed in the module 5).
However, as demonstrated by several researchers, creative and critical thinking can be considered as competences that anyone can develop and improve through various techniques and practices, and can become essential keys to success in our lives. It is absolutely possible to foster “thinking outside the box” skills. Everyone has the potential to do it, and parents can play a fundamental role to train this skill in their children.
But, what does “thinking outside the box” actually mean?
Thinking outside the box is the capacity to think differently. It means having the ability to look at something from different angles and imagine doing something new by avoiding the most obvious and orthodox solutions. But to do so, you need to approach things from different points of view assembling information and ideas in a new and innovative way.
The box is a symbol of conventional thinking, so going outside that perimeter means looking at reality in an unconventional way. Since childhood, we are all encouraged to think outside the box, but we barely understand what it means. There are different exercises and ways we learn to change the way we look at things. If you develop, improve and practise “thinking outside the box” competences, you become a real “creative thinker” and:
- a good communicator
- an open-minded person
- a problem solver
- a flexible and analytical thinker
- a good planner
Teaching our children to think outside the box is crucial as this will allow them to be more dynamic and flexible, to be able to solve problems and to adapt to the rapid digital, social and cultural changes taking place all around us.
Creative and critical thinking are key components of entrepreneurial learning, as they enable interesting processes to be developed, and promote a truly entrepreneurial mindset, such as reflecting on how to improve an experience, product or service. Entrepreneurship education goes beyond business creation, empowering children with the vision to access and transform opportunities of different kinds. It is about increasing children’s ability to anticipate and respond to social changes.
It is one thing to develop this analytical and innovative cognitive process however equally important is to develop the competence of putting those ideas into organized actions. That is when the ability to plan and manage becomes important, which is what we will discuss in the second part of our module.
When we talk about planning and management, we refer to the faculty of identifying objectives and priorities, of organising resources for the future, and of distributing responsibilities appropriately and efficiently. That means being able to plan and implement different types of activities, to optimise costs and revenues, to manage the resources allocated efficiently, to maintain commitments and deadlines, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the work done.
- “Planning is usually interpreted as a process to develop a strategy to achieve desired objectives, to solve problems, and to facilitate action” (Mitchell 2002, 6).
- “Management refers to the controlling and planning of details (Bauer 1998). By judicious use of available means, the actual decisions are made and actions are carried out to achieve the objectives “(Storey 1960).
Planning and management as a competence can be broken down into different threads of learning – these can be mapped into curriculum to ensure that young people develop various aspects of the competence:
- Define goals
- Plan and organise
- Develop sustainable plans
- Define priorities
- Monitor their progress
- Be flexible and adapt to changes
Planning and management skills are very important for children. At school, organisation is essential to keep tasks, projects and curricula under control. This is why the idea of organisation may seem heavy for many children. Of course, no one is born with management, planning and organisational skills as these are part of a series of evolutionary skills that develop over time gradually as the children grow.
For this reason, it can be useful to teach children to organise themselves starting with hobbies and extracurricular activities. Learning to organise something they like can help them to internalise good habits, which they can then apply in school, work and life in general. The adult can implement strategies and tools to enable the child to develop and refine these skills and, consequently, help him/her to manage his/her daily life efficiently.