The below selection is one of my favorite stories I shared in “The Innovator’s Mindset:”
An artist had his easel set up on a street when a person walked by and asked how much it would cost to have a portrait drawn.
“Fifty dollars,” said the artist. The patron readily agreed, and the artist began to draw. Ten minutes later, the artist completed a beautiful, creative piece. Even though the patron was very happy with the creativity and the high quality of the piece, she challenged the agreed upon price.
“Something that took such a short time to create should not have the high price tag,” she said.
The artist responded, “It took me ten years to be able to do it in ten minutes; you have never seen much of the work that I have done to be able to draw this picture so quickly.”
I heard this story a while back, and, although I can’t remember its source, the message resonates with me, particularly as I read article after article about the battle between the “basics” versus “innovation”
in education. While it seems so many choose one side or the other, I find myself somewhere in the middle. Innovation in any area requires a fundamental understanding of basic concepts. To be a great musician, you must learn the basic concepts of music. The best writers in the world at some point learned how to read and write. The speed at which people learn the fundamentals varies from person to person, but every master first had to acquire the basic knowledge and competency.
The basics are essential in our modern world. We all know this. Believe me, even as someone who is passionate about innovation in education, I still cringe at spelling mistakes. I hate them. I want kids to know their times tables and not have to rely on a calculator for simple math. The basics are important, but we need to go beyond knowing
to creating and doing. Understanding how to read and write doesn’t make you a writer. By contrast, if you are a writer, it’s a given that you know how to read and write.
There are a few reasons I share this story:
- Too often, the expertise of others is often disregarded because we do not see the years of effort and work people put into their craft to learn and grow, but often only a snapshot of the moment. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, “it takes years and years of hard work to become an overnight success.” I sometimes feel frustrated when I feel that coming my way, but I am conscious that I try not to be that to others.
- I think about this story a lot because I remember when I wrote this book, there was almost this battle between the “basics” and “innovation.” When writing in a blog, it is easy to dismiss one for the other because if I regretted writing something, I guess I could eventually delete it and revise it. But when I was ready to write a book, I felt that it was more akin to being “forever,” so I had to seek out views other than my own. If I didn’t find those things, I felt I would have pushed away a lot of people with the ideas shared, but focusing on creating a space for “basics AND innovation” versus “basics OR innovation” not only did it make the ideas more sound and well-rounded, it made me better. Too often, some arguments against your ideas will help you revise and refine what you share and only make it better. Ignoring critical thoughts and ideas is not a path to growth, only the opposite.
- I wanted to share the above because I feel that listening to others who disagreed with me made me better. If you’re going to tighten up any argument, understand the viewpoint of those that disagree with your point so well that you can articulate their ideas. If you can’t, there will often be holes in your position. It is crucial to have the ability to take a 360-degree view of your ideas and can understand what you are sharing from the viewpoint of others, it will only make what you do better.
Just some random thoughts as I write from a plane.