The most successful people in the world are those who are innovators. These forward-thinkers have founded the greatest companies, made the greatest impacts, and have left the strongest legacies of our time. Where would companies such as Google, Apple, or Microsoft be without innovators leading them?
These changemakers do not have to be unique; innovation is not something you are born with, it is something that is fostered. If given the chance, any child can become an innovator.
There is no formula to build a habit of innovation in your child. However, you are able to form the scaffolding for your child to become an innovator. Here are five ways you can encourage your child to help develop a habit of innovative thinking.
1. Encourage Creativity
The most important thing that you can do for your child is to foster a sense of creativity. Innovation does not appear out of nowhere. It requires a spark, and that spark is usually inspiration. The best way to light that spark is to encourage creativity with your child.
You can help encourage that creativity in a few ways. Reading with - not to - your child is a great way to develop their imagination. Supply them with a variety of crafting supplies or keep the paper towel rolls that you normally throw out. It is incredible what children can create with these items. When you do buy them toys, buy toys that require an imagination to use. Lego blocks are a great example of a toy that is only limited by the creativity of your child.
2. Encourage Curiosity
Building off the creativity that you want to instill in your child, encouraging a sense of curiosity is another great way to encourage forward-thinking. Let your child explore their own path through a task. Instead of telling them how to do it, even if they ask for assistance, help them work through a problem in their own way.
By asking questions and creating their own solutions, children don’t just seek the right answer, but how to understand that answer. In his book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who will Change the World, author and former-teacher Tony Wagner states, “The average child asks 100 questions a day. But by the time a child is 10 or 12, he or she has figured out that it’s much more important to get right answers than to keep asking thoughtful questions.”
Reinforce their questions with positive feedback, even if it takes multiple questions to get the answer they are looking for. The more positive you make this journey, the more likely they are to continue wanting to learn.
3. Encourage Risk-Taking
With an appetite for curiosity comes a developing appetite for risks. This does not mean that your future innovator will want to take up skydiving. It means that you should encourage them to try something new.
We were all taught from a young age to avoid failure. However, some of the most successful innovators in the world have adopted the exact opposite mindset. As your child seeks answers to their questions, they will inevitably come up against obstacles. They will get things wrong. As a parent, you should help your child view these setbacks as opportunities for learning, not as failures.
An innovative, creative mind will try again and again, until they find the best solution they can. Even with bumps along the way, encourage your child to keep going.
4. Encourage Passion
It is tough, if not impossible, to be a maker of change if you are not passionate about that change. As your child begins to foster this habit of innovation and forward-thinking, they will start to find things that they are passionate about.
Sometimes this passion will be for more “normal” interests - sports, math, acting, etc. Sometimes this passion will be for more unique interests - space, bugs, computer coding.
Whatever your child becomes passionate about, it is essential that you encourage that passion and help nurture it. It is so much easier for a child to pursue a passion than something forced on them.
While that passion might change over their lives, the values that are instilled while working towards that passion will remain. These are the values that are present in every innovator.
5. Encourage Purpose
Finally, it is important to let your child understand why they are doing something. Innovators don’t just seek to memorize the textbook or ace the test. They want to understand the purpose to their work.
Help your child understand the why behind their tasks. Why do they have to learn about history? Why is math important to them after school?
When a child understands the purpose behind what they need to do, it encourages them to take greater risks, to explore a topic more thoroughly, and to approach it from a more creative angle.
We all want what’s best for our children. While we can’t pave their own paths for them, we can help establish a framework that allows them to be successful. Helping your child establish a habit of innovation is one of the best ways you can do that.