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Imagination versus Reason

June 10, 2013

Business is driven by reason, as is education, but perhaps our desire for everything to add up is causing us to miss out.  

Why does education and employment value reason over imagination?

Around the world from Cambridge to Calcutta, education has the same hierarchy of subjects, maths then languages, humanities and at the bottom, arts.  Education was founded on the back of industrialisation, so subjects have historically been orientated towards getting an industrial job.  Both in the future and at present many jobs are less industrial and more about service and innovation, so why does education and employment value reason over imagination?

Sir Ken Robinson tells the story of an eight year old girl called Gilllian.  She was at school in the 1930s and her teachers wrote to her parents suggesting she had a learning disorder.  She had great trouble sitting still, was disruptive in class and seemed unable to concentrate. Today she’d almost certainly be diagnosed as suffering from ADHD and prescribed medication.  As this treatment wasn’t readily available her mother took her to see a specialist.  During the appointment the consultant asked Gillian if he could have a private word with her mother;  the consultant and Gillian’s mother left the room, leaving Gillian alone with just the radio for company.

Looking back into the room the adults saw Gillian on her feet swaying with the music.  The consultant reassured her mother saying “she doesn’t have learning difficulties she’s a dancer”.  Her mother enrolled her in a dance school, she loved it and went on to join the Royal Ballet School, becoming a soloist.  Later she founded her own dance company and met Andrew Lloyd Weber.  Alongside Lloyd Webber, Gillian Lynne CBE has been responsible for choreographing shows such as Cats and Phantom of the Opera.  One has to wonder what would have happened to Gillian if her mother had accepted the teacher’s opinion that she had learning difficulties.

It’s clear that Gillian Lynne didn’t have any difficulty with learning, she simply responded better to a different style of teaching. Like most of us her intelligence was stimulated by sound, pictures and movement.  In business education we should also look for ways of getting our message across in a manner that engages with all of our audience.  Experiential learning uses practical exercises, role play and increasingly computer gaming to get our attention and strengthen the synapses in our brains creating memories.

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