Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Design matters: It’s more than just price

Dan Pink in his excellent book “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”, makes a convincing case that “cheaper and cheaper, faster and faster” is not the only formula for success (financial and otherwise) in the 21st century marketplace. Today’s CNN Money article, “Wal-Mart: ‘Cheap’ better than ‘chic’?” supports this contention. In some US markets as well as others around the globe, consumers do not just want cheap goods in many cases: They also want well-designed and fashionable products invented by CREATIVE designers. According to the article:

For instance, in addition to Metro 7 Wal-Mart has added other fashion labels like the trendy urban line for men called “Exsto” and a clothing line from designer Mark Eisen. It’s introduced organic baby clothing under its “George” label, expanded its higher-priced organic food offering and added more brand-name flat screen TVs and personal computers in electronics. It would appear that Wal-Mart is trying to emulate Target’s tremendous success with its “cheap-chic” merchandise approach. But some industry watchers warn that Wal-Mart is no Target. “Wal-Mart is not cool. It’s impossible for Wal-Mart to be cool because they would have to discredit their entire business to do that,” said veteran retail consultant Howard Davidowitz.

I’m NOT as certain as Davidowitz when it comes to Wal-Mart’s ability (or perceived inability) to reinvent itself. The almighty dollar is a powerful motivator, and if the relatively shallow growth and profit levels discussed in this article persist, I think we can count on Wal-Mart executives to “make adjustments” since they remain beholden to shareholders.

For educators and students, news articles like these have important implications. It is not enough for us to prepare students for a “factory mentality” work environment. The 21st century business culture is highly dynamic and changeable. Those who are thriving and will thrive in the future will be the flexible, adaptable ones able to recognize trends as well as opportunities, and add their own creative ideas to both existing and novel products and service offerings.

The encouragement for teachers to “teach digital” and invite students to collaboratively create their own content is not just a plea to make education more engaging for students so they will enjoy school more. (That is also a likely outcome of such pedagogic change, however.) It is also a serious workforce need. It is a matter of economic security, and one could even argue national security. When we talk about the effectiveness of our educational system as a whole, we are talking about an endeavor of vital national interest. It is unfortunate that advocates for digitally integrated teaching and learning which involves student authorship of various knowledge products may be dismissed by some educational leaders today. Instead of digitally constructivist teaching, those leaders have advanced a 19th century model of education that assumes summative assessment by multiple-choice is a desirable and sufficient measure of learning. That assumption is false. We need messy assessment because only through messy assessment can we value, and yes even measure, the sorts of 21st century literacy skills that our students and society as a whole need to thrive as well as survive. This is a specific sentence from the “American Competitiveness Initiative” announced in February 2006 that I take issue with:

Accountability and high standards are producing positive results in the classroom, and we can do more to provide American students and workers with the skills and training needed to compete with the best and brightest around the world.

Are students at your school being encouraged on a daily basis to think creatively, collaborate with others, and author multimedia representations of their learning that are hard (or impossible) to “fake?” If not, they should be. In US public schools (and possibly elsewhere,) it’s often difficult for teachers and administrators to emphasize creativity and innovative thinking in a fear-laden environment dominated by thoughts of high-stakes testing. Yet that emphasis is exactly what we need MORE of rather than less in the 21st century flat world.

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One response to “Design matters: It’s more than just price”

  1. Cheryl Oakes Avatar

    One way for students to create, collaborate with others and author multimedia is for those students to be involved with web 2.0 tools. Oh, teachers and educators need to be using those same tools, blogs, wikis, and podcasts.