24 May 2014

5 Reasons to Read Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind

The longer I use Twitter, the more I understand I use it because it connects me to other people, issues, ideas, and humanity.  Because I enjoy using Twitter so much, I previously read Hatching Twitter about the invention of the company.  In that book I learned about the backstabbing and behind the scenes issues the start-up endured on the way to being a successful company.  The one founder who stood out to me most in that book was Biz Stone.  I liked that he was focused on empathy, humanity, and creativity, so he's the one founder I started following on Twitter.  Thus, I learned from a Tweet that he wrote his own memoir on the founding of Twitter.  Biz Stone's Things a Little Bird Told Me:  Confessions of the Creative Mind was an excellent read, a book I recommend for educators, entrepreneurs, or anyone interested in bettering the world.

Things a Little Bird Told Me Reminds Us...

1. Technology without personal connection = pointless
This reminder is apparent in the storyline about how Twitter was originally created.  During a two-week hackathon, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey worked on a technology that would include status updates from text messages on their phones (pre-iPhone days) to let their friends know how they were doing. The message would appear on a website. They were driven not so much by the technology itself but by the idea of people connecting with one another.

As an educator, I think we should consider this point when we use technology. We could teach the same old boring stuff by placing it in Edmodo or another platform and that would save paper, but what's the point, unless we are in some way connecting people? Instead, How can we use technology platforms to engage students in conversations about ideas, books, community service, etc.?

2. Ideas drive us.  Abandon linear ways of thinking to create good work.
Educators are sometimes known for their linear way of step-by-step thinking and rule following.  Imagine though, the freedom in abandoning those linear ways of thinking and allowing students to abandon step-by-step thinking!  Then we could be learning instead of just completing tasks. We could encourage creative thought and processing. "Plain hard word is good and important, but it is the ideas that drive us as individuals, companies, nations, and a global community.  Creativity is what makes us unique, inspired, and fulfilled (iv)."

3. We learn from failure
In Stone's chapter on the infamous Twitter Fail Whale, he writes about companies liking to put forward the persona of perfection--"we have the best rates! We do the best work! We're awesome! (89)"  We do this in our schools too.  Are we honest about failure and room for improvement? Just as we often celebrate the schools with the best test scores, we also frequently label schools as failing schools, and we don't see that as something positive from which to learn.  How can we be invested in school or education if the primary focus is on obtaining good test scores? We need creativity and authentic learning because everyone is more invested when what we do is about more than a test. “If you are not emotionally invested in what you are doing, failure is pretty much guaranteed...Success isn’t (35)."

4. Some people in the business world DO care about more than the bottom line
So often in the education world we shy away from entrepreneurship and the business world because we think it's only about making money or the bottom line. More and more I'm learning that's true for many businesses, but not for all. My first awareness of this came when I was asked to write an article for a women's business magazine--Cake & Whiskey. C&W's business was created with a manifesto that encourages the telling of stories--connecting women with one another. My belief in the possibility of business being able to do good in the world was then established. Thereafter, it wasn't  a stretch to read Biz Stone write about innovating to improve humanity and finding empathy as a core to personal and global success.

5. We don't have to have a lot of money to give
I related well to Stone's story about being a recipient of free school lunch as a child and appreciated his thoughts on not needing to have a lot of money to give money (or give time). From an early age, my parents taught me this, and I continue to believe it's true and also an important lesson for us to teach kids. Stone's story about giving to DonorsChoose.Org was one of my favorites in the book because he writes about how he and his wife logged on to the site and found a 4th grade teacher who was requesting copies of Charlotte's Web for her class. Knowing young children experienced the friendship of Charlotte and Wilbur for the first time was a personally fulfilling moment for Stone.

Things a Little Bird Told Me:  Confessions of the Creative Mind is well worth taking an afternoon to read.  It's a short 200 pages and will leave you smiling with Stone's witty sense of humor and good natured approach to living life.  

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Stay tuned for another post on this book coming soon because Stone had an entire chapter devoted to his no-homework policy--there are lessons for all educators in that chapter.