Between Sessions at TEDxGR

I was lucky enough to get an invite and attend TEDxGR this week. It was my first TED experience and was definitely the best conference I have ever been to. I would highly recommend attending any TED conference that you have an opportunity to, but especially here in Grand Rapids.
by TEDxGrandRapids
One of the best parts for me was talking to one of the speakers Mickey McManus of MAYA between sessions. He presented on human centered design as a new literacy (more on that in another post).

He told myself and a few other attendees several stories but what struck me most was the interview questions of new hires that he shared. He said that at Maya they have two core interview questions:
1. Tell us about a time you failed.

If  the person being interviewed has to think way back to college or the beginning of their career, Maya is not interested in hiring them. If they use the pronoun “we” a lot and do not take personal responsibility for the failure they are not interested.

If the person tells a story of failure from the past couple of weeks or months and they use the pronoun “I” taking personal responsibility for the failure then Maya is very interested in hiring that person.

In design they use the mantra fail often, fail early. That way when the time comes that it matters you will succeed.

2. Tell us about when you did the impossible.

This question matters because past results are best indicator of future performance. Failing alone is not enough if it does not ultimately lead to success. He said that it doesn’t matter if the task was really impossible because of course it wasn’t since they completed it. What matters is that they thought it was impossible and achieved it.

I think there are huge implications for education in these questions. We need to give teachers and students permission to experiment and fail often. Worksheets and test prep will not get this done. Students need to create their own solutions to authentic problems and test them over and over. Students need to feel safe and encouraged to take chances with creative solutions and they need to understand that failing is not a permanent state but a step in the direction of finding a working solution. Then students will develop the quality of resilience, which Mickey pointed out is one of the back bones of what has made our country great in the face of challenges and tragedy. 

Secondly how often do we give students the opportunity to solve impossible problems? Too often they are given worksheets or assignments that they know the answers are in an answer key somewhere. Students need to be challenged with legitimate questions that the teacher does not know the answer to and have multiple solutions waiting to be discovered. Students need the chance to confront things like poverty, clean water, war, genocide, starvation, and the environment. If we challenged students to do the impossible I believe we would see an increase in both motivation and achievement as students rose to the task.

4 thoughts on “Between Sessions at TEDxGR

  1. delta_dc

    It would be great to see teachers start each school year modeling this for their learners – answering these questions themselves the first day of class.

    Thanks for sharing this, Mike.

  2. Dvora

    What great questions to ask. I am planning to try more new things next year. I did try to get the students engaged in science class in learning about the environment and thinking about solutions. I am going to keep working on this for next school year.

    @delta_dc I like that idea. Will add it for next year. 🙂

  3. concretekax

    Sorry for the late response to these comments, but in answer to the questions I feel like I already have blogged about it. I would include my Scratch collaboration project and my science videos as examples of both. Failed badly the first attempt for the most part, but greatly improved upon the second time students did them.

    So I guess I feel like I already write this way by sharing my projects both the good and the bad 🙂

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