Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sir Ken Robinson

"At the heart of creativity is a willingness to take risks, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to explore avenues that don't go anywhere and a willingness to be wrong. And if you're living in a culture of standardized testing, high-stakes funding, where mistakes are not tolerated and seen as a sign of mental infirmity, then you're breeding a contradiction right at the heart of the system."

"The real innovation and creativity always comes from people crossing borders, crossing boundaries, thinking differently and very often through the interaction of disciplines through applying ideas from one field into another field. The real vitality of intelligence and creative thinking is in making connections, not from keeping everything separate."
The above quotes come from an interview with Sir Ken Robinson in The Globe and Mail. I first became aware of Sir Ken Robinson from the TED video that is embedded below. The Globe and Mail has a pair of videos that I can't embed, but you can find them here and here.

Robinson comes off as much as a stand-up comedian as someone interested in reforming education. While he is entertaining to watch, he also has important things to say about arts education and those things also apply to the animation industry. The first quote above speaks directly to our need to fail faster and cheaper. As it is impossible to succeed every time, failure must be tolerated as the price of innovation. As failure is inevitable, the faster and more cheaply we can fail, the more quickly we can find out what works and we'll have more resources left to support it.

The second quote is not only true of education, it is also true of animation production. Thanks to J.R. Bray and Walt Disney, the animation business was built to resemble a Ford assembly line. Bray was satisfied with being the Model T of animation, but Disney himself was able to make connections between his various departments. Because he valued innovation, the various departments competed to impress him. He was blessed with a steady stream of new ideas and techniques during the 1930's and he chose what suited his vision.

As good as Disney's results were, I don't think the system was perfect and without someone of Disney's calibre at the top, the product drifts back towards the Model T. Certainly that's the case in TV animation. The need to cross boundaries is made more difficult by outsourcing, where there are economic and geographic walls between departments.

Not everyone is equally good at everything. We naturally fall into specialization. But when the system limits collaboration and feedback, we are throwing away opportunities.


Philip Rodrigues said...

Those were great videos thanks for the link Mark.

Sanatan said...

Thank you Mark.

darrellben said...

I really enjoy Ken Robinson's work.
His book: "Out of our minds" really delves into application of education and technology.
I hope to have the opportunity to hear him speak in person one day.