#INNOVATION – Teach to solve problems, not to use tools


In many people who I admire I usually find a very agile mind, which enables them to solve problems in a natural way. This usually occurs in those people who are deep experts in a special topic, and they are also constantly adding new knowledge to their skills. This type of people are formally known as T-Shaped People. I’ve already wrote on the subject a while ago, talking about leadership and innovation. However, a nice picture is a much more better way to describe this.

And of course, not everyone can became a T-Shaped person. There are who think that, simply jump from one topic to another, is good enough to "expand your knowledge", and this is not the way that it works. If someone wants to grow his/her horizontal axis, is very important to develop other aspects such as empathy. We can see an example of this in a team with people with different Skills. A T-Shaped person is the one that can bring all their knowledge to solve problems related to their area of expertise; and moreover is open and collaborative enough to interact with their peers and help solve other problems.

When you work in computer science, it is normal to see people which fits into this profile. As a good example, they are those people who have a deep knowledge of technology, but can also apply the same functional issues and engage in technical environments in a natural and comfortable way. At this time, often get the question: How can someone became a T-Shaped persons? And after tons of reading, I have not found any magic answer. There is no simple answer to this.

In business words, this special ability is known as Problem Solving. When you start to talk from a formal point of view (systemic or processes), you’ll find many responses or methodologies specially created to solve problems. E.g., ‘The Simplex Process‘ or "Soft System Methodology". These answers are completely valid, however I think that it is necessary to go a step further.

Some time ago, listening to Elon Musk, a simple but powerful idea start to get deeper in my mind. Let me try to explain this. For their children, Elon has created a school that is governed by the following rule:

Teach to solve problems, not to use tools

Probably the best way to describe this is the screwdriver sample. Trying to summarize it, the example is as follows:

In a traditional model, before teaching how an engine works, the students often must get all the basis. In example spend some time learning what is and how works an screw and screwdriver, and so on. Ultimately they’ll reach the engine itself (let’s hope this is no too late). In this new model of school, there is a comprehensive change. An engine is taken and the premise and we can start with a "Let’s see how it works". For that have to disassemble it, so how would break it? Because we need a screwdriver, and thus we see how a screwdriver and screw works …

Then he commented other interesting details, as there are no courses or degrees, there are no assessments, etc. Surely, education specialists will have something to say on the matter. I’ll stick with the method of teaching which was great, since it is usually what we usually make those who work in IT; "we tend to apply a bit of reverse-engineering a product to understand how it works"

To finish. To be a better professional, it doesn’t learn more about other topics that are not your specialty. What you have to do is get out of your comfort zone and learn to solve problems in other topics.

Saludos @ Madrid

/El Bruno


– T Shaped people, http://wordspy.com/index.php?word=t-shaped

– T Shaped professionals, shaped skills, hybrid managers http://coevolving.com/blogs/index.php/archive/t-shaped-professionals-t-shaped-skills-hybrid-managers/

– El Bruno Sobre los líderes y la innovación https://elbruno.com/2015/05/15/innovation-sobre-los-lideres-y-la-innovacion/

– Solving Problem, The Simplex Process https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCT_10.htm

– Soft System Methodology https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_systems_methodology

– Video, Elon Must talks about a new type of school that he created for his kids https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UxL-0–oQo

[Tags Innovation, T-Shaped, Problem Solving, English Post]


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