The first session of the after-school program for Inventure Academy was off to an exciting start. The theme for the session was about the value of asking questions and defining problems before jumping to solutions. Kids have been programmed all their life to get the “right answer” (and to raise your hand and scream it out when you arrive at it). However, the problems of tomorrow are unprecedented and complex – it requires a different problem-solving mindset, one where you spend enough time to define the problem – after all, your solution matters little if you’re answering the wrong questions. This is hardly a new concept, is it? Einstein himself quirked, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions”, and also famously remarked, “a problem defined, is a problem half solved”.
The session therefore focused on building muscle to “define” problems and ask the right questions. Students were introduced to Barbara Minto’s principles for breaking down a question top-down through the SCQ (Situation – Complication – Question) framework. An SCQ was built together with the entire class for the problem of an Australian theatre company losing out on talented actors to film and television, and how this was hampering their annual production of stage shows/plays. The class was then broken into break-out groups, and each group worked on building an SCQ for real-world problems. The problems ranged from Bangalore’s burdening traffic problems to UN’s goal of reducing pace of climate change.
We often underestimate students and their ability to grasp new concepts when trained in an interactive setting – “do and learn” always trumps over “watch and learn”. The Inventure students built precise, well-thought-out and well-defined SCQs, addressing the problem at hand without any external bias.