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Inspiring innovation

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Sometimes there’s more than one right answer, and no one knows this better than innovation consultant Matt Hart.

Mr Hart, originally from New Zealand, but living in the UK, paid a visit to Masterton yesterday to launch the global pilot of his innovation skills programme, Better Ideas Faster: Kids.

“Rather than educating kids out of their creativity, we need to start nurturing them into their creativity,” Mr Hart said.

A classroom-sized group of St Patrick’s schoolkids were pushed to the edge of creativity at Powershop’s Masterton headquarters yesterday as Mr Hart and Powershop staff guided discussions around renewable energy sources and saving electricity.

“The education system is binary in that you educate kids to get to one right answer,” Mr Hart said.

“Kids are being educated away from their natural creativity because that’s what the school system demands, so we have to start teaching them the skills of innovation earlier than secondary school.”

The St Patrick’s pupils, aged 7 to 10, brainstormed and talked through different ‘energy’ ideas for most of the day yesterday, using creative problem solving narratives.

“The kids came up with some very literal ideas to save energy like turning the lights and heat pump off, all the way through to, ‘we’re going to prevent anyone from using coal to help New Zealand become 100 per cent renewable’,” Mr Hart said.

Another interesting idea from the kids was “digging up the roads and planting flowerbeds so people can’t be lazy anymore and drive cars”.

Innovation consultatnt Matt Hart and St Patrick's principal Steve Wheeler, with particpating students and Powershop staff. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Innovation consultatnt Matt Hart and St Patrick’s principal Steve Wheeler, with particpating students and Powershop staff. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

St Patrick’s principal Steve Wheeler said what drew his attention to the Powershop-hosted workshop was the link with the Enviroschools curriculum component.

The school recently achieved green-gold status in the programme, the highest level of achievement.

“This was a practical opportunity for the kids to get involved with some real-life learning,” Mr Wheeler said.

“That’s what we’re trying to push here.

“We want their learning to be purposeful and [yesterday] the kids were being problem solvers with real life issues like energy.”

The pupils involved in the workshop suggested some “interesting” ideas that “perhaps as adults we sometimes overlook”, Mr Wheeler said.

“Better Ideas Faster: Kids is about sowing the seed of creativity and innovation, and some kids will take it and run with it.”

Mr Hart said the programme would be rolled out globally.

After the Masterton launch, Mr Hart is heading back to the UK to roll the programme out with Jamie Oliver for Jamie’s Food Revolution Day.

“When this starts to gain traction and I do this programme with other schools and other brands and organisations in the US and UK, when they ask how it all started, I’ll forever be able to tell the story that we started in Masterton, New Zealand.”

Powershop NZ Head of Retail Operation Stephen ‘Hooch’ Griffin said the relationship between Powershop and Wairarapa schools would continue, as well as the company’s relationship with Wairarapa people.

Tom Probert, Head of Sales and Marketing said some “strong ideas” came from the day, and reflected well on Powershop, whose business was “fundamentally built around empowerment and disruptive innovation”.

“It was so important to let the kids go through this process, giving them creative skills that they can apply to all aspects of their lives.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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