What Schools Can Learn From Pixar and Other Creative Companies

Borrowing design thinking and culture from innovation powerhouses could put American schools on the right track.

Schools aren't businesses and shouldn't be treated like they are, but a recent story at Fast Company Design has some pretty compelling suggestions about what they could learn from innovative private companies. The article focuses on the lessons of Google, IDEO, and Pixar, successful businesses known for using office design and corporate culture to maximize collaboration, creativity and playfulness. Those aren't traits commonly associated with today's classrooms, but perhaps they could be.

Imagine what learning could look like if more district administrators and education reformers adopted IDEO's "culture centered on design thinking and interdisciplinary projects instead of siloed subjects"? Similarly, if Pixar's culture of merging art and science together found its way to schools, students "might come to understand that the lines between music, math, physics, and art are much blurrier than textbooks make them appear." And if Google's emphasis on a playful and creative environment went mainstream in classrooms, we might not hear kids complaining that they're bored.

That's not to say the kind of ideas that rule Google, IDEO and Pixar are completely absent from schools. Places like High Tech High in San Diego, or Dubiski Career High School in Texas, are examples of what's possible. Yet despite shining examples of other ways of doing things, the "school as a factory" model still dominates.

Most teachers, school administrators and other education reformers say that collaboration, creativity, and playfulness are desirable traits in schools, but for the most part, education reform isn't going in that direction. The pressure of high-stakes standardized testing combined with budget cuts means that too often, school administrators aren't thinking past rigorous math and reading curricula. Even kindergarten, which used to be the domain of learning through exploration and play, is increasingly taught in the same dry academic style that so often causes older students to check out of school.

Ironically, the article notes, executives at Google, IDEO and Pixar were probably inspired to buck the traditional stagnant, corporate culture by moving toward the more playful atmosphere that exists in schools when they're at that best. We have to believe that schools can reclaim that spirit, and if it takes a little idea-borrowing from business to make it happen, so be it.

screenshot via YouTube user BIEBL

via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Twitter / Bye,Bye Harley Davidson

The NRA likes to diminish the role that guns play in fatal shootings by saying, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Which is the same logic as, "Hammers don't build roofs, people build roofs." No duh. But it'd be nearly impossible to build a roof without a hammer.

So, shouldn't the people who manufacture guns share some responsibility when they are used for the purpose they're made: killing people? Especially when the manufacturers market the weapon for that exact purpose?

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

Keep Reading Show less