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Odyssey of the Mind

May 27, 2010

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I have recently been introduced to Odyssey of the Mind (this link is to the BC chapter in Canada) as a program for kids to develop creativity, problem-solving, teamwork, etc.  This program is not just some kind of fun activity, teams compete internationally on both spontaneous problem-solving and on a longer-term problem that they work on as a team and enter.  It’s a bit like cerebral sports.  There are elements of: science, performance, engineering, linguistic and other aspects of the “competition”. 

As a parent, I am very intrigued and keen to pursue as a club for school.  It is an established program, with resources and guidelines to get you started. 

As a learning practitioner, I am also intrigued, as all the skills that OM promotes, are things that I find grown-ups in the workplace could also use.  If kids graduate with a more realistic set of employability skills, then those of us in learning roles could spend time actually helping people do their jobs, rather than on trying to build human skills. 

Here’s one of their challenges:

 The problem is to design and build a structure out of balsa wood and glue that will balance and support as much weight as possible while absorbing shockwaves. The team will test its structure by placing weights onto it. During specific intervals the team will place one or two spacers on the top weight and will then place a weight on them. The team will remove the spacers so the top weight falls onto the stack causing a shockwave. The team will add weight until its structure breaks or time ends. The team will also create and use an original method to place its structure onto the tester and will incorporate the testing of the structure into a performance.

And here are some pictures of the action…http://www.odysseyofthemind.com/wf2009/photo_gallery_prob4.php

I’ve been noticing how important creativity seems to be lately.  In blogs, blogs, global surveys, and books, too.  Maybe organizations should consider sponsoring a team or the organization, or coaching a team.  It would also be cool to see this happen within the business world – OM challenges where they compete with other corporate teams.  Lots of learning could happen, and nothing gets business people involved more than bragging rights.  And possibly post-“game” celebrations at a local watering hole.  And team t-shirts.  Kind of like an innocentive model…
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