The natural world is based on diversity. The earth as a system depends on the diversity of nature to perform the countless roles required to create and sustain life. We tend to see ourselves as separate from nature, and our education system reflects that.
The American education system was created to suit the needs of the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution required certain types of people. In an effort to cater to the masses, the school system was designed to produce men and women who could work in a factory. Follow directions, stay in line, and continue to do things the way they’ve been done before. In other words, learn how to get along, conform.
A lot has changed since the industrial revolution, but our education system has not. Innovation depends on human creativity and diversity of thought. Imagine if our schooling system was designed to elevate and encourage people to pursue their own unique abilities, talents and passions. Imagine if everyone leaned into the unique creative power that lies within them. Would the world be a better place?
In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson gave a Ted Talk titled, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” To this day, it remains the most viewed Ted Talk ever. Sir Ken challenged the way children are educated, and argued for a rethinking of the way schools and curriculum incorporate creativity, and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence. He believed in a school system that brings out the creativity of each child, rather than training it out of them. His life’s work was dedicated to imagining a better future. He believed the best way to do that was to celebrate and encourage the unique capabilities of human kind, specifically creativity. In 2020, Sir Ken passed away in the middle of writing the book his daughter (and podcast guest) Kate Robinson would later finish, titled “Imagine If.”
Kate refers to her father’s work as a love letter to human potential. On the show, Kate shares some backstory on her father’s life, and the journey that led to her completing his final piece of work. In Sir Ken and Kate’s perspectives, there are 3 myths regarding creativity that hinder our advancement as a collective.
- Creativity is about a certain group of people, “the creatives”
- Creativity is about certain things/subjects (music, writing, art, dance, etc)
- You’re either creative or you’re not
The truth is, creativity lives in each of us, it is a muscle that can be trained and strengthened, and there is space for creativity in every activity. Sir Ken and Kate define creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” It is an ongoing process of idea creation and evaluation, and it can be applied to anything.
The idea of changing a system as deeply ingrained as the education system can feel daunting. Kate encourages our listeners not to forget about the significant impact we can make as individuals by the way we choose to live and think. Society is what happens when children grow up. Everyone is a stakeholder in education and we should all be invested in what goes on behind the doors of schools. Revolutions do not wait for legislation, they emerge from what people do at the ground level. We cannot wait around for the government to change the way our country approaches education. We need to take it upon ourselves to promote creativity and advocate for systems that elevate people. Get involved, speak up, stand up for creativity, encourage children to think outside the box, and pursue their own unique passions.
True change comes from those who dare to imagine. Creativity comes from within, and progress comes from diversity of thought. Identify your passion, tap into your creativity, and encourage others to do the same.
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Chase Jarvis: Hey, everybody, what's up? It's Chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis LIVE Show here on CreativeLive. The show where I sit down with amazing humans and I impact their brain with the goal of helping you live your dreams. Our guest today is Kate Robinson. If you're not familiar with Kate, you should know that she is the daughter and co-collaborator of the one and only, Sir Ken Robinson who has, among many storeyed achievements, as the most popular TED Talk of all time about why schools kill creativity.
Chase Jarvis: So we thought in light of his passing not too long ago, we would bring his collaborator and his daughter, Kate Robinson, on the show to talk about the book that she completed with her father. It's an incredible book around the future of creativity. We talk about three myths of creativity, how the education system squashes it and what you can do for yourself and your kids, your friends, your peers, the teachers' role in the revolution that we are experiencing right now. And this book, Imagine If, is an incredible thing that you should put on your radar. Our conversation today is deep and meaningful. Sir Ken's, this is a manifesto of sorts that Kate wrote in collaboration with her late father. You're going to love this episode. I'm going to get out of the way and let you enjoy yours truly with Ms. Kate Robinson.
Chase Jarvis: (Video) They love you.
Chase Jarvis: Kate, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome.
Kate Robinson: Thank you. It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me on.
Chase Jarvis: Coming from Windsor? Yes?
Kate Robinson: Windsor, yeah. Just right by the Castle.
Chase Jarvis: Right by the Castle. So our conversation today has a couple of objectives. One, I have been interested in, as soon as I found out that you had been working closely with your father on the manifesto that he had undertaken prior to his passing in 2020, I immediately wanted to have you on the show. Didn't even know when the book was out. I had just heard something that you were working on it. And so, first of all, I want to say a personal debt of gratitude to your family for being such champions for not just for education, but specifically for creativity. And I've been a long time fan of your father's and the fact that you have been collaborating with him prior to his passing and have put out a new book that we'll talk about today called Imagine If . . .:Creating a Future for Us All
Chase Jarvis: I want to start at the start though, for those folks who might be unfamiliar, maybe the 10 people on the planet who haven't seen your father's TED Talk about schools killing creativity. I'm hoping you can just orient us a little bit and start at the beginning for, I would say, what you stand for personally as someone who's caring forward your family legacy, but maybe you and your father in what you stand for and why you think you're on the show. I mean, obviously the book, but you have some values that I want to share. So talk to us a little bit about those values.
Kate Robinson: Okay. I would love to. So I guess the first thing to say is that dad was a speaker and a writer and an educator, an educationalist. He talked a lot about education and the ways in which he felt it could improve, that's me putting it nicely. I suppose at its core, his work was... Well, when I was preparing to write the manifesto, I was re-reading through all of his books and kind of going deep into everything that he had done. And his work very much was a criticism of the systems that we've created. And I'll talk probably a little bit more about that in a bit, just about the ways in which we've created the world in which we live. So it's a criticism of the systems that we've created that no longer serve us. So in particular, education, which he made the point was created for a time long gone past to suit the needs of the Industrial Revolution.
Kate Robinson: But at its core, my dad's work was a real celebration of what we as a species are capable of achieving within the right conditions. I keep saying it was a real love letter to human potential. It was a look at what we're capable of doing, look at what we've achieved and imagine what we could go on to achieve as a species if we created the conditions for every single person to thrive, rather than systematically kind of keeping them down. So that, I suppose, was the core of his work, but he had a few contentions. The first was that we all have incredible powers of creativity. The second was that human cultures depend upon the diversity of our talents and of our passions and of our skills. And the third was that if each and every one of us identifies with what our passion is, he called it the element, which he said was where your personal passion meets your natural aptitude.
Kate Robinson: So it's not enough just to be good at something, you have to really love it. And in the case of being element, it's not enough to just absolutely love something. You also have to have some skill and knack for it. But his feeling was that if we all identified what our individual element was or is, then the world would be a much better place. And there are all sorts of... That sounds kind of almost kind of light and fluffy, but actually when you boil down into the reasons why the world would be a better place, they go the right way down to economic. There's a lot behind it. So he was in education for a very long time.
Kate Robinson: And people talk about the TED Talk, as you said, he did three in total. But the first in 2006 is still the most downloaded TED Talk of all time. He had a moment when the Pope did his, when he thought this is probably the end of his reign. But he carried on, he used to joke it was just him pressing replay over and over again. But he always used to say that you don't get asked to do a TED Talk unless you've done something. Because I think a lot of people thought his career started when he did the TED Talk. And I think he was, I can't remember, I mean, he must have been his late 50s, if not early 60s, when he did the first Ted Talk. Late 50s.
Chase Jarvis: And he was already a Sir at that point, was he?
Kate Robinson: Yeah, he had been knighted 30 years before. Yeah. By my neighbor, Queen Elizabeth. But he'd done a lot, particularly here there was one report called, he led a number of reports, but one in particular was called All Our Futures. It was commissioned in 1999 by the then labor government by Tony Blair to kind of look at how to incorporate more creativity into the curriculum. And it was a huge report. And eventually the government kind of swept it under the rug when it came out, because I think they were looking for a quick fix like do an hour of arts at the end of the week and problem solved. But what dad and his incredible team came back with was this huge, whole system over whole recommendations that... So the government swept it under the rug, but it really lit a fire in the sector here in the UK, all across the UK in the arts and education sector. So there was that. And then he was involved in the peace process in Northern Ireland. So he did a huge amount, but I think to answer the actual question you asked about core values-
Chase Jarvis: No, this is exactly what we're trying to get to.
Kate Robinson: ... Yeah. I mean, his core values, I suppose, were optimism. It was a real celebration of humanity. I think he had such a great love for humanity and his primary goal was to advocate for creating systems that elevate each and every person within them.
Chase Jarvis: There's couple... Well, thank you for sharing that backstory again. And just so I'm going to say it in the most blunt way, that was an incredibly, insanely powerful talk about the power of creativity and human spirit. And in the story that you just shared or the backstory rather, you mentioned a couple things that I want to... It's amazing, they're in my notes here, just the conditions. You talked about the conditions that set us up to be successful in pursuing our passion and unlocking the creativity which is in every person.
Chase Jarvis: So I want to talk about the conditions and I also want to talk about, I think it's always important to start at the start with the definition. Because a lot of people, when they think creativity, they think popsicle sticks and glitter and glue guns in grade five or whatever [crosstalk 00:08:41] in grade three. Exactly, exactly. I know you have a definition in the book, and I thought it might be useful for us to start there so that when people are listening, they know we're talking about Creativity with the capital C and not creativity with the small C. So maybe you can share that with us.
Kate Robinson: I can. And actually the definition came from that report originally; from the All Our Futures Report in 1999. So the definition of creativity that dad used, that we used for everything that we do, is the process of having original ideas that have value. There are three key terms within that that are important, I guess, to talk about. The first is that creativity is a process and process is when two things kind of have a conversation with each other. There are two aspects that bounce off one another. And in the case of creativity, it's idea generation and then idea evaluation. So you're constantly coming up with a new idea and then evaluating it, going back to the idea, tweaking it, evaluating that, checking it in the bin, starting again. So it's a process, it's a journey. So it's a process of having original ideas.
Kate Robinson: It doesn't have to be original to the world. It doesn't have to be the first time anyone in humanity has done something. It can be, but it could also be original in the context of the person who's created it. It could be the first time they've thought of something in a certain way. It could be original in the context of a peer group. So the people that that person's sort of inspired by or working with. Or it could be original to humanity.
Kate Robinson: And then the last, which is kind of the biggest, I guess most contentious point of the definition, is that it has to have value. And value in this context means that it has to fit the purpose for which it's designed. So if your goal is to create a beautiful building, beauty is one factor of it. Therefore to have value, it must be beautiful. But if it crumbles the second you open the door, it doesn't have the value that you're looking for. It has to be both beautiful and sound as a building. So it's value in terms of what you're setting out to achieve. Yeah, that's the definition that he used. So the process [inaudible 00:10:47].
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. If I'm going to editorialize a little bit, it's not just art. Art is a subset of creativity. There are people listening. I mean, to be fair, over 12 years of the show, we've weeded out most of the people who are not either identify as creators, entrepreneurs, or at least are creative curious. We've weeded most of those people out after a dozen years. But there are some people who are listening or watching right now who, I believe, would call into question the validity of their own. Am I creative? Especially people who've been coached through that system that was created by the factory and the farm from the 1900s for whom they were raised sort of with those values. And, no judgment here, but they would call into question how creative they are or aren't.
Chase Jarvis: So I'm wondering if you can, through the lens of your work, the work of your father, I'll just call it your family, talk to that person for a second and help them understand that this notion of creativity where they don't identify as possessing it, or being able to engage in the process, talk to them for a second. And I would love to hear you let them know what you think.
Kate Robinson: All right. Let's call him Dave. There are three big myths around creativity that dad talked a lot about. And the first is that creativity is about certain people, special people, the creatives. And we constantly enforce that in schools and particularly in businesses where you have the creatives, people who have-
Chase Jarvis: The creative department, right?
Kate Robinson: Yeah. Or you say, "I am a creative." And you're like, "What does that mean?" So that's the first myth and it is a myth. Absolutely everybody has powers of creativity. And I think that myth stems from the second myth, which is that creativity is about certain things; about certain subjects. Like you said, like popsicle sticks. But inherently, you associate creativity with being the arts, with being art and music and dancing and making things. But actually you can be creative and you are creative and absolutely anything that involves human intelligence. I give the example in the book of Dr. Amir Amedi who's a neuroscientist who has worked with people who are born blind, congenitally blind. And through his systems, he's developed a way to help them to see using, I'm not a neuroscientist, but he's reverse engineered essentially ultrasounds. So he takes sight and then turns them into sounds.
Kate Robinson: And through this, people who have never seen before can look at a bowl of green apples and pick out the one red apple within it. I give that example because it's a great example of how a subject that we think of as being purely academic. And I can talk about the issue with the word academic as well, but a subject like neuroscience, which we think is not being creative at all, it's a great example of how it is, because what he's done is he's a identified a problem. He's come up with an idea. He's gone through that process of trialing it and experimenting. And then at the end of it, come up with a solution. And I think that idea of it being a process and a journey is another reason why a lot of people think that they aren't creative, because you kind of think if you don't get something right on the first attempt that you're just no good at it.
Kate Robinson: And that happens a lot in school when there's a right answer or a wrong answer. But actually it's a process and ideas are very vulnerable when you're in the creative process, they can be squashed way before their time. So, okay. So the first myth was that it's about special people. The second is that it's about special subjects. And the third is that you're either creative or you're not. And there's nothing you can do about it, you're born with a set amount of creativity. When in reality, creativity, it's a part of the brain. It's like muscle. In the same way that the more you practice language, the better you get at the language. The more you practice and use your creative muscle, the stronger it becomes. And so there's a lot that you can do about it.
Kate Robinson: And actually dad's first book was called Out of Our Minds. And the original subtitle, they changed it now, but the original was Learning To Be Creative, which at the time in the '90s was controversial, because people were still the belief that you can't... How do you learn to be creative? You either have it or you don't. But it's a pity that it is that issue with it being seen as being popsicle sticks in the arts, not to undermine that type of creativity at all, but you can't-
Chase Jarvis: This is so limiting. This is so limiting. Yeah.
Kate Robinson: ... And damaging as a result because it squashes progress.
Chase Jarvis: Well, let's pull on that thread for a second, the idea of it being damaging. And if you connect the idea of creativity unleashing our human potential, and this being a law of your book, Imagine If, being a love letter to humanity. And then think about squashing creativity, essentially we're squashing our humanity. If A equals B and B equals C, then A equals C by the transitive property of mathematics if I remember my math correctly.
Kate Robinson: There you go.
Chase Jarvis: And I love that we're talking about math while we're talking about creativity. So I think this is a good point to explore these beliefs and what we understand to be true and some of the myths that inhabit our education systems. I think I'm speaking for the US, you can be speaking for the UK, but just generally I think this is true on a global scale. So this idea that the education system sort of teaches us out of our innate creativity and that it is based on a period, I think you talked about industrialization or post industrialization. So talk to us about the ways that education does the squashing.
Kate Robinson: Oh, it squashes. Yeah. So formal education systems, and I grew up in America so I feel like I can speak to both.
Chase Jarvis: All right.
Kate Robinson: I grew up in LA. The formal education systems, as we recognize them, most of them around the world were based on the Industrial Revolution and designed in its image. And as a result, the Industrial Revolution needed a certain type of person. It needed a kind of pyramid of people at the bottom. The majority of people it needed were workers, people who could operate the machinery and work. And in the middle were people who could kind of be managerial. And then at the top were the kind of really top level owners and people who were in charge essentially. So education systems were at the time designed to kind of cater to the masses to a certain point, and then they would go off and work. Obviously we've extended that over time. And now most people are at school in their early 20s, if not, depending on the profession, a lot longer.
Kate Robinson: In terms of how it squashes it today, the example that dad gave, we often talk about education being like an industrial factory. You'll recognize this from the book, there's a whole chapter on this. But we talk about education as being an industrial factory and you can kind of see why, because there's a conveyor belt and kids get on at one end and then they move along it and get kind of loaded with other information and then there's various quality checks along the way. And then they have the final product that kind of gets shipped off into the world.
Kate Robinson: There's a brilliant school in New York, a Blue School, who say that they like to think of education instead as being trying to find the flint underneath rocket boosters, which I, total aside, but I just really love that image instead of getting the rocket pad and trying to find what lights and sets them up, which I love. But anyway, to go back to the actual point, dad's issue with that metaphor, and he used it himself because you can see why it's caught on. But what gets made in a factory? Nuts and bolts and parts that have no opinion on what happens to them. Children do. We aren't inanimate objects at any age of our life. So he felt that the actual analogy or metaphor to use was an industrial farm. So the mass production of living things.
Kate Robinson: The way that industrial farms work is they focus on yield, on output. If you're doing plants, they focus on creating these massive fields of one type of crop and they grow them individually. So you've got all the cabbages in a line and then all the radishes in a line and... I'm not a farmer. And I don't think I might be going on an industrial farm. But then they get sprayed with pesticides to keep the natural, the insects that would feed on them and they kill the ecosystem that's around them. And at the end you get these perfect cabbages, thousands of them, perfect uniform cabbages. But in the process, you've destroyed ecosystems. You've destroyed the top soil. You've destroyed the animal life and the birds that feed on the animals and the creatures that feed on the birds.
Kate Robinson: Education does a very similar process to that. We teach things in subjects. So you do maths from this time to this time and English from this time to this time and language from this time to this time. And I make this point in the book. But if you imagine in our day to day lives as adults, if every 45 to 50 minutes someone rang a bell and made us stand up, pack our things up and move to another room to do something totally different, you'd go crazy. This kind of system, and you can only do 40... I mean, you talk about creativity. Depending on the task, but the thought that you'd just be getting into something and then you just have to stop halfway through, forget it until the next day.
Kate Robinson: So that's one way that it squashes creativity is it doesn't give you a chance to have a good run at anything. And some things don't take 45 minutes as well. Anyway. So in industrial methods of education, you have subjects. And dad was a big advocate for moving towards disciplines. Because with disciplines, you can be multidisciplinary. You can talk about the similarities between things instead of saying that, "Okay, the sciences are very different from the arts." You can actually see how the arts and scientists are very similar. We talk about maths. There's a conductor in Miami who uses Fibonacci sequences when he's doing his music. It's all intertwined in the real world. So it's separating things out. And then the big one is this system of quality control, the standardized testing that comes in. And people who disagreed with that often did it because they felt like he was against assessment.
Kate Robinson: He always said he didn't mind people disagreeing with him if they had disagreed with what he actually said, that's fine. But if they made up what they thought he said and disagreed with that, that was an issue because he wasn't against assessment. But there's a time and a place for it and I think the pressure that we put children under to meet these tests leaves very little room for much else. And it's not just the children, the pressure that gets put on the teachers to teach to the test. The whole system becomes toxic. There isn't enough space and, such a long answer. I apologize.
Chase Jarvis: No, this is exactly what this format is for.
Kate Robinson: The last thing I want to say about it though is a lot of the things that we do in formal education or in schools make sense from an admin point of view. It's very easy to say, "Okay, well, every subject gets the same amount of time and there'll be a test at this point and every child of this age should be able to do this." But if education is based on conformity, life is based on diversity. The natural world is based on diversity and there's no space within. I say there's no space within the system as it is. There's actually a lot more within the system than we think. A lot of what we do isn't actually dictated or mandated, it's just the way we've always done them. But it's seeing children as data points instead of humans.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. To go back and borrow the analogy of the factory, the expectation that everyone who's the same age will be able to process and learn things at the same time. It's obviously so rigid. And if we want to output humans that are diverse, diverse in interest, diverse in thought, diverse in character because that is where our strength lies, then it's foolish to think, right, that a system that would be so rigid could output products that are so diverse.
Kate Robinson: Yeah. Exactly. It's not designed to.
Chase Jarvis: Right. It's not a stretch.
Kate Robinson: No.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. So I'm fascinated by our ability and our awareness that this is the case. And then our inability. I would say culturally, this is where you and your father were aiming to create a revolution. We can say these words and in many senses, know these things. But we still struggle to produce the change that we want to see. Is it that there are people who do not actually want this change, or is it that not enough people are aware for this revolution to take place?
Kate Robinson: The first thing I would say is I struggle to believe that anybody... I mean, this might just be me being very naive, but I struggle to believe that anybody wakes up and thinks, "How can I screw over a generation of kids today?" I don't think anybody is resistant to it because they think, maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that anybody up at the top is doing it because they think that this is-
Chase Jarvis: There's no evil genius. There's no command and control.
Kate Robinson: Yeah. Let's just make 18 years of someone's life miserable because I can. I think a lot of people believe that the system is fine as it is. There's a lot of belief that I got through it. And yes, it sucked, but it was the making of me. It's a rite of passage. You have to have those difficult years in your childhood. You have to have that teacher that's crushed your spirit, but you'll get through it and you'll be fine. But the terrifying fact is increasingly people aren't getting through it. Suicide rates for teenagers is an all time high. And if you look at the studies of people asking teenagers why there is such a mental health crisis in our young people, they will quite often cite the stresses of education and standardized testing and pressure to get into certain colleges in particular.
Kate Robinson: But I don't believe there is an evil genius. I think on one hand, it's really hard to change a system because yes, this system isn't working and it's got far too many casualties in its wake, but it's functioning. So if we tear it down, what if there's absolute chaos? So I think there's fear to do anything that rocks the boat too much in case it has too much of a negative impact. But if you actually then look at the issues that the system as it is is creating, the levels of dropouts, which I hate that term. I left school at 16. But people leaving the system of their own accord or not of their own accord, being excluded or expelled. The crime rates and then also the cost of these programs to get kids back into education. Which very often rely on the personalized methods that my dad and I campaigned for in the first place. It's very hard to-
Chase Jarvis: That irony. We should draw circle around what you just said, because literally the system that is designed to help people only comes to their aid after they have not-
Kate Robinson: ... Fit within.
Chase Jarvis: Yeah. Fit within the most simple baseline. And I would call sort of rudimentary factory, right? Or agricultural, mass produced agricultural farm to use your better analogy. It's so ironic and sad that there's an acknowledgement that that is an effective way of-
Kate Robinson: [inaudible 00:26:59] back involved.
Chase Jarvis: ... Yeah. And this belief that we can do that on a one off basis after someone has left the building, so to speak, versus if you could scale that, wouldn't you be able to save on all of the sort of costs and drama, and I would just call it pain and suffering later on? It's not lost on me. I'm sorry for interrupting. I just-
Kate Robinson: No, no. You're absolutely right. I love that you did that.
Chase Jarvis: ... Yeah. We have to draw our attention to that.
Kate Robinson: It's ridiculous that we know that they work and yet we save them for special occasions when things are absolutely desperate. It's not a matter of there not being enough statistics or evidence that... And dad would say a lot of the arguments that he made weren't new. He was standing on the shoulder of the giants that came for him and the practices he was campaigning for go back eons.
Kate Robinson: But I think the other issue when you look at it from a political point of view is that there are other political agendas. Certainly over here in the UK, politicians don't stay in the job for very long. They're on their way to the next step up the political rung. So it's, what do they do in that time that doesn't mess things up too much for the next person or undo everything the person before them has done? So it's a very difficult game when you look at it. But dad put in the book, the rock and roll wasn't a government-led initiative. The governments didn't sit down and think, "Do you know what? If we can get people just really into this new beat, if maybe we'll put out a couple of songs, see if they get with it." They didn't do that, we did. It came about, and then we fell in love with it and it became a thing.
Kate Robinson: The same was true for same sex marriage. That wasn't a government thinking, "Do you know what? It's about time that people had these rights." It was the people demanding better. And eventually after years of struggle, the government giving in to a point, and there's still a long way to go on that one. So dad's belief was he'd moved away. I think probably in part because of that 1999 report. But he'd moved away from working with governments. Because when it boils down to it, if you are a teacher in a classroom, to the children within your class, you are the education system. They don't care what's happening even in the classroom down the hall, let alone the school down the street or the one in the next town or the next country or across the world. They don't care about PISA results or anything.
Kate Robinson: They care about how they're going to get from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM in the afternoon to get through the day, how they're going to pass this semester, how they're going to get through their exams and whether or not they'll go to college. So if you as a teacher, dad's point was, if you are within the system, if you as a teacher change your practice, change the way you approach education, to the kids in your classroom, you've changed the system as far as they care. And his feeling was when enough people do that, the system begins to break. And that's how revolutions happen. They happen from the ground up. And actually there is a huge movement towards it, but I think what is missing from the revolution that we're campaigning for is the voice of young people.
Kate Robinson: If you look particularly at this generation that's in school now, if you look at what they've done already and what they've achieved, you look at School Strike 4 Climate or March for Our Lives or the young voices of Black Lives Matter. If young people were to look around and realize actually they don't have up with this, and educate themselves on their rights, the UN Declaration of Human Rights that education should be to the fulfillment of the whole individual. I think that's when the revolution happens myself. I think a lot of people of our age and above and below buy into it and believe it because they've had their own experience with it.
Kate Robinson: But we do a very good job of telling young people they don't have a voice and that they have to get through this and we terrify them. If you don't do this, then you'll never go to college and you'll never get a job. And it's a lie because so many people do. They get the grades and they go to their top college and they graduate and where are the jobs? It's not the golden ticket they expect to sweep them through to retirement anymore. Even the [ lion 00:00:31:05] is old and outdated.
Chase Jarvis: And even the fact that most of the jobs that the people who are in school now will have do not actually exist.
Kate Robinson: They don't exist. Yeah. And the time of most people choosing a career or vacation and doing it from the minute they leave school until the day they retire, that's gone. People change jobs so often him throughout their careers. Yeah. It's time.
Chase Jarvis: Well, speaking of [crosstalk 00:31:32]. No, go ahead please.
Kate Robinson: Oh, I was just going to say I think that's one of the saddest thing. I mean, dad passing away would've been, on a personal level, there was never a good time for that to happen. And he was only 70. So it definitely was not a good time in a personal level. But from a wider level, the tragic thing about the timing of his death, I think, is that there has never been a more important time for this message. He said that the more complex the challenges of the world become, the more creative we need to be to face them. And they're so complex at the moment. They're so complex at this point where we are with the pandemic and with everything else that's happened.
Kate Robinson: The pandemic, it's a massive one, don't get me wrong, but there's all the issues that were there before the pandemic that need addressing as well. The new ones that are happening at the moment as well. It is time. We have come as far as we possibly can as a species down this path, we can't keep doing what we've been doing forever. We'll break the planet or break... Both things are already breaking.
Chase Jarvis: That's one of the things that I love about your book is it's a call to action to address these things. And you mentioned the book just briefly in a couple of points and I've cited it one time. I want to just call it out explicitly. It's called Imagine If . . .: Creating a Future for Us All. Collaboration between Sir Ken Robinson, your father, and you Kate. And it's extraordinary. And I love the package. You open with the quote if... Sorry this is... Normally when you write a letter, "Sorry, this is so long. If I had more time, I would've made it shorter." But it's just an absolutely beautiful and 100 pages. It's so digestible and it does such a great job of packaging these ideas that we speak about. And I'm wondering if you can take us through the process of actually creating the book, given that this podcast is about creativity, innovation and maximizing human potential.
Chase Jarvis: The concept and the process of writing a book is very, very difficult. And I'm wondering if you can lay out the story and the timeline a little bit for us. Your father had a life of service, was knighted by The Queen, had his TED Talk and wrote several books in the process. But at some point, pick up the narrative where your father got sick. He had been. There's all the books and you decided that you need to package all this up. So walk us through the creative process for the book and a little bit about the timeline so we can put it in space.
Kate Robinson: Well, so the book, the idea of the book came from dad's agent, a man called Peter Miller who passed away in August of 2021. I'm fighting the urge that this book might be cursed, but he passed away in August of 2021. And it was his idea that there's so much to dad's work, but it's almost daunting. So what we needed was a concise, sort of Sir Ken Robinson almost for the beginners book that was just an overview of everything that he believed. And so the original contract with Penguin, I think, was for 10,000 words. This book, as tiny as it is, is 25,000 words. So I upped it a bit. It was a joke though for years, a family joke that if dad told you he couldn't meet you because he was working on the manifesto, we called it 'the manifesto of years'.
Kate Robinson: But if dad said, "I can't, I'm working on the manifesto." He was just blowing you off because he wasn't. The original contract, the deadline was 2017, I think. So it was this big thing in his life because I think that thing, because it's so hard to be concise, and what do you put in it and what do you leave out? What you leave out is almost more important than what you put in it because you then have to kind of address it somehow. So it had been this big mammoth thing in our lives for a long time, this tiny little book. And he got sick. So my parents moved, they were in LA for 20 years. I moved back to London in 2012. They moved back to England. They packed up the house, sold the house and moved back in March 2020, 2 days before the pandemic, the lockdowns over here started.
Kate Robinson: And then in April, dad got sick and he was supposed to get better. He spent a month in hospital, he had surgeries. And then it went from, "You'll be fine by Christmas" to, "It's spread and there's nothing we can do." So we had two and a half weeks from prognosis to him passing away. Just before, I think he was worried he wasn't going to get as better as he had hoped. So he had asked me to help him write the book because we'd been working together for years. And we were like, "Yeah, we'll write it when you're better." And then he wasn't going to get better. So we spent a lot of the two and a half weeks. I got married in that two and a half weeks, which is crazy, but it was our last happy day, which was nice. He got to be there and give me away.
Kate Robinson: But we spent most of it talking about the book and he'd done a talk in May of 2020 organized by Tim Schreier called The Call to Unite. And it was done kind of to keep morale up, I think, as well. In May 2020, we kind of thought maybe it'll be a few more weeks of the pandemic maybe. Come on, we've come this far. It'll be over soon. But I think dad poured his heart into it because he knew he was sick when he did The Call to Unite. And so he essentially said to me, "That's the manifesto. It's that talk." And it's actually that talk is essentially from the Factory to the Farm chapter in the book. So we had, I'd say, a week maybe where we worked on it and then he got too sick to carry on working and he left me everything.
Kate Robinson: So I have everything. He was a hoarder, I have everything like his tax returns from the '70s, which were not relevant to the book. But we have things like the notes from the TED Talks. And so one of our objectives at the moment is we're building an archive, so that's an aside. And it was kind of terrifying and I knew it would be because I knew how do you... On one hand, it's fantastic that he lived and breathed his work. So on one hand, to have his work live on is a way of me keeping him alive. And he was my hero; he still is my hero. He was the best person I've ever met. So to have that little bit of him still going is selfishly amazing.
Kate Robinson: But then how do you make big decisions? Because what he had was an outline. So how do you make big decisions about what goes into it and what doesn't? And he wanted it to be kind of almost like the Holstee Manifesto, a one page thing. I think Penguin wanted it to be a longer book and felt like it should be. And I agreed with them on that. So the first thing I did was, how do I marry these two visions? Dad's vision of this being a 10,000 page book and now he's died and so it has to be a bigger book? So I came up with the idea of manifesto statements. So every chapter starts with a statement. And the idea is if you pull those 10 statements, that's the manifesto at its core. Those 10 statements are dad's life's work. And then each chapter goes into it. And I re-read all of his books. I read the books that inspired him in particular... Chase, I just lied to you. I didn't. I tried. I tried really hard to read the books that inspired him. It would've been great if I did, but they're really dense.
Chase Jarvis: For sure. I dropped out of a PhD in Philosophy. The density of the reading broke me.
Kate Robinson: Exactly.
Chase Jarvis: You really can't. You read three pages and you're like, "I have to go on vacation now."
Kate Robinson: Well, his favorite book to his credit was a book called Philosophy in a New Key by Susanne K. Langer. And I'm still on page seven, 18 months later. And the seven pages have been life changing. Imagine what the rest have in them. But what I got from that was he had such a skill of making difficult, big concepts seem so succinct and relatable and understandable. So that was a big thing. How do you take these big issues and make them relatable? So I tried to read Philosophy in a New Key and then I did read Emotional Intelligence. And then he kind of took over in a way. It took three months to write it and I locked myself away and it was like hanging out with him for three months. I got to get his voice in my head and try and put his voice into my voice and my voice into his voice because the whole book's written as him.
Chase Jarvis: Can you talk about that editorial choice for a second? The decision for you to write it, but write it in his voice. I think that's fascinating.
Kate Robinson: It's his book. It's his manifesto. I've helped to write it, but it's his lifetime of work. And I think he was so affable. He was so personable. I remember asking him, I used to be terrified of public speaking, and it made no part better by the fact that my father is one of the world's best public speakers.
Chase Jarvis: One of the best ever.
Kate Robinson: It doesn't help. That doesn't help stage fright.
Chase Jarvis: No slides, no notes. Just strolling around making brilliant jokes.
Kate Robinson: Yeah. [inaudible 00:41:05] up the bow. Yeah. That's terrifying legacy when you get asked to do public speaking. And I remember asking him once for some tips and he said, "Just go out and speak to people. They're just people. Go out and talk to them." Which is so simple, but... You try so hard to present to people and pretend... He just got out there as a person to person, which I loved. It had to be his voice. It couldn't have been... And it had to be... And he'd started it so I completed it in his voice. But it had to be his letter to humanity, his celebration of us and his kind of action points and call to action. His last little gift.
Chase Jarvis: Well, I have to confess that the structure is brilliant the idea that these 10 lines can become a manifesto, if it's extracted and each of them is their own. So I'd like to just read a couple of the... You said there's one statement for each chapter. The first one is the Human Advantage. And the statement is, "Imagination is what separates us from the rest of life on earth. It's through imagination that we create the worlds in which we live. We can also recreate them." Another one that I will extract is the one that you mentioned earlier, the chapter on rock and roll. And it's titled Be The Change and the statement is, "Rock and roll was not a government-led initiative. Revolutions do not wait for the legislation, they emerge from what people do at the ground level." So you can imagine the power of each of those and there's eight of them. I won't give them all away. You have to buy the book.
Kate Robinson: You sound great in your voice. I should have asked you to do the audio book. It's fantastic.
Chase Jarvis: If you ever want to... I did my own stunts for my last book, Creative Calling and... Oh, my God.
Kate Robinson: You did the audio of it?
Chase Jarvis: Yes.
Kate Robinson: Yeah. I did for this one.
Chase Jarvis: It was such a grueling process.
Kate Robinson: How long is the book?
Chase Jarvis: It's 300 pages. 284 pages.
Kate Robinson: No, no. I have 100 so-
Chase Jarvis: 70,000 words, I think it's 75,000 words.
Kate Robinson: How long did that take?
Chase Jarvis: It was 40 hours of reading.
Kate Robinson: Oh, my goodness. You kind of go into the future as well, don't you? That feeling. You know when you look at a word and it loses all meaning? School is a good one. If you look at school long enough, the letters float away and it means nothing. [crosstalk 00:43:30] It's 70,000 words.
Chase Jarvis: And there were some sentences I'm like, "Who wrote this sentence?" I can't speak it, let alone read it. I'm like, "Oh, God, I got no one to blame."
Kate Robinson: No. And it's too late to make any changes at that point.
Chase Jarvis: It is. It is. It was far too late. Well, the creative process is, as you talk about, the meta-concept here is not lost in anyone that we're talking about a book about creativity. And that was a little bit of a... It was difficult for me in the same regard to write a book on it. And to hear you talk about doing that, and then trying to carry a legacy of your father, Sir Ken Robinson, and put your own experience in there and make it a thought for the future coming from a different generation. I can only imagine how complex that must have been, and that you did it in just a few months is nothing short of incredible. So thank you for putting the work in. It is absolutely beautiful and tidy.
Chase Jarvis: One last area I want to explore. And the relationship between creativity, as in art and Creativity the capital C that underpins the solutions to every problem we will ever know whether humanitarian, economic, racial, anything, right? We're going to have to have creative solutions. Is there a succinct package that you can hand us as listeners and watchers right now? A roadmap, if you will? This is a call to action, but in a nutshell, tell us what to do. What is the action that you want us to take? Of course, we're going to buy the book. We're going to read it. But this is isn't, it's also-
Kate Robinson: And that's some 25,000 words. A more succinct package. I will try. I suppose it kind of goes back to your earlier point around people opting to tune out or... The book makes the case that we are facing two very real crises. The first is the crisis of the earth's natural resources. And the second is a crisis of our human resources and that we have to address both. We're stripping the world of what we need to survive and we're stripping ourselves of what we need to survive. I think to answer this question by answering your other question as well, it's very easy a lot of the time to tune out, and we do that. I'm guilty of that. We do that with the way that we view the world and the products we buy, the foods we eat.
Kate Robinson: So I suppose the package is to get involved. And we make the case in the book that if you're a stakeholder in education, and everybody's a stakeholder in education, because even if you think, "I run businesses that have nothing to do with education," you're hiring people. Someone said to me the other day, a man called Paul Lindley said, "Society is what happens when children grow up," which is very succinct and exactly right. So all of us in one way or another is invested in what happens behind the closed doors of a school. And it's to get involved. And the simplest thing to do is to commit to figuring out what your own diverse talent and passion is because our cultures depend on each of us figuring that out.
Chase Jarvis: Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. And go back to one of your early points about how much better the world will be when we can all do that. And I say when intentionally rather than if, because my belief because is that that is our ultimate destination is where everyone's doing the things that make them come alive. And we find the flint underneath everyone's rocket. Let's speak for just a second to the people who haven't found that for themselves or who are searching or had it earlier in life, but have lost it. Would you speak to them for a second and let them know?
Kate Robinson: Yes, it's daunting. And I kind of went through my own version of that. Again, the legacy of having a dad like daddy and being known for talking about the element. People are like, "What's your element?" I'm like, "I don't know." No, it turns out it's this. It's writing. But I think there are a few things to say to it. The first is the... I think that one of the reasons that people don't dedicate the time and energy and resource to figuring it out, and I can't speak to everybody in all circumstances because there are people to whom this is much easier than it is for other people. But for people who have the access and the resources or an easier chance to, but maybe don't dedicate the time to finding what it is that they're passionate about because the time it'll take. And I think the best thing I ever heard is that the time will pass anyway, so where do you want to be four years down the line? With any luck, you'll still be here doing something. So make it be the thing that you want to do.
Kate Robinson: I think another thing is that I'm not sure that everybody has one. There can be lots of things that you find passion in. Not everything has to be a multi-billion dollar industry or even a career. You can be doing it in the side moments, in the evenings and the weekends. And aside from everything else that you have to do, what are the things that you want to do? Because it sounds so cheesy to say it, but, boy, have I been made acutely aware of it in the past two years. You really only have one shot at life. My dad was dying and I almost feel this is going to sound really weird, but I almost feel fortunate to have learnt about death from him because I feel like I learned about everything else from him.
Kate Robinson: So in some kind of strange way, it made sense to be watching him die and even the mechanics of it. But one of the most incredible things is that I'm not sure he had any regrets. In 70 years, he lived every single one of his 70 years, every single day of the 70 years. And one of the reasons for that was that he had polio and he grew up in poverty. He had polio. He got polio from a speech therapist, because he had such a bad speech impediment as a kid that he went to speech therapy where they think he got polio. So to ago from speech therapy at four to becoming one of the world's top speakers is just incredible. But people used to laugh in Liverpool in the '50s at him walking with a... He had proper calipers [inaudible 00:50:09] on and people would laugh.
Kate Robinson: And he learned to just keep walking. He never crossed the road. He never turned around and went back. He said that he'd learnt never to walk away from anything that frightened him. And I think that's a secret. I think a lot of people maybe do know what their element is or what their passion is. And they're terrified because what if it fails? Or what if it doesn't work out? Or what if people laugh? And it's about not walking away from it even if you're terrified because you don't know what it is. It's about not walking away from what scares you, because the time will pass anyway. And at some point your time will come and it's what have you done whilst you were here? The other really lovely quote, and I will butcher it, but it has been circulating since dad passed away that he said was, "What you do for yourself dies when you leave this world, what you do for others lives on forever."
Kate Robinson: And one of the best techniques I was taught by my parents when I was trying to figure out, I left school at 16 and a whole other story, but was if you don't know what you want to do for you, what are you going to go and do for somebody else? Go and volunteer or spend your time trying to make other people's life better if you're in a position to do so. And it's amazing how often that is someone's element is helping other people. It's amazing how often it can be that simple.
Chase Jarvis: Brilliant. Thank you so much for being on our show and sharing your life, your wisdom, the work that you've done in collaborating with your father. Kate Robinson in collaboration with Sir Ken Robinson. Imagine If . . .:Creating a Future for Us All. It's a brilliant little package. Again, it's so hard to do all that work in such a small space that you've done it so well. Thank you for being a guiding light. These principles have in large part guided my life, the company that we've created in CreativeLive. So largely the first online art school basically to help people. It's been a treat to read this and thank you so much. We're huge fans of you and your father. You can be a guest anytime here on the show. And I look forward to our paths crossing at some point soon. And is there anywhere else you'd steer people aside from buying the book, Imagine If? Is there anywhere you'd like to direct the attention of the folks listening or watching?
Kate Robinson: So we have an annual festival that we started called Imagine If [inaudible 00:52:31] that we started last year. Last year, it was kind of a celebration of the life and legacy of dad, but now it's a celebration of human potential, that happens every year. This year, it's March. So it's all of March, but there's content all year round. And so I'd go to imagine-if.com
Chase Jarvis: Imagine-if. And what is the format for that celebration?
Kate Robinson: Well, at the moment, it's digital because COVID. Because it has to be. So there's things happening. It's across platforms and it's various different sessions of people kind of having conversations like this. And there are webinars and Zooms and all that fun 2022 stuff. It's at various points over the month. And then, as I say, there's there's content that happens year round. We've got an incredible community of people who join and who are living and breathing all the things that we talk about or who are hoping to. So I guess that's the other thing I'd say if you're trying to figure out what this looks like for you, then get out there and meet other people who are doing it already. Put yourself in the world you want to be in. In this case, that's Imagine If.
Chase Jarvis: Excellent. Imagine-if.com.
Kate Robinson: Yes.
Chase Jarvis: Thank again, Kate. So grateful for your time. And on behalf of myself and Kate and to everybody out there in the world, we both bid you adieu.
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