Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Power of Toolkits

A toolkit for innovation and design is a set of helpful devices, modular materials, examples and guidelines for the purpose of facilitating the creative process.
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If you've ever seen a child discover LEGOs, you've witnessed the power of toolkits in action. A child will voraciously construct, fashion, destroy and attempt everything she can imagine. She will also bend, throw, taste, and try to break - this is the nature of exploration. What is unique about toolkits over other toys is the initial level of excitement and desire to create that occurs when a child is exposed to the potential of a toolkit. For example, when a child first encounters a simple construction toolkit (like duplo blocks) and is shown an easy to understand construction, there is a realization followed by an unstoppable need to make what was just modeled. Older children working with more complex construction sets or artistic projects need only initial displays of toolkit potential and are then devising unique ideas and expressive solutions. Scale this innovative potential to more complex environments or pressing problems and you can see the possibilities for toolkit use across all areas of 'adult' learning, expression, and creative problem solving.

Toolkits are particularly powerful because:

  • They stimulate the making of real things
  • They provide a safe method of testing ideas, allowing for trial and error with minimal risk
  • They provide an outlet for exploration and self-expression
  • They teach us about ourselves and how we interact with our environment
  • They can be a self-rewarding method for getting stuff done, including solving problems, creating "new" things, and teaching valuable insights
  • They can help foster an encouraging can-do belief system

While all toolkits facilitate creation, they vary widely in form and complexity. For example, some toolkits involve physical manipulation (like LEGOs) while others are virtual (like software development kits). Some produce objects (like clay) and others help express ideas (like language). Some are unrestrained and expansive (like painting) and others are highly focused (like skinning an .mp3 player). Some are designed for innovative expression (like creating art) while others concentrate on re-fabricating existing models (like jigsaw puzzles).

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