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Innovation: Dare to fail

Every individual has the potential to be creative given the right encouragement and training

It appears that failing is the worst thing that youth can do in school. A series of programmes jointly organised by the Malaysian Association of Creativity and Innovation hopes to change that, writes SUZIEANA UDA NAGU

THE School Innovation Camp had threatened to be yet another boring weekend programme.

But there was something a little unusual about the camp and participants, who were from SM Sultan Abdul Halim, Jitra and SM Pendang — both in Kedah — could sense it.

The most glaring distinction between the scheme and others is that there was no pressure on participants to give the right answers.

“We encouraged them to try and to make mistakes. You could tell that the students started to relax as soon as they realised they would not be penalised (for their failure). Knowing that the camp was different from school perked them up,” says Malaysian Association of Creativity and Innovation (MACRI) founder and president Datuk Ghazi Sheikh Ramli, the man who conceptualised and funded the initiative.

There is no wrong answer in this programme, adds Ghazi, whose association had jointly organised the weekend school activity with the Kedah Education Department.

Malaysians must learn what innovation really means, says Ghazi Sheikh Ramli

 The camp is one of the projects conducted by MACRI, a non-profit organisation which was established three years ago by Ghazi, who believes that creativity is not the exclusive domain of artists and designers, “nor is innovation meant only for scientists and researchers”. 

The project aims to foster the creativity culture among Malaysians besides nurturing innovators of the future. 

Every individual has the potential to be creative given the right encouragement and training.

SM Sultan Abdul Halim has come up with the idea of a solar-powered bamboo car

Creativity gurus have long preached about the benefits of allowing young people to experiment and slip up. They believe that every breakthrough is preceded by failure.

However, it appears that failing is the worst thing that youth can do in school. 

An article titled Creativity at School: Is it even possible? ( notes that schools tend to pay lip service to the notion that making a blunder is acceptable.

“In fact mistakes are punished, conformity is rewarded and what we really expect is regurgitation of information.” 

Renowned British innovation consultant Sir Ken Robinson blames formal education and cultural norms for “systematically (suppressing) creative thinking and flexibility”.

Painter Pablo Picasso’s quote “all children are artists, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up” is right on the mark as many outgrow their capacity to think out of the box as soon as they reach adulthood.

Ghazi, author of Purple Beach (, agrees.

“Schools prescribe precisely what students must learn. Students are told that they must follow the exact steps or risk being wrong,” says the former senator.

Malaysian homes tend to reinforce this fear of failure.

“Creativity begins at home but society often sets too many boundaries — so much so that it discourages youth from being inquisitive,” he adds.

The School Innovation Camp was launched just months after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced 2010 as the year of creativity and innovation.

The three-day camp, which was attended by 60 fourth-formers from two schools in Kedah, Ghazi’s home state, is committed to giving the push that young people need.

“We have been conditioned to think that only certain people are creative and were born to be inventors but the potential for creativity can be unlocked,” says Ghazi. 

“Seeing things differently” is a key requirement of being creative and innovative.

At the camp, the participants learned to break their old thinking pattern and believe in their own latent talent for ingenuity. The students’ creativity was tested when they had to come up with creations using recyclable material.

The outcome of this challenge proved that young Malaysians “are capable of coming up with fresh ideas”.
  A sample of students’ creation using recycled materia

Apart from the innovation camp, MACRI also holds another programme for teachers called Teachers Innovation Lab with partners the Kedah Education Department and the Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Foundation. 

It exposes educators to activities similar to those which students had to perform at the camp.

“Creativity is possible in schools but only under certain conditions. The present climate in which teachers operate is unlikely to result in creativity,” says Ghazi.

SM Sultan Abdul Halim was a natural choice to house the School Innovation Hub, the latest initiative by MACRI.

“The government is contemplating a national innovation centre and we feel schools should also have their own. It will have a multimedia room, an idea space and a gallery displaying a collection of innovative artefacts from my personal collection, among others. It will be a place for students and teachers to follow their creative pursuits,” he adds.

He has a strong attachment to SM Sultan Abdul Halim as he had taught at the residential school for three years before completing his degree in Accountancy in 1970 at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

The Green Innovation Garden scheme at the school aspires to evolve into a centre for innovation in green technology.

The school community responded enthusiastically to MACRI’s initiatives.
SM Sultan Abdul Halim Humanities senior teacher Zainab Yaman says: “Teachers and students understand what is expected of them. They have come up with ideas that can be explored such as the solar-powered bamboo car.”

Ghazi hopes to replicate the Green Innovation Garden concept in other schools in Malaysia.

While Ghazi lauds the government’s effort to dedicate this year to innovation and creativity, he cautions that the journey to transforming Malaysia into an innovation-led economy will be a long one.

“Malaysians must learn what innovation really means. It is not just about creating products that are marketable. A creative business model is an innovation. So are processes, services and systems. If we equate innovation with profitable products then we are limiting ourselves,” he says.

As the “Innovation Evangelist” of Malaysia — a title he earned for his dedication to championing creativity and innovation in Malaysia — Ghazi is prepared to devote all his time and attention to making this a reality.


 Source : Innovation: Dare To Fail

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