By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to value creativity regardless 0f age or experience. Reading time: 3:22
The next time you find yourself dismissing a creative idea primarily because of the youth and inexperience of the source, consider these innovative teenage texting titans who revolutionized communications technology:
At 15, Louis Braille in 1824 in France invented a system of writing that blind people could read and write by feeling raised dots on a page.
No matter that he had been blind since the age of three when he inadvertently cut his eye with an awl, a tool used for punching holes.
At 19, John Robert Gregg in 1886 in Ireland invented the shorthand alphabet named after him. Gregg shorthand, back then before electricity and tape recorders, was first used by lawyers, preachers, authors and politicians to share verbal and written information more quickly.
These teens prove what every leader knows: Innovation stems from a passion to problem solve. No prerequisite demographics. No experience necessary.
Passion certainly drove Gregg in winning a competition at age 16 for his shorthand design and development. A magazine journal was particularly impressed with Gregg’s commitment to excellence.
“With him, shorthand is a work of love”
“With him, shorthand is a work of love, and he has devoted no small amount of time to the collection of literature of the various systems and comparisons of their merits,” the magazine noted.
Like all passionate innovators, Gregg studied all previous forms of shorthand and understood the historical derivation of each before adding value to the existing shorthand technology. Gregg’s focus on continuous improvement earned him a reputation as an authority in shorthand system design by the time he was 19. Gregg’s creative zeal in improving upon existing shorthand methods underscored a leadership insight: when introducing behavioral change adapt an existing behavior.
He based his shorthand system on an elliptical model (versus a circular model) that took advantage of a writer’s natural tendency’s to more accurately draw ovals rather than circles. His system proved to be easier to learn and more efficient to apply.
Meanwhile Louis Braille, another talented teen texting titan, would also focused on continuous improvement in helping the blind read more efficiently and write more effectively for the first time.
At age 12, he met a soldier who had invented a code of 12 raised dots so that soldiers could share top-secret information in the battlefield without having to speak. Braille improved on that code and by age 15 he had the first inkling of his six-raised dot system. Braille, blind himself, demonstrated what leaders do. They always have a vision even if they don’t have eyes.
The raised dots platform for Braille demonstrated another key tactic for the creative leader: Focus on strengths. Others had tried to correct the weakness: the inability to see letter shapes. instead of trying to make letters more comprehensively distinguished by touch, Braille thought more strategically, more creatively.
What could I do to enhance the sense of touch in a blind person? The opening session of his Braille training programs always surprised –and then delighted– his blind students. He gave them each a box full of uncooked macaroni and peas. He then asked each student to spill the contents onto their desks and then pick up the macaroni and peas and put it back in the box. The Macaroni Mania better prepared their fingers to learn his Braille system of reading by feeling raised dots.
And the Macaroni Mania also gaves us all a clear leadership lesson to follow. In creative problem solving, your passion regardless of age is your “secret sauce” of success. To solve the problem — to lead effectively — define your own Macaroni Magic and serve with your “secret sauce.” No experience necessary.
Foster innovation regardless of age or experience to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
SUBSCRIBE: Have a Leadership Mint delivered to your E-mail every business day. It’s free. Just click the SIGN ME UP box in the upper left column.