Necessity is the fuel that motivates most of us to innovate, try a different approach, or learn a new skill. And when we burn that fuel it can be incredibly rewarding.
I recently saw necessity in action with my 17-year-old son, a high school junior. He hopes to play lacrosse in college. As part of the recruting process, coaches ask for video highlights of players so they can review their skills, not unlike efforts in some districts to videotape teachers to evaluate their classroom performance.
But my son faced a challenge. The video-editing machine he had gained some experience using at school was broken, and it was going to take a while to get it repaired. We had just purchased an iMac, after owning primarrily PCs, and he was just getting a taste for how to use it. At the same time, he felt a sense of urgency to edit and produce his video so he could send it to coaches in January. That’s when, by necessity, he taught himself to be a bona fide iMovie producer.
First, he had to figure out how to take a bunch of DVDs with hours of lacrosse footage and load them into iMovie. Then he had to take the DVDs and edit each one down to the best highlights, organize the clips in a video narrative that flowed naturally, strip the unnecesary audio, and produce a video that was less than five minutes long.
But, then, when he played it back on the computer one night, he could hear the unnecessary audio but there was no video roll, exactly the opposite of what he wanted to happen. Needless to say, he was not a happy camper (yes, a few expletives were hurled in the direction of the iMac), and the frustration in his voice and panic in his face were palpable. But eventually he calmed down, Googled questions about this particular problem, and found that others had run across it but had managed to fix it. He fixed it, too, and the video is now making the rounds to various coaches.
I tell this story because it shows how necessity is the fuel that motivated him. But I also tell it because, in the course of doing the project, it was working through problems that taught him the most important lesson: Failure is temporary, the next step is often an epiphany, and success eventually comes to those who keep on clicking.
That’s exactly the attitude the Joplin, Mo., schools have taken during very desperate times. (February 8, 2012.)
A version of this article appeared in the February 08, 2012 edition of Digital Directions as Necessity Drives Innovation