It is so important to keep dreaming.

Dreams are about possibilities and motivation.  Even if they seem very far out of reach, or only glimmers of possibility, they are glimpses of possibility in the world.

As we get older, dreams often seem impractical.  After many of your early hopes and dreams fall to the wayside as more fantasy than reality, it’s easy to start to believe that dreams are illusions, or even more cynically, for suckers.  It’s easy to start to demolish someone else’s dreams before they even get started.

Yesterday, I had some additional kids join my video and podcasting class.  While some kids were busy at work, one of the kids and I sat down and talked a bit about design thinking and went through steps initially about designing a surprise experience for someone else, a prompt I got from a box from Standford Design School.  After working that for a bit, we decided to talk about inventions and design, and the 7th grade young lady said she’s love to have a cell phone shaped like a Unicorn.  We both drew concepts, and then shared them and started to marry the designs together.  We took paper, and did a rapid prototype of a few possible designs, looking at pros and cons.  We came up with a final design that had some really cool innovative features I haven’t seen before, but a quick check of the web convinced me that they were possible.

I was also disappointed that my initial concepts for her idea were rather rigid and mundane, based on what I was familiar with, and it was the whimsy and unbounded nature of this young girl’s imagination that made everything possible.  We talked about everything from what features should be software or hardware buttons and more, and I realized that this collaboration between vision, dreaming, and the practical all really need to come together to move innovation forward- you need a mixture of everyone’s skills to invent the future.

This fun brainstorming session and rapid prototype process was incredibly engaging for both of us.  It made me think how much fun it would be to do a design thinking class with kids as an after school class.  Within the school day, it might be harder to do this sort of thing, as kids become, even by middle school, adept at trying to work within stated and unstated rules of adults and school to do what’s expected rather than a more dreamlike what’s possible.  I worry that kids are becoming more and more hemmed in by rules and have less time to simply create and be whimsical.

Rather than worrying so much about business plans, sourcing and marketing, why can’t we just make a unicorn-shaped smart phone?  What are the elements of good and bad design? (Hint: you need to make sure the horn is retractable) Even if the Unicorn Phone just remains a dream, the process of this thought, idea, and seeing if it’s even possible sparked that flame of Dream Big back in me, that I had let die out a bit, feeling a little worn down by the daily grind.

I think what I learned most from yesterday is that you always need to have some dream.  You need to have that sense of potential, of infinite possibility and joy.  Working with kids is an amazing reminder of that sense of limitless possibility, and I hope the teachers around these young people don’t forget it’s more important to encourage their dreams than tie them to the “real world” any sooner than necessary.  Even in the real world, they will still need those dreams, so help them dream big, and dream often.