If you have a child with musical skill, there is no better way to develop an important real world skill than sending him to a rock band camp. In one week he will not only hone his musical skills, but, more important, learn about teaming, a must skill of the future that will better prepare him on how to get work done when he enters the workforce. The children's future success will not going to be just about knowing stuff and learning new stuff, but also getting the job done working with people they don't know that well. Kids have to start early to get little uncomfortable so they will be better prepared for the challenges of the future they will face and can thrive.
Schools can learn a lot from rock band camp in not only how to teach a specific subject (music), but teaching children soft business skills that they will need so they can be gainfully employed when they leave school in the future and get a good job or even start their own company.
Instead of coming up with affordable, pragmatic and proven solutions to help kids learn better, we keep hearing on the news, social media, talk shows, friends, politicians, relatives and education thought leaders about how public schools are failing to adequately prepare children with the necessary skills for the future. As Sir Ken Robinson, (author, speaker, advisor on education) says in his two excellent speeches (TED in 2006 and at TED in 2010) that everyone has interest in education but no one has any clue on how to improve it. According to him, we need to move schools away from an industrialization model to an agricultural model with stronger emphasis on arts.
Joi Ito, Director of MIT Labs, compares to the way kids are testing in this podcast on Innovation Hub to being on top of some mountain with no friends, no Internet connectivity but with a number two pencil to solve a problem. This is not how problems get solved in the real world. Real world problems are project based and collaboration based, but the current school system structure does not allow to reward kids on collaboration so this important skill is not going to be taught or learned in the current school system the way it operates.
An activity where they can really learn a lot in a fun way and, at the same time, develop a real world skill for the future is by joining a rock band camp for a week. Besides personal development such as social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual, they will also learn a very important skill for the future: teaming. This skill is very important since the work of the future is not going to consist of a stable environment, working with people you know doing predictable tasks.
The work of the future will consist of working on multiple projects with different people, units, organization, time zones, culture and even countries. To work with people with diverse background and quickly deliver results will require many of the skills that kids can learn at a rock band camp. To work on a project in the future, you will not have time to build trust, which has always been viewed as the foundation for all teamwork. You will have to become familiar with team members quickly, learn fast, resolve conflicts (if they arise), complete the project and then disband and move on to the next project. This is how work is getting done today and will become the norm in the future.
She acknowledges in her article in April 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review titled "Teamwork on the fly," that this is not easy since people are not used to teaming, though they are very comfortable working on teams. As people get more specialized and things get more complex, teaming is the only way that projects can be completed under budget and on time with high quality and high impact.
Professor Edmondson identifies five behaviors that help make teaming work:
1) Speak Up
2) Listen intensely
3) Integrate different facts and points of view
4) Experiment iteratively (to get the work done)
5) Reflect on your ideas and actions
Kids exhibit many of these behavior during the one week they are in the band camp.
Speak-up -- kids have to learn to have conversations with other band members, encourage them, respect their efforts, acknowledge errors and accept them for who they are.
Listen intensely -- this is very important since in less than a week the kids have to listen to the band leader so they can quickly make improvements for the performance.
Integrate different points of view -- the leader needs to make sure that he creates a psychological safe environment for kids to air their views to improve the performance and have fun at the same time.
Experiment iteratively -- this comes naturally to musicians since through iteration they will come up with a performance that is excellent. Since they face time constraint they have to make a decision on what would make a “viable band performance.”
Reflect on your ideas and action -- all the kids get music to practice at home and learn it well so they are ready to make incremental improvements. Kids work hard but they don’t even feel like it is work.
Practice over theory -- Joi Ito says another interesting thing to say about this in the Innovation Hub podcast. He says that "Don' t let the lack of theory prevent you from trying something. I would much rather have something work in practice and not in theory than work in theory and not in practice."
One thing you have to understand is that the purpose of this rock band camp is not to turn your child into a master musician as many think of it as a musical boot camp. Boot camps are not that effective in learning since you can't learn something in a short duration; learning takes time, so boot camps create a perception of learning something fast, but it is not long lasting. Annie Murphy-Paul is quoted in the NYT article by Annie Tugend titled "New Father? New C.E.O.? There's a Boot Camp For You" says that “the paradox of the boot camp style of learning is that it makes learning too easy. When we’re engaged in long periods of practicing one thing, we get really good at it when it’s fresh in our minds, and we have a feeling of fluency. We’re persuaded we’ve really mastered something, which we haven’t in any effective way.”
If the objective of the rock band camp is well understood then after the performance is over, the kids can be proud for not only of what they accomplished in one week in performing a music with other team members they did not know well and had never worked with, but also learned about teaming, a skill that is becoming crticial in how we get work done today, especially in business. So when they go back to school in September and are asked by their teacher on what they did during the summer, they can talk about what they learned at the rock band camp and ask the teacher if they can jointly create an "academic camp on the fly" couple of times during a school year.