Homeschool Exercise: Perspective Inversion

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Written By Brad Dennis, Ph.D.

I was doing an exercise with my youngest son Sam this morning on Brilliant (no affiliation) about a mechanics problem; The problem was that train was traveling 200km/h and hit a rubber ball that was standing still, and you were asked what speed would the rubber ball be going after it was hit by the train. The point of the exercise was it could be solved no matter your perspective (from a bystander’s perspective where the train is moving or a train passenger’s perspective where the ball is moving) because the rules are the same. I’m still struggling to grok the answer (400km/h). Still, it was fun to take the different perspectives with Sam, and it got me thinking about how we could do something similar with entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. Looking at products from different perspectives is nothing new, they do it all the time with practices like Design Thinking, so how could we make practice novel and fun for kids? What’s more fun than problem-solving? Problem not-solving! Stick with me here:

Exercise – The Worst Salt Shaker in the World

The goal of this exercise is to practice perspective shifting. When you change your perspective, you expand your possibilities. This exercise provides a fun way for your homeschooler to practice perspective shifting. If you’ve done any previous activities, your kids will have some exposure to value creation. If not, you can use this as an opportunity to introduce it. Take any household item; we chose a salt shaker (again!) and talk about how the product maker wanted to make this the best product possible to solve some problem (e.g., perfectly seasoning your food). Then say, “What if the company who made this was taken over by some mind-hijacking goo (or Bizarro world, or some other inversion), and they wanted to make a salt shaker that still worked, but in the worst possible way? What would that salt-shaker look like?” What we ultimately came up with was a teeny-tiny salt shaker that only let out one salt grain at a time and had to be refilled after 5 shakes. Before you start brainstorming, remind them again of the rules:

– Defer judgment (no one says if an idea is good or bad)
– Focus on quantity over quality
– Crazy ideas are welcome
– Encourage them to build upon each other’s ideas

We can learn much about entrepreneurship by looking at products from different perspectives. Whether looking at a product from the perspective of the customer, the producer, or the marketer, we can learn something new about business success. When we take the time to look at products from different angles, we can find new ways to improve our businesses and make them more successful.

This exercise was a lot of fun and took a little over five minutes, and it can be done in an impromptu fashion whenever the urge arises. I hope your kids enjoy this activity, and let me know how it worked for you.

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