Speaker Emphasizes Importance of Learning How to Think

Dale Deardorff, director of innovation and strategic thinking, Rocky Peak Leadership Center

(Dec. 18, 2014) - Educators should teach people not what to think but how to think, said guest speaker Dale Deardorff of the Rocky Peak Leadership Center, at a presentation at California State University, Northridge. CSUN’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies and LACI@CSUN hosted the event, supported by the Tseng College.

LACI @ CSUN is part of CleanTech LA, a nonprofit that provides counseling, mentoring and assistance to entrepreneurs who want to move ideas into business start-ups. Deardorff’s presentation, “The Importance of Innovative Thinking to All Academic Fields,” kicks off a seven-part speaker’s series for the public held the third Thursday of each month at CSUN.

Most people approach business problems with a traditional problem-solving model, but innovative thinking goes beyond that, Deardorff said. “Innovation is tied to problem-solving but is not always problem-solving. True innovation is looking at a system and saying, ‘It’s not broken, but I can fix it and make it better than it was before.’”

Business people want people who can think across spectrums and in a multi-disciplinary way, he noted. “We need more than just critical thinking. Educators have to change their mindsets. Students need to think in different modes and styles.”

That change means embracing various types of thinking styles that people offer. “One of the challenges is to understand things better and differently,” Deardorff said.

Different thinking styles include analytical, embraced by scientists; planning, favored in business; creative, appealing to those in the arts; and feeling, connected to social skills. Accepting different thinking styles in team projects and group approaches to problem-solving diffuses the “my way or the highway” mentality. “Leveraging synergy together will make us great thinkers,” he said. “If we call people to work together, we have to create that environment.”

LACI @ CSUN hopes to encourage the innovative process. “We are structured as a nonprofit and run by entrepreneurs,” said Erik Steeb, executive director of LACI @ CSUN, at the event. “We want to make CSUN the economic drive for the San Fernando Valley.” Headquartered in downtown Los Angeles, CleanTechLA recently opened a satellite office – LACI @ CSUN -- at CSUN at Lindley and Lassen streets. The facility provides space, executive coaching and mentors who help people develop business models, strategies and investments.

The creativity and collaboration that businesses and organization say they need will mean accepting that everyone brings something important to the innovative process. “Our future is in the thinking skills of the young adults we are developing” Deardorff said.