EDUCATION: Girls can invent too!

18 July 2016
Reading time4 mins

What makes a successful entrepreneur? Good ideas, market opportunity, financial backing or maybe a clear business plan?

They all sound reasonable, but when it comes to business, ‘reasonable’ is simply not enough. In fact, the business world is scattered with the carcasses of failed enterprises that had all these elements in place and then some, but lacked the most essential ingredient to success… self-belief.

They may not always have chosen the words self-belief, but all the great entrepreneurs talk about how important self-belief has been to their success. Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook calls it the ‘Will to Lead’ in her game changing book, Lean In. Sir Richard Branson describes self-belief through the determination of a child: “You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and by falling over.” However what few of these highly respected leaders fail to mention is that many of them developed this unshakable drive and self-belief because someone significant in their lives believed in them and told them so.

Australia as a nation is now seeking to create an ideas boom. Yet we risk falling back into the familiar territory of the ‘reasonable’ – such as funding and tax concessions. But, ideas and businesses are built on taking risks, seeing what others don’t see, not accepting the status quo and believing in yourself.

Self-belief is a slippery thing to define but that’s part of its magic in helping to motivate an entrepreneur to keep going no matter what the obstacles they encounter.

So how can self-belief practically contribute to the future vision for Australia? To begin with, steps can be taken to help instil self-belief within our young people and in particular GIRLS.

One example of self-belief applied to the area of innovation is a new schools initiative called Girls Invent that creates the space for girls to come up with their own inventions and products and progress these so they are ultimately sold in the marketplace. Girls Invent runs workshops with over 40 schools in Victoria, NSW, SA and QLD.

When girls first attend these workshops, many say they can’t think of any ideas or that everything has already been invented, so what’s the point in trying?

Importantly, before any inventing takes place, girls at each workshop are made aware of a number of ‘special ‘powers’ they possess as young people. We all love superheroes so why not single out the special gifts young people have? These special powers, or qualities, mean they find innovation much easier to pursue than compared with many adults who struggle to retain these qualities after years of being told ‘no’ or conforming to the rules. When girls are introduced to these special powers and what potential they hold, their backs straighten and their enthusiasm rises like a thermometer on a hot day.

What are these special powers?

P is for Passion

O is for Observation

W is for Wonder

E is for Exploration

R is for Risk taking

S is for Spontaneity

The workshops explain to the girls that all these special powers are readily accessible to them now and are vital in helping them to find and develop ideas they want to pursue. However, like a muscle that isn’t exercised and strengthened, if these powers are not used they can wither away over time, like they have for many adults who struggle with finding what they are good at or are dissatisfied with their lives.

Self-belief is what we as a nation need more of. It can easily be weaved into practical initiatives such as Girls Invent, but we need to put some effort into creating it in the first place and not assume that it will simply happen. Not all young people have supportive adults in their lives who believe in them. So perhaps the first idea we should pursue is to say to every young person whenever we can that, ‘We believe in them.’

Dr Mark Glazebrook is the founder of Girls Invent, a schools based innovation program to assist girls to become successful inventors and entrepreneurs. Girls Invent would like to acknowledge the generous support of Scale Investors, Shelston IP and Freelancer.

Mark is also a successful inventor of the DOY, a range of home alone dog toys and runs a business advisory service called On Purpose to create purposeful businesses.

For more on parenting girls, check out 10 ways to build self-confidence in your teenage daughter, and Things we must stop saying to our daughters.

Written by

Dr Mark Glazebrook
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