Time for Brains

In ‘The Wizard of Oz’, the Scarecrow thinks he has no brain.  In fact he is a highly reflective thinker and, given a little time to think, he produces some amazing solutions to problems. How true is this of many of us? Sometimes we all need some space to think.

There is a scene in the forest where Dorothy and the Scarecrow stop to pick some apples. The apple tree does not want to hand over the fruit and puts up a fight. The scarecrow draws up a plan to annoy the tree. He taunts the tree until it becomes so angry it starts to throw apples at him, letting go of the very thing it desperately wanted to hold on to. Ultimately it is the Scarecrow who puts together the plan to rescue Dorothy from the castle of the Wicked Witch.

Having knowledge is one thing; having wisdom is another. You can be the most academic person in the room, but if you do not think through the situation in the moment, consider the possibilities and implications and believe in where you are and where you want to go, the solutions will evade you.

The Scarecrow’s capability to reflect in the moment is a skill that helped to keep the team on a positive path to the Land of Oz. Thinking is not simply about generating ideas. It is about collecting our thoughts, reflecting for a moment, and then moving forward. Too many leaders fail to adhere to this simple adage of think and reflect, then move on…it is a guaranteed formula for failure if we do not reflect. As the saying suggests, “Fail to plan…plan to fail.” Too often leaders hear themselves or listen to one another without paying attention to the questions being asked by others around them. Listening to others is a difficult but important task – perhaps one of the most important tasks for leaders. Listening, whether you are in the midst of a storm or enjoying the quiet of the afternoon, is really, really important.

While the Scarecrow, Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Lion were provided with very specific guidance to follow the yellow brick road in order to reach Oz to meet the Wizard, they did not anticipate the difficulties they would face along the way. Nor did they anticipate that when they reached Oz they would be given the huge task of returning with the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom in order to have the Wizard grant their requests.

We are preparing children for a future that we cannot imagine. Artificial Intelligence may well be supporting us in more and more areas but we will always need brains, or rather the ability to step back from a problem and listen, plan and action. At Yateley Manor we are trying to develop the leaders of the future. We recognise how intelligence can be far broader than just having an ability in the academic subjects. Children can show intelligence in leadership or even communication. We provide opportunities for them to challenge their capabilities in these areas. We set problems but do not rush the children. They need the time to think, to use trial and error methods, to explore, adapt and test. In our busy lives reflection seems to find itself towards the bottom of our priority lists but in fact it is essential, and it requires time.

Let us not forget the importance of support from others around us. While we are working through problems and finding solutions, sometimes it is helpful to “bounce” ideas off others. Scarecrow does so in the story. Our children need to feel comfortable enough to do this and thus a positive environment is essential. Some of my best thinking comes from talking to others. We need to encourage the children to speak about their solutions and explore them with others.

Now, how to get that place on the beach?.... I need to think and talk to others to find a solution!


Robert Upton