Destination Imagination Global Finals 2014.

Recent business articles lament on the need for creativity in the business, but always have a single shortcoming: You can’t teach someone to be creative, they had to learn to apply creativity before getting the job.

Raise the banner, rock the laser show and cue the confetti cannons: The resolution is an after school program with roots more than 30 years deep. It has students integrating communication, collaboration and presentation skills with the arts, science, technology, engineering and math. Now the catch: The kids, and only the kids cannot rely on parents, friends or volunteers to help: They must do it for themselves.

Say hello to my little friend, the non-profit Destination Imagination. I have seen the results that “D.I.” has on our kids and our educators from my vantage point as a volunteer in my state and at the international level.

This is the best secret in education with nearly 200,000 students participating in almost 30 countries. What is perhaps more amazing, it the 38,000 volunteers trained to run the program each year.


Here’s how it works. The program ranges from pre-school (non-competitive) through college. The kids, up to seven team members of like ages per team get together and choose one of seven VERY open-ended challenges to solve. Each has a different focus. The team and ONLY the team have to develop creative solutions, manage the creation of the solutions, budget and timetable of the deliverables. So, am I telling you there are a bunch of third, fourth and five grade program managers running around? Yes. Yes, I am. And the longer they are in the program, the more confident they become.

Suddenly, as a volunteer Team Manager (adult facilitator), I realize the quiet kids aren’t so quiet anymore. The team lets members know when they think they are good at something – and that can become a powerful confidence booster. Rewarded is calculated risk taking, applied critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork. And the kids have fun.

The big drawback – it is process driven, hands-on learning and not as visually stunning as some other programs. Not every solution is awesome enough for television news. It’s made for results, regardless of what field the student will choose as their first career.

When you can manage results, all of sudden, the cameras find you anyway.

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