The world needs thinkers who treat and see the world differently. This is how we innovate.
Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and an autism advocate, made that point during her keynote address at the Illinois Farm Bureau Young Leaders Conference in East Peoria.
“One of my big concerns today is that we have children growing up totally removed from the world of practice,” she said, adding that she had spent a lot of time studying the different ways of think of people, breaking them down into four categories: visual, verbal. , mathematics and auditory.
Grandin classified herself as a visual thinker, meaning she thinks in pictures.
“When I started working with cattle in the 70s, I was in my twenties and I thought everyone thought in pictures the same way I did,” Grandin said. “Now when you recognize that different types of thinkers have different approaches to problem solving, you can figure out how to work together in complementary ways.”
Visual thinking drove the way Grandin studied cattle on his aunt’s farm in Arizona as a teenager.
“I was going into the chute and seeing what the cattle were seeing,” she said.
This curiosity about animal behavior has led to some of his most innovative designs, including cattle restraint systems.
And his introduction to cattle on his aunt’s farm underscores his point about exposing children to different experiences, no matter how their minds work.
Grandin, who couldn’t speak until about age 4 and was later diagnosed with autism, became the breeding consultant, teacher and autism advocate she is today. today because of its freedom to “experience things”. She thanks her mother for opening these doors, especially in the field of art, as well as a few teachers who believed in her abilities.
But that’s not to say school wasn’t hard for Grandin.
“The only places I wasn’t bullied were horses, electronics and bottle rockets,” she said.
These days, as she focuses on the different types of thinkers, she is increasingly concerned that many autistic children are not developing the learning skills needed to succeed and innovate.
“Keep them away from video games,” she said. “They need to be exposed.”
She pointed to the retention of art, music, carpentry, auto shop and creative writing in school curricula – a push that should happen one school at a time.
What if you are successful? Write about it, she encouraged, noting that in her early days, visiting ranches and meat processing plants, she wrote about her findings in agricultural publications.
Today, most large processing plants use Grandin’s center lane restraint system design. Speaking with FarmWeek and RFD Radio Network after her January 22 speech, Grandin recalled when she first marketed these designs to large factories.
“I’ve found it much easier to sell equipment to large packing houses than to get it working properly,” she said. “People always want the thing more than the direction.”
This is where her writing elevated her ideas and how she was able to market her designs to the biggest packaging factories in the country.
Grandin, who obtained his doctorate. from the University of Illinois, now lives in Colorado and is a professor at Colorado State University. She said the pandemic has limited her ability to visit packing plants and ranches, which has drawn her attention to the future of the beef industry.
She was intrigued by the talk of an agronomist at her university’s animal science department.
“We need to start gathering crops and livestock; we need to start improving pasture management,” she said.
When asked what’s next for her, Grandin reflected on exposing children with autism, dyslexia and ADHD to different experiences.
“There are all kinds of things we can innovate that will be more sustainable,” she said. “What it will take is to cross disciplines, and that’s hard for people to do and no matter what field they’re in, whether it’s microchips or glass manufacturing or other, it crosses the disciplines.
“And there is a connection between the future of farming and agriculture and what is happening in schools and special education departments. We need these different minds to solve many problems in the future.
This story was distributed as a cooperative project between the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and agriculture news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.