What are 21st century skills to you?


I recently had the privileged to meet with Christer Windeløv Lidzelius from Kaos Pilots, a design business school based in Copenhagen, and Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh from Sugru, a new self-setting play-doh like rubber that turns into silicon over night and can stick to almost any material. Me, Christer and Jane met the day before the inter-disciplinary conference Good Morning 2012, organized by Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship. I asked them both the same question. What are 21st century skills to you?

Christer Windeløv-Lidzelius from Kaos Pilots & Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh from Sugru

After some talking we realized that, with regards to this question, we are really trying to accomplish the same thing with our ventures, only we’re all using different tools to do it. As we do at Sparkling Science, Jane and her team at sugru also believes that humans are naturally creative but that most of us loose this capacity as we grow up and become educated. This is a paradox since creative thinking is a skill society increasingly value. I passionately believe that the problem is not WHAT we learn in school but HOW we learn it. In most cases when we learn things it is a process of convergent thinking, meaning we are presented with multiple alternatives that eventually only lead to one answer. Take for example a classical mathematical problem we are faced with in first grade: 4+3 = ? Here we are presented with several conditions that will all add up to ONE answer. We learn math this way but we unlearn the skill of divergent thinking, a prerequisite for creativity and the ability to come up with multiple solutions to one problem. Something that kindergarten kids by the way are considered to be geniuses at. Let me clarify what I mean.

Through TEDxStockholm I recently got to know Jannie Jeppesen from the Vittra elementary school at Telefonplan. At Vittra they turn everything upside down, by literally turning this simple mathematical problem on its head. Why don’t we instead write: ? = 7  What’s so interesting with this is not only do we have the freedom to approach this with any mathematical tools we have learnt, this problem could also be interesting for a university professor.

Like this new approach to the mathematical problem, the makey makey that we have in our boxes is not a static product (it has more than one intended use and gives you the possibility to modify it to fit other domains, just like ?=7) so is Sugru in the way that it is the perfect way to invite divergent thinking (How many uses can you for example find for a play-doh like material that can stick onto any surface and turns into silicon after 24 hours?) We have grown up as passive consumers in a world where technology is controlling us rather than the other way around. Me and Jane both believe this is conflicting with human nature causing stress, unease and making us less creative. As we need to change the way we teach our children so we need to change the way we relate to technology.

So how does this tie into 21st century skills? I think we can conclude that to deal with complexity we have to be creative, which we discussed requires the ability to think divergently. To deal with uncertainty however, we have to get better at nurturing our curiosity, something that’s much easier if there are always more than one solution to a problem. This whole philosophy is embedded in both Sugru and Kaos Pilots. Nurture your curiosity! Imagine if in real life someone came to you saying: “Here is a complex problem, there is only one answer, solve it quick!” Would this make you creative, would it make you eager to start and curious to find the answer? Most probably it would not.

Just like sugru our black boxes aims to promote divergent thinking, not kill it. Products today should not treat its owners as passive consumers, only inviting to be used in a certain way. In fact neither Sugru, nor our boxes are products in it’s traditional definition. They are platforms. Platforms that invite creative hacking (=modififying) and curiosity, while being able to share this back to the community in a socially engaging and meaningful way.

Discussing this with Christer we both agree that while a more analytical skillset favoring the left hemisphere of our brain might have been important in last century’s more linear world we are now living in a highly exponential one with increasing uncertainty and complexity.

In order to deal with 21st century society we have to get comfortable with uncertainty and complexity and fully embrace it to get even more comfortable with it. Coming back to 21st century skills Christer points out: “I think the most interesting people are those we call agile learners, people who actively seek novel and sometimes scary situations so that they can learn, evolve and grow as human beings.”

Accepting this you will find joy in the fact that there are always several answers to one question and you will start appreciating the process of learning itself. In other words what this century needs are places where we can better learn how to learn and appreciate the fact that we don’t always have the right answer.


Life is change – be open and vulnerable!


Hello internet,

Sparkling Science has been in a transition period lately and to make things clear I want to tell you the whole story. Having a blog is something that’s totally new for me so this feels just slightly awkward.. I do however believe in being open and embrace your own vulnerability. In fact, in my case, being open is essential for my survival, to be a bit radical. I passionately believe we should all embrace each others differences, share our deepest dreams and allow ourselves to be openly vulnerable. I read recently in a book that getting lost will help you find yourself!

Me trying to figure out wtf I’m doing with my life

So here is the story so far. It is not the exact straight path as you will see. If you don’t want to read the whole story just scroll down to the next picture.

The seed for Sparkling Science started in my dorm during the spring of 2009 when I was studying as an exchange student in Madrid. At the time, watching A LOT of TED-talks, a deep desire was growing in me wanting to not only become inspired alone by my computer but actually get out there in the world and put all this valuable knowledge into practice. I remember the exact day when the seed of entrepreneurship was planted in my mind after having watched about 5 TED-talks in a row that was all amazingly fascinating and made me completely awestruck for weeks.

From the beginning Sparkling Science was a dangerously abstract vision, or hallucination some would call it. However there has always been a thread connected to my belief in the importance to spread science and loose yourself in the awe and wonder that the world of science can infuse in people.

Why I say this vision was a dangerous one is because it is always dangerous to think/start “too” big because you might get stuck in a dream that’s not connected to reality. I think most of us has experienced this but we rarely talk about it. I’ve had an advantage though, that is my extreme need to feel connected (I’m a lonely child) and the only way to achieve this is to be totally open with your ideas and dreams. So this is what I’ve done during the years on this amazing and sometimes frightening journey of trying to figure out what I want to do, what I’m good at and how I’m supposed to make a living out of all this, which is what entrepreneurship is all about.

So, during the last 2 1/2 years more or less I have been in pursuit of a model that would work to actually put this vision into practice, and believe me, it has been HARD!! I could write a novel about this but here is roughly how the journey has played out. I’ve tried to be as honest and open as possible. As you can see it is not a very straight path!

April 2009 – A seed was planted in my brain, by watching too much TED. First attempt, while still being a student was that Sparkling Science (by then called the Open String project) would be a crowdsourced science magazine. This turned out more to be an hallucination rather than an achievable vision.

April 2009 – January 2011 – The seed dwells in the back of my head while continuing my studies and beginning to think about topics for my master thesis

April 2011 – September 2011 – Founding Sparkling Science as a company and writing my master thesis Communicating Science. In parallel with this I’m pursuing Sparkling Science as a platform (spending a lot of money building it) to enhance the connection between research and media through matchmaking questions from journalists with the right researchers. This is basically what it boiled down to: click here to see the video

September 2011 – April 2012 - Working with public Universities and institutions trying to have them buy into my platform. In parallell I realized I needed a personal real world platform that would increase my own legitimacy and help me reach out to the right people. That’s when I started to become involved in organizing TEDx-events. Had my first one in february 2012, then went to TEDxSummit in april in Doha / Qatar. Now organizing TEDxStockholm with 15 other people

Me with fellow organizers at TEDxSummit

April 2012 – October 2012 - Starting over, realizing that the first approach had become too difficult to pursue. I apply for TEDGlobal and get accepted. After this the rest is history. Sparkling Science is now about communicating science, not as a sole means to an end, but as a consequence of applying it in a DIY context and working to expand the DIY / Maker / hackerspace movement that are already doing science in an informal setting and sometimes even more effectively.

May 2012 – September 2012 - Per, Emil & Abhinit working on Sparkling Science as a platform for DIY Science & innovation, facilitating inter-hackerspace collaboration through the the creation and community-based curation of hackerspace-in-a-box – our attempt to solve the problem we’re facing of starting a hackerspace.

Us trying to figure things out after a workshop with an overwhelming amount of feedback

Now – Transition phase: Adding Calle Erlandsson as a web-developer to the team if we can find the money to pay him. I’m looking inwards and trying to reconnect with the same gut-feeling that got me started in the first place.

WHY am I doing this, apart from the grand vision of changing the world (that we all have)??

What’s life for you?

I realized that I’m really doing this to help myself become and especially FEEL more creative because I have found out that I love the feeling of making something interactive with my hands and watch it work together with other people, AND I have noticed that, in fact, everyone loves this feeling. I think this urge to feel creative again has something to do with my dad viewing himself as the least practical and creative person in the world, and me going to the most theoretical engineering program you could imagine :) But part of being creative is also understanding how things work and for that you have to be curious. In a way I now view Sparkling Science as the community around these creative boxes, where creativity meets curiosity, and instead of trying to communicate science through a “push-mentality” I’d like to see it more as pulling people into creativity and curiosity by playing on the innate creative spirit that all humans are able to feel.

So really the question I’m trying to answer is: What does it take for people to reconnect with this FEELING and start to ACT ON IT?

I’m ending with our latest illustration of the box where me and our illustrator Amilcar have tried to paint the FEELING of creativity as an inclusive space where anyone can just hop in. This is also how we imagine the box to be in real life.

Thank you for reading this! I enjoyed writing it.

/Carl B

hackerspace-in-a-box – our “final” product after 2 1/2 years of thinking, still under development!

Good Morning – the curious beetle farm

“My son does the work, I take the fame (…) that’s hardly entrepreneurship” – starts Hans Rosling jokingly, kicking off this years Good Morning’s conference. An inspiring and personal start of a great day from a great and humble man.

Hans Rosling reminds us that what society needs is to understand and respect the importance of diversity. Entrepreneurship will not save us alone, especially not social entrepreneurship because how do you define that anyway? We need to respect and be humble to all paths people choose in life. We need to understand that for society to work we need the entrepreneurs, but we also need the inventors, the activists, the reformers that create institutional change and the discoverers that extend the outer boundaries of human knowledge.

I think this really frames what this conference, Good Morning, is all about. Everyone has something valuable to say and you just need to nurture your curiosity, stop and listen. I feel very privileged to have been invited to this conference and I will do my best to try to share my experience of it as the day progresses. Yesterday I got the chance to talk with 2 of todays speakers; Jane Ni Dhulchaointigh from Sugru.com & Christer Windelov-Lidzélius from the interdisciplinary and hybrid design & business school Kaos Pilots. Jane is an inventor and Christer is a reformer and they both had great ideas on the importance of diversity and what our future society need.

What are 21st century skills to you? I can safely say that all 3 of us very much agreed on the immense importance of nurturing your curiosity and being able to put yourself in new and unfamiliar situations in order to train creative thinking and appreciate not the end result itself, but the whole journey of learning and exposing yourself to new perspectives.

I know one thing for sure. As human beings we want to FEEL creative because it’s part of human nature. I also know that creativity does not happen without diversity. And thirdly in the spirit of TED & TEDxStockholm which I’m part of organizing, Good Morning is a great first step towards celebrating curiosity, because without that there will be no progress.

There are over 400 000 species of Beetles in the world, one for each purpose. That’s why beetles are the most successful species on the planet. In fact, Beetles make up around 25% of all life forms on earth.

So embrace diversity, promote creativity, nurture curiosity and be a beetle! :)
Now TEDFellow Rachel Armstrong is talking about lifting Venice with programmable matter. How’s that for a new perspective on how the world works?


Welcome to our inner life!

We are Sparkling Science!
You might have heard of us since you are visiting our site.
We are believers. We believe in change, in solutions, in DIY, in open source.
This blog is an example of our belief in open source and openness.

Here we will share our inner thoughts. Our successes and failures. We will talk about why we did something in a certain way. Why we didn’t do it another way.
We believe that by sharing this we might help you avoid the mistakes we make, to let you remake our successes, and maybe we might in this way help make the world a little better.

/The Sparkling Science Team