Finding Our Own Tisk and Task

    How a problem birthed a new business


    I’ve straddled my career between education and entrepreneurship, bringing educational experiences into our businesses and bringing entrepreneurial experiences into my classrooms. There’s an invigorating synergy that results when adults re-experience the infantile joy of discovery learning or when kids start realizing their abilities to solve adult problems.

    I experienced it at the TEDx events we hosted at our local independent bookstore when all ages consumed and shared new ideas. It happened when my students engaged the entire community to bring new life into a historic community park.

    So I was a little taken back when I embarked on an economic development project that revealed a dangerous separation between how students are learning in school and the skills adults need in the workforce. I wrestled with the research showing that students are well-equipped with the technical skills and knowledge but lacking the soft skills needed to thrive in life and work. I heard the refrain time and again from managers-- “These kids can’t communicate or think critically, they aren’t empathetic.”

    Or maybe they just haven’t had enough access to engage in real-world problem solving when they are stuck in desks learning ever growing amounts of information.

    From my students, I saw the apathy resulting from constant drilling and test taking. But I also saw the extreme drive they had as they stayed up night after night to compete at Odyssey of the Mind World Finals or when they sacrificed nights and weekends to attend City Council meetings and community engagement sessions to accomplish their initiatives.

    Our Tisk: There’s a sad disconnect between the student experience and the work/life experience. Students long for more opportunities to engage in real-world problem solving and communicate with the adult world. The adult world would stand to benefit from more access to captive and creative young minds currently locked in their educational silos.
    Credit: Thomas County Middle School
    Thomas County Middle School students brainstorming a solution to a business problem inspired the creation of Tisk/Task

    It’s fitting that the solution to this problem came when my husband and I had the opportunity to speak to 200 local middle school students about entrepreneurship. For the past seven years, we had found a niche selling customized superhero capes, primarily to do-gooders looking to empower their base. But we wanted to grow our customers making single purchases, maybe a superhero outfit for a granddaughter or a kingly costume for a son. How can we capture that customer?

    We threw it out to those 200 middle schoolers. We told them about our mission to promote play and inspire heroic action and set them off to come up with a concept for a subscription box. Four hours later, we left with renewed hope for our future and 200 cards of market-ready ideas.

    We were struck by the social orientation of their ideas, so many of them wanted to include a social mission in the box-- a coastal clean-up, helping an elderly neighbor, organizing a food drive. It was clear they wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. Product was secondary.

    So we started thinking…

    What if we don’t include a product at all in their box? What if we build a platform to equip kids to solve real-world problems? What if we give them a problem and then we walk them through a series of tasks to solve it? What if instead of making superhero costumes we make superheroes?

    Our Task: Create a platform that connects students with real-world problem solving experiences.

    With Tisk/Task, students develop workforce skills as they solve problems from real organizations.They choose their challenge and change our world. Summer Family Challenges are underway now. Stay tuned for industry-led challenges launching August 15.



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