Music & The Importance Of Flexible Thinking

In the year 2018, our world’s culture is moving at an alarming pace. This is not just some random, tossed out statement; it’s verifiably true. If we look at major changes in human society: the advent of agriculture, human rights, steam engines and electricity, these revolutions are spread out over long periods of time, but the gaps between revolutionary advancements grow shorter and shorter throughout history as a whole. The Internet has thrust us into an incredibly volatile age where conversations about AI and automation challenge the foundation of western society: the idea of job security.

“Why the alarming preamble?” You may be asking. Well, it’s not our intention to shock you, but the point illustrated above is that if you have children, the job market may be severely destabilized by the time they finish high school. Our current education system essentially trains kids to prepare for jobs that may well not even exist in fifteen years, due to the increasing prominence of artificial intelligence and automation. “So what”– you may be asking – “can I do to prepare my child?” Fortunately, the answer is much simpler than you may suspect.

The Power of Flexible Thinking

The answer lies largely in the concept of flexible thinking – a concept that should be widely implemented in school curriculums, but likely will not yet be integrated in most run of the mill schools. While our current society and its economy favours specialization (sharpening one particular skill set in preparation for a single career), flexible thinking promotes a growth mindset that explores many different subjects, from mathematics to visual art to computer coding and anything else. When children find that they have a natural gift in one area, that gift is often developed at the expense of other possibilities, and schools produce individuals who are amazing at one thing and mediocre in most other areas. Flexible thinking encourages students to pursue art and biology with the same vigour, even if they have a natural tendency for one rather than the other. There are certain subjects – typically subjects requiring creativity – that can help to foster this indispensable practice.

Music and Flexible Thinking


In it’s most formal practice, music does not necessarily promote flexible thinking. Reading music by sight and performing it by rote may be impressive, but it does little to increase brain plasticity. Being too strict with your child and forcing them to practice Chopin may do more harm than good; a light touch may be a better approach. When your kids discover the joys of playing music on their own through improvisation and through learning their favourite pop songs, it provides an inherent incentive for them to lean into it and really embrace it. Other activities such as group storytelling work the same way, waking up the part of the brain that pulls ideas out of thin air in a fluid and relaxed manner. Improvisation is the crown jewel of flexible thinking because it allows folks to make things up as they go along, not growing overly concerned or anxious about making mistakes.

Making mistakes is learning, and while specialization entails a fear of mistakes, flexible thinking encourages us to learn from our mistakes and to lean into uncomfortable situations that we might typically be afraid of. The future contains so many unknowns – if we don’t encourage our children to embrace the unknown, it may prove disastrous.