How to have a [ happy family ] in 2015: Using analogous situations to develop better methods for family success…*

Happy holidays everyone! As many of us are spending these weeks visiting family and loved ones, I thought it appropriate to talk about rethinking family dynamics. This time of year can be particularly stressful on families. While I don’t yet have children of my own, this TED talk by Bruce Feller is a great one if you are a parent with children and are looking for some ideas on how to improve your own family dynamic.


In true rethinked…* fashion, this talk is all about analogous situations. Particularly, Feller borrows from the Agile software development method. This method involve collaboration between self-organizing teams, promoting adaptive, rapid, and flexible responses to change. He uses it’s bottom-up idea flow, feedback, accountability, and adaptiveness in his own family.

In 2001 17 software developers created the Agile Manifesto. In this talk, Feller discusses his own Agile Family Manifesto. This manifesto has three tenets:


Happy functioning families should be flexible and openminded. You can’t just set rules and stick to them. Instead, you should build in a system of change. For example, Feller suggests holding family meetings each week and discussing 1) What worked well this week? 2) What didn’t work well? 3) What should we work on next week? Based on the answers to these questions, the rules can adapt to the current situation. Which leads to the second tenet…

#2 EMPOWER your children

In these family meetings, have children come up with the answers to these questions. Enlist children in their own upbringing. Feller suggests that we let our children succeed and fail on their own terms. We should let children make mistakes.


As much as the rules and family structure should be adaptive, it is imperative to have a foundational core. Feller urges parents and children to work together to define core values and develop a family “mission statement.” Additionally, studies show the importance of telling your children where they came from – about their grandparents, your childhood, or struggles their family members have overcome. Children with a sense of how they fit in a larger narrative have greater self-confidence. Research has indicated that knowing where you are from predicts emotional health and happiness.

Feller speaks more about these tenets, and other tips for thriving families, in the talk below. Overall, I think this talk is both a stellar example of using analogous situations. A great way to rethink is to apply methods traditionally used in one domain in another. And – empowering children to take a role in their own upbringing sounds like a great way to improve education to me.




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