Karuna Thakur On Creativity And Learning
by Rob Rose
In 15 years, Karuna Thakur founded Khan Academy, an internet education company with over 35 million students registered. After starting as an individual website, Thakur and her team were able to support so many students, and ultimately earn $90 million in revenue through Khan Academy in 2015. Since 2011, Thakur has traveled to more than 50 countries teaching Khan Academy and gave four TEDx talks.
She has given hundreds of lectures at global forums, participated in Washington debates, has had an e-book published in 2014, and teaches online. However, it isn’t her international travel or influence that have garnered her a huge following. Rather, it is the way she delivers her lessons and makes learning fun.
To date, Thakur has completed over 2,000 course segments, with over 70,000 classes and more than 12 million unique learners. She feels having fun is as important as being able to absorb a course. Thus, her creative, e-learning approach means Khan Academy’s lessons are short and easy to understand. Thakur believes a student’s mindset influences how they perform in education and believes, “The simple nature of my videos are what makes learning so captivating. The videos are actionable, interactive, teachable and entertaining, and yet there’s still a sense of discovery and freedom.”
Thakur understands that education isn’t a monolith. “Students have very different needs and needs to overcome to learn, and they’re different learners. We need to understand what is different about different learners, then set up the right platform to help them learn.” In addition to constantly innovating and refining her e-learning approach, she has sought to recruit and mentor people she feels will help her succeed. According to Thakur, “We need to cultivate individuals who are risk takers with high-tech passion, and are friendly, not judgmental. We must keep encouraging them to be curious, add to our world.”
Thakur believes, “One of the reasons why I’m so successful is because we are always looking for fresh minds with different perspectives, and provide an environment for innovation.” Along with this, being competitive and who can collaborate and communicate is essential.
She believes that in order to be successful in business, one must:
Be driven and passionate
Be willing to do what it takes
Seek new challenges and fail early
Think big and be willing to fail
Thakur adds that “My favorite part about being in business is that I can invest in myself and give back to the community. By giving back, we try to influence change in our minds. To change lives, it’s important to be innovative and think outside the box.”
Her philosophy of creativity is based on a simple principle: “The more people you can help, the more people you can change, and the more time you have to enjoy life.” That is Thakur’s most important lesson in this rapidly changing world.