To Innovate: Be A Kid Again
You can’t beat kids when it comes to new, innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. I mean, not all kids, but those fearless try-anything-because-they-don’t-know not-to kinds of kids. I think you know the kinds of kids I’m thinking of:
- The ones that climbed up to the roof with their blankets to see if they use them as capes to fly
- The ones that would take electronic things apart and put them back together
- The ones that always asked: “why?”
While most of the kids who think out of the box don’t understand where the box is – similar to having a beginner’s mind – there is one key difference between having a beginner’s mind and a “kid mind” – which is the unabashed playfulness. The willingness to just try something out, just for fun, to see what happens. It’s active, assertive, and open-minded. And of all of the tools in our arsenal of innovation, this one is probably the easiest to uncover.
Once we are grownups, we decide that we need to be “professionals.” As professionals, we need to act a certain adult way. We need to use big words and acronyms and do things like “have meetings,” “operationalize strategy,” “organize deliverables,” and “gain alignment.”
In the Star Trek Original Series episode, Mirror, Mirror, a team from the Enterprise gets transported through a portal to a barbaric “mirror universe” where the good guys are the bad guys and vice versa. While our intrepid team of good guys can easily act barbaric to fit into the mirror universe, our Spock can swiftly see that he’s got the wrong Kirk, McCoy, Scotty, and Uhura on board and immediately throws them into the brig. When our good guys are back on our portal side, Kirk asks how Spock could tell the difference. He points out that the civilized man can always act like a barbarian since he used to be one, whereas the barbarian has no experience acting like a civilized man.
We all have a child within us. We all used to be one. We can all tap that inner child.
This exercise does just that. Simply cast your mind back to when you were a kid. Become a kid. Act like a kid. Imagine yourself as a kid – with that active, assertive, open mind – that fearless sense that you can do anything.
Imagine that anything is possible. That you can start from nothing, there are no barriers, there is nothing that you think you cannot do. There is nothing stopping you. What ideas come into your head? What would you do – what could you do – if there was nothing to stop you – and you had no fear.
- There is no need to show profits since you aren’t even thinking about money.
- There is no need to think about the rules because you don’t understand that there are any.
- There is no need to think about the “how” of something, just the “why” of it
Try this at home – and see what your inner child can come up with.