Next Time You're Stuck…Think Like a Child!

Written By Kevin Watson

On February 10, 2015

Next Time You're Stuck…Think Like a Child!

Feb 10, 2015Leadership Coaching

Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson

Director & Lead Coach

When was the last time you skipped along the pavement?

How often do you think like a child and play hide and seek or climb a tree?

When was the last time you pulled on your wellies and jumped in puddles, kicked the autumn leaves gathering in the gutter or rolled in the freshly fallen snow?

If you are like most adults, I’m guessing it was probably quite a while ago? After all, these are silly things that only kids do, right?

Here’s another question for you…

Who are usually the happiest, most resourceful people around? Chief Executives? Finance Directors? Consultants?

I bet that you already know the answer to this one.

Children have hours and hours of fun with just an empty box. They create the most imaginative games with a just couple of chairs and a duvet – and they solve challenges that they don’t even understand yet!

I was once invited to help a senior management team come up with a new way of tackling an old challenge that had them stuck for months.

They’d tried several of the traditional change and creativity models with little success, so I suggested they try something completely different.

We went outside, sat on the grass (it was a rare day of good weather!) and I asked the question: “if you were a seven-year-old child, what game would you play to solve this challenge?”

The answers were incredible, from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the obscure to the blindingly obvious – and none that had been previously considered.

One of the group spent the session ‘borrowing’ the resourcefulness of her daughter, thinking of all of the things she would come up with if she was there.

Again the results were incredible, the team had a whole barrel load of new ideas and had a great time coming up with them.


You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child.Dr. Seuss


It occurs to me that as we grow older we learn more rules, have more experience of what doesn’t work and become smarter at rationalising. All of which can be useful in the right place and time.

However, I’d suggest that when we are involved in any type of change it only serves to limit our ideas.

When we get into a child-like mindset we open up a myriad of choices that previously would not have occurred to us.

Once we have all of these choices we can get all adult and look for those that are workable, useful or practical – but only when we are sure we’ve given ourselves every chance of success.

Call to Action

Think of a challenge that you’d like to resolve, maybe one that’s been hanging around for a while. Then, decide on somewhere you can go to think like a child, perhaps a playground or the rolling hills – or simply imagine that you are there.

If the challenge is appropriate for your team to be involved, take those who are just as ‘up’ for being childlike in order to get even more great ideas. Then ask one of these questions:

    • How would a seven-year-old go about resolving this challenge?
    • What game would a five-year-old play that would help with this?
    • How would my child tackle this? – if you’re not sure you could always watch or ask them!

Remember, think like a child and capture all of the options, no matter how outrageous, before you get all `grown up’.

Then head back to your world and create your new plan of action based on the new choices.

4 Comments

  1. davidhain

    Nice one Kevin, I don’t know if you have seen the RSA Animate by Sir ken Robinson about ‘Changing the Education Paradigm’? In it he notes an experiment about how kids creativity declined form a peak at 5 or so towards adulthood. Basically, I guess, we teach conformity to an exam model and effectively condition it out of them.

    So I wholeheartedly endorse your approach here!

    Cheers

    David

    Reply
  2. Tony Phillips

    Love this post. So true!!

    Reply
  3. My Own Coach Ltd

    Hi Tony

    Glad you like it :o)

    Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to kick through the leaves together again soon.

    Reply

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