By Christopher W. Miller, Ph.D., NPDP
Kids are at their best when you ask for the most.
Nine year old Noah presents his idea for the “Slam Dunk”, a shower head that dumps a bucket of water on you when you throw a sponge through the hoop in the shower. Russ, the VP engineering, comes back with his concept, Noah another, back to Russ, then Noah… neither giving quarter. It is an epic battle of the creative mind. The nine year old vs. the engineer. The unfettered flight of fancy vs. the prepared and trained mind. Is it so hard to understand that perhaps they work better together than apart? Could creative energy be enhanced by the killer competitive instinct of a nine year old beating against the congenial collegiality of the design studio?
At Prudential, twelve year olds, Joshua and Mike, stand for the picture. What makes this unusual is that the team is actuaries and financial executives working to reinvent the annuity. Both Mike and Josh have one of their ideas in the set moving forward into test.
What is different about these examples is not that kids can be creative too. Of course they can. It is not that kids can help develop ideas for themselves and other kids. Of course they can. It is that kids can use their diverse and unique perspective on the world to challenge our expert thinking. Assuming that you have to dumb down fact based innovation to enable these clear minds is a mistake. They can be quick, agile thinkers, aggressively identifying patterns on their team (you) and feeding them back through a unique lens. I have seen it happen again and again.
Why does this work. Here is my theory:
- The kids themselves are unafraid of ideas
- They are unafraid of learning
- They are used to being wrong
And… when a child speaks in a business environment we listen. We listen and we encourage for the idea in our own mind. We hope to hear and see something special. And because we do, we see the possibility in the impossible. We suspend our incredulity. We nurture the seed idea and through nurturing developmental thinking seeds grow