Think like a child to innovate as an adult

Think like a child to innovate as an adult

These are the beautiful verses from William Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up” poem he wrote in 1802. With the use of the Child is the father of the...

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is the father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

These are the beautiful verses from William Wordsworth’s “My Heart Leaps Up” poem he wrote in 1802. With the use of the Child is the father of the man, connotation, Wordsworth meant that as a child he derived immense joy while looking at the rainbow, a sense of déjà vu that continued into his adult life.

The fact is that he became a celebrated poet perhaps because he always thought like a child and with a similar curiosity.

Although, ostensibly difficult, a child-like thinking can be your biggest asset in the new age of innovations. This is because, as Dr Stephanie Carlson, an expert on childhood brain development at the University of Minnesota, points out kids spend as much as two-thirds of their time in imaginative play.

As we grow up in life, reality prevails over our lives stifling the imagination. The day-to-day work pressures leave little or no time to engage in surrealism or illusions.

Albert Einstein has a solution to overcome this acquired adulthood syndrome-To stimulate creativity, one must develop a childlike inclination for play.”

What makes the adult different from a child? Why an adult cannot think and act like child? These are some of the oft-asked questions in psychology.

The answers are rather simple, though many factors inhibit an adult. The child is often unaware or unconcerned about consequences of doing it in a particular manner. He goes about them with a gay abandon.

The world is pregnant with wonderful possibilities and myriad opportunities. To explore them, you need to experiment for which you need to be playful. Judgments of yourself and appraisal by others can also act as impeding factors.

When I offer to do anything in the kitchen, my wife sort of detests that. The statement I often hear from her is ‘you cannot do this. You will spoil it. Kitchen work is not like writing an article or analyzing something on television.’

But, throwing caution to the wind, I about cooking. Believe me, I often do it accurately. However, she continues to caution me while, like a naughty child, I continue to do. Perhaps, this child-like mentality is helpful.

Despite repeated warnings, children continue to repeat mistakes but then that is how they learn. Some of those mistakes are exciting for us to watch. Adults refrain from doing so because it is rather painful when an adult commits a similar mistake.

Studies have shown that when we fully immerse ourselves in joyous doing as opposed to anxious mulling, we can become more creative, says Peter Himmelman in How thinking like a kid can spur creativity (Time, October 24, 2016).

Peter Himmelman who is the author of Let Me Out: Unlock Your Creative Mind and Bring Your Ideas to Life, has a solution to offer for us to act like a child.

Before undertaking a daunting task, spend a few minutes writing a detailed description about the possible benefits of your idea. It develops a positive thinking in you and helps you to overcome anxieties about ramifications.

Begin one small piece of the task. This makes you to act rather than ruminate. Over imagined threats deter you.

However, what distinguishes you from children is your ability to assess the risks associated with execution of that task. Over-pondering about the risks would make you futile.

Ignoring the risks would make you irresponsible. Perhaps you have to strike a balance. The best way is to attempt a piece of the more daunting task and explore further. Market research calls it pretesting.

Even doctors give a sample dose sometimes when they suspect that the drug could backfire and render harm.

What prevents us, adults, to be less creative than children? Of course, there are many creative adults too.

The reason is simple. We, adults work in a controlled environment. Our exposure to the real world curtails the creative thought-process whereas children live in an imaginary world, which is free from controls.

I was teaching in Montessori Women’s College in Vijayawada in 1987. One day, my principal asked me to conduct a test in feature writing. She was absent on that day.

The principal’s absence was like a holiday for the students. They refused to write the test and instead planned for a picnic to the Krishna river site.

It was simply difficult to control the students. I was equally worried of the consequences of not conducting the test.

Finally, the students prevailed. I also joined them for the picnic. To be on the safer side, I carried few sheets of paper with me. After the fun and frolic, I told the students that they have to participate in a contest.

The competition was on how to creatively express their ‘picnic’ experience. Students competed enthusiastically and noted down their first person experiences on the papers least bit aware that these sheets of paper would be their answer sheets in the proposed test.

The performance of students in that uncontrolled situation was much more superior to classroom tests.

Thus, I hit two stones with one word as could satisfy both my principal and the students. Creativity comes out when we are unconcerned about the consequences.

The students performed better as they were joyously doing it. Thinking and acting like a child will always make you more innovative.

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