Tim Reid / 26 Jan /

Being childish at work can be the best way to have a bucketful of big, grown up ideas.

I’m not talking about the telling big fibs, fingers in ears, falsely claiming an idea was all yours, ‘you’re not my friend anymore’ kind of childishness (you know who you are).

No, I’m talking about the enthusiastic, playful, imaginative, wonder-full kind of childishness that we’re too often embarrassed to let loose at work. If you’ve got kids you’ll have had that moment when they’ve said something completely profound, or asked a question of rare insight, often spanning concepts and ideas. Educationalists tell us this is because children are brilliant at ‘divergent thinking’. Actually, children are just good at thinking, and as adults we’ve been trained out of our creativity by a world that separates everything into subjects and departments.

So when I lead creative workshops positive childishness is the first thing I look to unleash in the group, because I know that without it we’re very likely to end up with too many serious, self-conscious ideas that reek of conventional thinking. Being childish with our thinking won’t limit us, it’s a liberation that we desperately need.

So here are my 6 top tips for getting positively childish:

Let It Go

Too many grown ups restrict their creativity by worrying what other people think, what their crazy idea will sound like, how it’ll be judged, what the implications of doing things differently might be…. Kids don’t give a Tree Fu Tom what anyone thinks when they’re thinking up new games, new stories, new adventures. In brainstorms we should all get comfortable with taking the stabilizers off our imagination bicycles and take our thinking for a ride into the unknown.

Get Playful

Being playful? At work? Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it? But playful thinking, embracing uncertainty, enjoying the unknown outcome of following a thought just to see where it takes us, is a much more effective route to big, new ideas, than serious brain strain, worrying about what might go wrong.

Get Excited

There’s nothing more exciting than a good old brainstorm. No seriously. You get a bunch of people in a room and with the right behaviours and stimulus, banging brains together; you will have a wall full of ideas no-one has ever thought of before. Ever. That’s exciting. So get excited. Get childishly over-excited. You could change the world. Or don’t get excited. And you won’t.

Wander and wonder

Kids don’t invent their best stories when they’re sat at a desk, HB pencil in hand, they dream up their best adventures running round the garden, paper plane in hand. And we’re just the same as grown ups. So get up, move around; let your feet wander and your minds wonder.

Get your toys out

And talking of paper planes, there’s nothing like getting your hands on a few toys to help you bring your ideas to life. Get out the plasticine, the lego, the pipe-cleaners and play-dough and make your idea. It’s amazing how ideas can keep growing and growing when they come to life on the table. And it’s amazing how infectious a bit of idea building can be.

Imagine no rules

One big reason why kids are so creative is that we haven’t taught them all the rules yet. “You can’t do that because…”; “That won’t work because…”. So they make their own rules. And they work out for themselves what works and what doesn’t. They’re like imagination pioneers. They’ll let their thinking go anywhere. And we need to adopt that ‘no rules’ spirit if we’re going to get innovative, find unchartered territory.

So when you need to get creative and think differently, remember it’s time to be positively childish. Not only will your organisation benefit, you’ll have a load of fun too.