Where Science Meets Muse

Posts Tagged ‘children’

Three Guidelines For Enabling Innovation (Via a 7 Year Old Crossing the Street)

Posted by Plish on June 26, 2014

The crossing guard waved her arms and held up the stop sign.  On my way to a prototype shop to pick up some parts, I slowed, and stopped, and watched.

Behind the yellow vested guard, thirty to forty seven year olds began crossing the street in a relatively organized manner, except for one girl.  She wasn’t particularly tall as far as 7 year olds go.  She had straight, dirty blonde, just-past-shoulder length hair, and was wearing a white number 4, Brett Favre, Green Bay Packers jersey.  While her friends took a linear approach to street crossing, she took each step in a calculated manner.

With each step she reached with her little legs to the next reflective strip in the cross walk.  Like Indiana Jones crossing a foot bridge, this little girl took a step, rebalanced, shuffled to get to the edge of the strip and then s t r e t c h e d her leg, pointing her toes, landing on the next reflective strip.   Intensely concentrating on where she stepped and avoiding knocking into those around her, she wove her way across the street.

As I smiled at the beautiful play, I realized that this little girl, in this situation, embodies what’s necessary for there to be successful innovation.

1. Safe Space is Needed – She most likely couldn’t have done what she did if cars were whizzing through the crosswalk.  The crossing guard stopped traffic and created a safe area.  If you want people to be innovative, or for that matter, if you want to be innovative yourself, somehow the traffic has to be stopped.  Someone, or something, has to run interference and create a space and time for innovation.   Corporate politics and power plays are guaranteed innovation killers.  There needs to be insulation from NOISE and distraction. If an innovator has to worry about getting hit by proverbial cars, she can’t create.

2. Give the Minimum Direction Necessary – The little girl was likely told: “Cross the street with your friends when the guard says it’s safe. Be sure to stay in the crosswalk!”  She wasn’t told where to step, how many steps to take, or who she had to walk with.  She knew she had to get from Point A to Point B.  Too often there is a tendency to manage how people get from Point A to Point B.  Don’t.  There are infinite combinations of numbers that when added equal 4.  It’s not simply 2+2.  This goes for personal creativity as well.  When in a creative endeavor, ask yourself if you’re simply taking the shortest distance between two points or if you’re exploring options.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re taking the ‘easy’ way, or following everyone else, until we stop and ask ourselves what we’re doing.

3.  Space for Fun/Exploration – To me, fun and exploration are largely synonymous.  I alluded to this earlier.  The girl was playing while accomplishing what was asked of her: crossing the street and staying in the cross-walk.  As safe space is needed, so is space for playing.  People need to explore, to try things out, to play and have fun while they innovate.  At least they should.  If someone isn’t having fun going from Point A to Point B, you should ask yourself if that person is the right person in the right place in the project.  But, it’s not always the person!  If someone isn’t having fun, this could also be an indication that above points 1 and 2 haven’t  been implemented.  If they haven’t, fun is much less likely to occur.  Use this check for yourself as well.  Are you passionate about what you’re doing? Are you having fun?  If not, find out what it is that’s blocking the fun.

When you’re trying to create the best environment for innovation for yourself or others, picture the little girl in the Brett Favre jersey stepping from reflective strip to reflective strip while crossing the street.  Remember the three guidelines and you might just find yourself coming up with more creative work and having fun doing it!


Posted in children, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, imagination, innovation, problem solving, Workplace Creativity | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Design Thinking, Shminking…It’s About Being Human

Posted by Plish on June 8, 2010

I read this little tidbit over at Fast Company about how Design Thinking will give way to the next big thing: Hybrid Design.   I found myself having the same thoughts as those who responded to the article.  Most of those folks believed there was nothing really new being mentioned in the article other than the creation of  a new term to describe what’s already been happening for a while – a loooooong while.

So it got me thinking.

We call it “design thinking’ but a key aspect of design thinking is actually doing.   It’s about thinking by acting, or perhaps more properly, thinking through acting…

but then, maybe it’s by thinking by and through acting…

~Switch gears~

…While watching the Stanley Cup playoffs at my brother’s house, my kindergarten aged niece asked me to play a game entitled, “Invisible, Shminvisible.”

Even though my niece explained it carefully, I wasn’t able to really figure it out through listening.  So, I started playing the game with her and she and her older brother directed me.  Soon, I was a participant in the game.  It made sense.

Which brings us back to the discussion at hand.  I learned by playing and through playing.  It wasn’t about sitting down with a rule book (which I ‘m thankful for because I’m quite sure that such a book would be at least 5 – 10 pages long if penned in “instruction manual” lingo.)  It was about the wonderful process of looking, understanding and making.

So, bringing us full  circle here:

The evolution Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Authenticity, children, Creative Environments, creativity, culture of innovation, Design, design thinking, Human Rights, imagination, innovation, Life Stages, problem solving, Sketching, The Human Person, The Senses, Workplace Creativity, ZenStorming | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Out of the Minds of Babes – Lessons From Innovating Children

Posted by Plish on March 27, 2009

Spencer Rocco Whale And His Invention

Spencer Rocco Whale And His Invention

Children are



they invent things,

toys, games, friends, and…

 …medical devices…

This story of Spencer Rocco Whale’s trip to a hospital is both heartwarming and a lesson for all of us.

Spencer wasn’t a patient, he was a visitor.

In his own words: “Kids hospitalized with serious health conditions still like to play.”

His idea?

Attaching the IV pole to a kiddie car so children can tool around with IV’s attached but not their parents.

Some great lessons here:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the user – really-vicariously look at the situation. (His quote says it all!)
  2. Pay attention to the needs of everyone involved! (Not just the children but the parents as well)
  3. If there is an intermediary in a system, try to eliminate it (In this case the parent running alongside with an IV pole)
  4. Improving quality of life can often be achieved through eliminating constraints
  5. Keep your eyes open for ways to help others

If you’re going to keep your eyes open, make sure you’re looking with the eyes of a child…

Posted in children, Design, Health Concerns, idea generation, innovation, invention, Play, The Human Person, toys | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Want To Be More Creative? Don’t Forget Playtime!

Posted by Plish on March 21, 2009

Down Hill Racer by Lance Anderson

During a typical day at 268 kindergartens in Los Angeles and New York, children spent two to three hours learning or being tested on literacy and math skills, but 30 minutes or less in imaginative play, two top Alliance executives wrote in a recent report.

The above quote from this article is shocking to say the least.

Children might not be good at math, or literature, but if there’s one thing that they’re good at, it’s playing. 

“Young children work hard at play. They invent scenes and stories, solve problems, and negotiate their way through social roadblocks. They know what they want to do and work diligently to do it. Because their motivation comes from within, they learn the powerful lesson of pursuing their own ideas to a successful conclusion…”  Children who engage in playtime also have improved language and social skills, more empathy and imagination, and better self-control…

At a time in the world when we will need more creativity to deal with increasingly diverse and difficult problems, the last thing we should be doing is stifling childrens’ creativity this early in their lives!   Unfortunately, there will be plenty of other opportunities to stifle them as they grow up.

What about those of us who are already adults?

Play time is necessary for us as well! 

Make believe,



next time you have a problem. 

Children have it right.  They truly believe they can solve any problem, fix any hurt, go to any planet, talk with any animal…

Then they grow up and forget the way to discover those solutions.

Dig deep, play and find those solutions that you need to be a child to see.

Posted in Authenticity, Creative Environments, Nature of Creativity, Play, problem solving, Research, The Human Person | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

%d bloggers like this: