Normally, I’m a proponent that children are better seen than heard, but sometimes they have some inspirational things to say. Two of the neighborhood kids were making up the rules for their game of tag. “OK, you’re the cop, and I’m the robber. If I catch you first, you get to turn into a dinosaur. If you catch me first, I get to turn into a ninja.” “I wanna be the ninja,” replied the shorter of the two. “Ugh, all right; ready, set, go.”
What struck me about the interaction was the absence of logic. Obviously, a police officer cannot turn into a dinosaur, nor a burglar a ninja. But that didn’t bother these kids. There were no limits. No boundaries. Everything was possible. It got me thinking perhaps we’d all be better off thinking like five-year-olds.
One of my favorite stories is about design thinking, which is a way of thinking like a five-year-old. Several years ago Lego was deciding how to unveil their relationship with Star Wars. They conducted a design thinking session, which is basically a brainstorming session on steroids. In these sessions, nothings dismissed. Every idea is possible… with a little tweaking. And that’s the beauty of design thinking. Ideas don’t get squashed because they’re too hard or out of reach. People rip them apart to find out how they can achieve those results (in some way, shape, or form.)
OK, so back to the story. One person said they’d love to see the Millennium Falcon land at JFK. Obviously, this could never happen; however, they didn’t stop there. They brainstormed ideas to build on the concept. The end result was a scaled version of the Millennium Falcon built from Legos, which was unveiled at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting. Supercool.
Unlike five-year-olds, we often sabotage our thinking process. We say, “yes but.” “I can’t do this, because of that. This can happen, because of this.” “But, but, but…” Problem-solving is about thinking like a five-year-old. It’s about drawing lines in the sand and allowing them to be redrawn by waves of inspiration.