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Creativity, It’s What’s For Dinner

4 Creativity Fostering Secrets That Aren’t Just For Kids

Fast Co Design recently featured an article by Frog Design discussing 4 ways to foster creativity in kids. While reading the article I was struck by the fact that these 4 secrets were equally applicable to all ages and even businesses. As we move towards Richard Florida’s Creative Economy it seems like fostering creativity will be the order of the day. So how will open environments, flexible tools, modifiable rules and superpowers benefit more than just kids?

Open Environments

According to the article, “open environments are those in which the child gets to be the author and the medium is open to interpretation.” Open environments don’t seem like cubicles in hierarchical structures that prescribe methods and steps that are to be followed. Typically the companies that round out Fortune’s Best Companies to Work For list exhibit a certain freedom in the workplace and prize entrepreneurship. I am a big fan of Google, and from what I’ve read about their offices and company culture they seem pretty open. Typical approaches to opening corporate environments seem to be forgoing cubicles, dropping dress codes or asking employees for ideas. I am not opposed to any ideas, I think they all have merit but they are not end games they are steps in a process. An open environment is like giving a child a box, that box becomes a race car, a spaceship and a submarine over the course of hours. Giving a child a car toy means giving them a car that will remain a car for as long as that car shall live.

Flexible Tools

Tools in general are an interesting subject. Sometimes a craftsman is only as good as their tools, other times it isn’t the tools but the person. Regardless, tools play some role in the process. You can’t make dinner with a table saw. At least to the best of my knowledge, maybe MythBusters will prove you can. I would watch that episode. Though I would watch pretty much any episode, it’s a great show. I digress. A specialized tool means it is tougher to discover new ways of doing the same process. The rationale for flexible tools is essentially the same as that for open environments. The more restricted environments or tools are the more limited their uses. Though Mashable has a very good article that counters this notion to a degree. Boundaries can certainly lead to creativity, but limitations can stifle it.

Modifiable Rules

Rules are necessary, there is no question, but they can become outdated. The NFL is a perfect example. As players become stronger and hits become more devastating the rules on legal hits have changed and continue to change in order to protect the players’ safety. The ubiquitous football helmet that is now a staple of the game, and has allowed the trend towards more devastating hits, didn’t even exist, in it’s current form, until the 1920’s and weren’t required until the 1940’s. The first football game was played in 1869. As time progresses, rules change. If environments don’t allow the people within them to change the rules they are doomed to be left behind. Examples of this include the American auto industry, the airline industry and the music industry.

Superpowers

This one is definitely the most fun. Who hasn’t dreamed of having superpowers at some point in their life? We obviously cannot develop superpowers, I should probably add yet, I don’t know what scientists are cooking up. The key to superpowers is the empowerment that they bring. Peter Parker was bit by a radioactive spider and empowered to fight crime and make a difference as Spider-Man. We may not have superpowers in the “traditional” (read: comic) sense but we do have skills that distinguish us from others. It is the economic principle of comparative advantage, we are comparatively better at something than someone else. It is the combination of these differing skills that make groups and teams strong. Find someone’s superpower and harness it to better your business, it will probably work out better than trying to make them do something they aren’t as good at.

We can learn a lot from kids, it is time we listen. Or at least use their ideas and have a little fun while we do it.

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