Chance (my son): “Dadda, we should add another letter in the alphabet.”
Me: “Really? Why?”
Chance: “My Letterland character doesn’t sound right. C is supposed to sound like Clever Cat. We need a letter that makes the CH sound. (pauses briefly) Can I have a snack?” (casually walks away as if he didn’t just turn my entire world upside down)
Me: (Mind blown. Jaw drops to the floor. #geniuschild!)
**note- www.letterland.com is an awesome resource to help kids learn how to read.**
I have been on this planet for almost 40 years. I have had the opportunity to lead and follow some of the greatest minds in the country. I have a graduate degree from a top tier university. I try to surround myself with innovative thinkers in the startup community. Not once have I heard a comment so obvious yet so outside of the box. Not. Once.
I was excited. Motivated. I immediately wanted to hire my son (who is in kindergarten) to review my business plan. I had so many questions. There had to be some things right in front of my face that I was missing. LIGHT BULB! Maybe I could do a focus group with the kids in the neighborhood? And it would be cheap too, all I’d need would be a box of popsicles and a homemade bike ramp!
Well, the popsicles melted while I was trying to build the ramp. Apparently that shiny orb in the sky produces a lot of heat and as it turns out I’m not very handy. Epic fail on the focus group I guess. However, I did come across a couple of other resources that reinforced the idea of trying to think about business like a kid.
Chris Heivly, cofounder of MapQuest, wrote a book called “Build the Fort” (check it out here). In the book he relates the experiences he had as a kid to building a startup. Simple, yet effective ways to think about building and growing a business.
Carl Nordgren, entrepreneur and professor, wrote a book about a class he used to teach at Duke called “Becoming a Creative Genius (again)” (check it out here). It discusses how we are born creative and helps us find ways to get back into that way of thinking.
From those books and numerous follow up attempts on the focus group, I’ve come up with the top 3 reasons why your startup should hire kindergartners.
Kids just go outside and play. They make up games and rules as they go. The games constantly evolve. As more kids come out to play, they find a role for them. They are creatures of creative action. Imagine if your startup did that.
2 No boundaries
Kids know right and wrong, but they don’t allow their minds to have boundaries. They don’t know how to give their minds boundaries. They are little explorers. What’s over here? What is this? How does it work? It looks like it could be a good addition to my rocket ship. Our minds are trained to only go so far down the rabbit hole. It’s a stick. I will put it in the yard waste bag. Kid brains are designed to chase things all the way down the rabbit hole and then to dig another series of tunnels to come home. Imagine the possibilities in your company if there weren’t boundaries.
3 Lack of fear/embarrassment
When kids are playing they share their ideas and build upon each other. When they think of something that sounds fun or adds value to the game, they blurt it out. No fear. They are just having fun and trying to continue to do so. Adults often get self-conscious about voicing ideas and opinions. Imagine if the people in your organization didn’t hold back.
Imagine what could happen to your business if you looked at it like a kindergartner. You take creative action. You don’t allow yourself boundaries in thought. You encourage the sharing of ideas.
Now, before I get emails from every labor lawyer in the country, lighten up. I’m not actually encouraging people to hire (or condone hiring) kindergartners. After all, it’s not practical. They take naps during prime productivity time…