Innovation is Child’s Play

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One of the best things about being a dad is watching my son discover the world around him. He loves to play with blocks and giant Lego®. I wonder what is going on in that tiny brain and I’m finding out how inspiring it can be to observe a child at play. You know, children are some of our best inventors. If you want to put a smile on your face today, check out this YouTube video of some kid inventors who showed off their ideas on the Ellen Show a while back. When you get your first patent before you are 10 years old, you know you have a bright future in innovation!

We can all learn from the ways that kids come up with new ideas. Kids are incredible at free association. They look at a hamster and think of a bike helmet. They look at a cube of plastic and see a dinosaur or a spaceship or a piano. As adults, we sometimes need to make space in our days to be less efficient. Take some time to make observations and then ask yourself, “What does this remind me of?” Write down the first things that pop into your head and don’t edit the thoughts.

The other thing kids do really well is wish for things. I wish my ears would stay warm. I wish I could talk under water. I wish my bike could fly. Not only do kids make lots of wishes, they try to come up with solutions and they don’t worry what anyone else might think. Our whole company is based on coming up with solutions to everyday problems. Reframing the innovation process from solving problems to granting wishes might be a cool idea for coming up with something new.

And of course, kids love to play. Kids play for the fun of it. They play when they are bored, they play with their friends, they play by themselves. They use their imaginations and as soon as something isn’t fun anymore, they switch to something else.   That is probably the reason Lego® has been popular with kids for over 50 years. It constantly adapts to the whims of child’s play. Looking for more fun ways to do things that have become boring, or looking to bring a sense of play back to adult life, can be good ways to come up with something new.

Next time you feel like your ideation sessions are getting a little stale, take your cue from your inner child and see what innovations you can come up with.


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