…If you want to make a big change, get all the kids thinking of themselves as a creative person. They’re just going to have that openness that will allow them to come up with new and different ideas that they can choose. When we talk about having ideas, we talk about fluency and flexibility. Fluency means you can quickly come up with lots of ideas like in brainstorming, but flexibility means that they’re different one from the next. So you have lots of ideas and they’re unique ideas. That’s going to help you make a better decision.
I don’t care if that’s about something in your personal life or whether it’s your job of curing cancer, having a better variety of ideas is going to make better decisions.
A daydream … is just a means of eavesdropping on those novel thoughts generated by the unconscious. We think we’re wasting time, but, actually, an intellectual fountain really is spurting.
Just Because Something Isn’t Possible Now, Doesn’t Mean It’s Impossible
Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi who helped popularise Zen Buddhism was quoted “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Children dream up the wildest ideas. I try to refrain from telling my kids that it can’t work or it won’t happen, or it doesn’t exist. Their imaginary world full of creative thinking and crazy ideas is a place much desired by many.
Imagination - A World Where Anything Is Possible
A pair of painted-on ‘super-action-shoes’ are the latest rage in our house. “They are a lot faster because they are not heavy and I have better grip with my toes.” My six-year-old is so convinced they are superior to shoes and bare feet that his younger brother requested a pair too. Those super-action-shoes helped them climb trees higher too and of course they are much more fun to put on than regular shoes.
While driving one day an excited voice announced “My windmill is making you go faster.” Positioning a toy windmill out the car window it generates visible motion, to him, comparable to generating energy to speed up the car? Like a propellor my three-year-old is convinced when it spins the car goes faster, not when the car drives faster the windmill spins faster as more air is pushed through it.
If he doesn’t have his windmill with him he uses his out-stretched arm like a gliding wing, helping us to fly along. Their facial expressions are almost as convincing and just priceless with that look of sheer excitement and fresh discovery all rolled into one.
Sometimes ideas flow from possible explanations, answers or suggestions to a question such as those contrails from a jet’s exhaust in summer - “Maybe that’s the edge of the sky?” Thoughts and ideas generated in this way provide a great launching pad into imagining the many things it could be. You can always follow up with some research to actually find out more, or maybe not! Does everything have, or really need, an answer? It’s the curiousity that keeps the imagination firing.
My hungry three-year-old asked me how they got the food in the recipe book while he sat staring at a glossy realistic photo of something delicious he was drooling for. I asked him if he knew how, he took a sniff of the photo “they smell so yummy, they must have squashed the food flat in some very heavy books.” Just like the food-press of flower-presses and with such a powerfully convincing imagination he could even smell the food in the photo.
Age and Experience: Growing A Judgemental Mindset
The way children think - their creative ideas, that free thinking - comes with an open mind, a fresh imagination, a new life with limited experiences, not having the specific knowledge or ability to combine factual answers to make sense of things. Kids are not hindered by the constraints of reality, recognising or understanding something is not possible. To them, everything is potentially possible. Children have no inhibitions, they are more open to criticism, sharing their ideas and taking on board new ideas.
Having preconceived judgements can restrict the flow of ideas. As young children grow older they tend to become more self conscious of their creativity, feeling judged and instead prefer to conform to just fit in and be accepted. Too often success becomes focused on knowing what is wanted, not what is interesting. Just because something isn’t possible now, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
As renowned entrepreneur, designer and visionary David Kelley from IDEO says; “everything you need to know you learn it in kindergarten because that’s when you had innate confidence in your own creative power”.
A child’s mind is an innovative mind- children don’t know what they don’t know, vs the limitations of age and experience.
Children’s ability to use their imagination, to think and generate creative ideas so efficiently, is an inherent skill they embody with such innocent passion. It’s often a long-lost skill much desired upon by any adult.
You don’t always need age, expertise or knowledge to be the most creative person in the room.
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
Blu-Tack And Discovering How To Share Ideas
Yesterday I purchased a kids world map and my son watched curiously as I used Blu Tack to hold it in place. This was nothing new to me, but he had discovered Blu Tack. A squishy reposition-able reusable adhesive. He quite obviously wanted to try it out.
Within a couple of hours he had made up a make-shift desk in his room and created dozens of drawings, lots of robot plans, rocket launchers and other vehicles which he had carefully stuck to his bedroom wall with Blu Tack. He would draw an improved version and replace an earlier one, editing and refining his set of ideas. He requested more Blu Tack, and eventually asked me to come down and see what he had created.
His wall was covered and he was proud - he was sharing his ideas, telling me stories about the robots that he developed in his mind as he drew the pictures. His room had become rich with imagination.
Communicating With Design Thinking
Designer’s share their ideas and brainstorm in this manner. Dozens of thoughts, building off other ideas, quick fast sketches- quality of idea not quality of drawing, sharing, presenting, evaluating and refining. There’s no hiding of ideas, no protective attitudes or precious ideas, but an open free-flowing method and communication tool. This is a core element of the design process and innovative thinking.
Why doesn’t this skill stay with us?
How can we support and encourage our children to continue ideating like this as they grow up?
Why should we feel judged and feel self conscious of our ideas?
Shouldn’t this skill be a tool for sharing and communicating ideas for everyone?