New Directions in Innovation 7 – Childlike Perspectives on Change and Innovation

As children we are innocent and open to the world.  Sigmund Freud once said: “What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant genius of a child and the feeble mentality of the average adult”.  The naive standpoint of a child is something we lose as we grow up.  Children ask the question ‘why’ a lot.  As we grow up we tend to ask ‘what’ and ‘how’, especially when gripped by the relentless hurry and action of work.

In processes of change and innovation, the ‘childish’ standpoint is something we would do well to recapture.  Asking ‘why’ helps to get to the root cause of things. Also simply being more open-minded, less cynical, asking naive questions – all of these “innocent” approaches can help develop fresher perspectives of change situations.

Children also delight in the world.  Things are new to them.  They delight in novelty.  Innovation fascinates them.  This fascination creates a heightened sensitivity to newness and openness to it.  As we get older, particularly in the West we tend to grow cautious and cynical.  This is like putting on blinkers to newness.  Innovation is all about newness!

One way of training ourselves to be more open to newness and innovation is to recapture that child in us.

Pursuing novelty as long as it doesn’t become an obsession can have a positive knock on effect at work.  It opens us up to innovation and new ideas, we welcome them, seek them out.  We rediscover the child in us!

Another feature of children is the ability to use their imagination.  Albert Einstein, when asked by a young mother what advice he had for her in trying to help her child develop his mathematical abilities to perhaps become another Einstein, said: “Tell him stories”.  Children love to use their imaginations and love it when parents make up stories to tell them at bedtime.  As we grow older and develop our intellectual faculties, many of us tend to lose our capacity for the kind of imagination we had as children.  Yet, as Einstein also said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”.  Imagination helps us create visions and pictures of the future.

The fantasies of today become often the innovations of tomorrow.  If we are only concerned with thoughts, with facts, we will not be innovative.  Innovating processes requires us to exercise our imagination to create, in our mind’s eye, a kind of Punch and Judy show where we can play out different scenarios, stories and possibilities.  Though this may seem absurd to some, several participants pointed to the need for a ‘child’s’ view of  change and innovation.



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