I came across an interesting article entitled 10 Great Inventions Dreamt up by Children. They range from earmuffs to crayon holders to an underwater talking device. The stories of their young creators are inspiring for anyone interested in innovation and entrepreneurship. The article begs some questions. Why are children so much more creative than adults? How does that creativity get crushed? What other great ideas do children have that are ignored?
Children have the benefit of not knowing what is not possible. For them everything is feasible. What’s more young children get praise and encouragement from their parents and teachers for almost any work they do – particularly for imaginative stories or weird pieces of art. They have heard tales of magic and they see around them technology doing all sorts of amazing things. As far as they are concerned every problem can be solved. Adults on the the other hand are only too well versed in what they cannot achieve and what cannot be done. They are surrounded by rules, regulations, laws and compliance. They have experienced rejections, failures and humiliations. At some stage they have worked for a difficult boss who was not interested in their ideas – just in getting the job done on time.
If we want to be truly creative we need to think like children again. We need to imagine an ideal solution and then ask ‘Why not?’ The daughter of Edwin Land asked this question when he told her that she could not see the photo he had taken straight away. Her persistence led him to invent the Polaroid camera. In similar fashion 11-year-old Richie Stachowski asked ‘why can’t we speak to each other underwater?’ His invention of an underwater speaking device is listed in the article above.
Of course every invention and innovation has to exist in a world of constraints. But if we start by imagining an ideal solution then work back to overcome or accommodate restrictions then we will have a better chance of success than if we start with all the obstacles in clear view. To be creative think like a child; you did it all the time once so now do it again.
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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation, and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, published both published by Kogan-Page. Follow him @PaulSloane