We used to be kids. Remember?

www.wwh.do doing stuff. Berlin 14th February 2012

We all have different backgrounds, most of us where raised in different social environments and ended up developing different activities in adult life. Another fact is that despite these differences we all went and where engaged in the same activities while we where kids.
In kindergarten we played, share a lot of experiences with the space and other kids around us, sleep during the afternoons to recover some power, engaged in activities with objects or everything around us and of course, made a lot of mistakes by taking chances.

As we grow old, our playfulness is gradually substituted by a lot of studying. We all want to be good students and spend a lot of time worrying about the future and normally focusing on one goal. Finishing university is always a promise for a good future.
In the end, almost everyone ends up focusing in one specific area of knowledge. We become isolated by digging our heads in some books or in different contrast monitors. We loose the idea of team spirit by ego demand and we are not able to differentiate ourselves from the ones next to us. No one’s is looking around. Everybody ends up doing the same thing.

I don’t want to focus on the societal or governmental facts of education but on the actual facts and changes perpetuated by the physiological changes in our brains. While we get old our prefrontal cortex develops and makes us more aware and focus while making decisions. The problem is that gaining more consciousness in our actions also makes us have more constrains while doing it. We become more afraid, blocked and limited by “judging” too much our own thoughts.
We end up suppressing creativity by thinking too much.
This means we loose the ability to think and act like children.
What I suggest is that by introducing little changes in the way we live our lives and even in the way we work, we can keep on being and acting like kids without compromising our “decision making” processes.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”. This beautiful quote by Pablo Picasso sets the tone for some solutions or changes I would love to see implemented in more companies and that I’m already putting in practice today.

Playing gives us more energy and sends a signal to our brains that we are active. It increases our sense of freedom, brakes barriers by making us feel more connected to a group. Makes us feel we are physically part of something. Generates empathy by making us feel less ashamed.

Space plays an important role. It’s not by chance that Stanford DSchool just put out a book revealing the importance of a creative and friendly space and the way it impacts creativity. Space stimulates and potentiates interactions. Steve Jobs wanted to place the toilet in the middle of the company for people to bump on each other on their way.
Space can free your mind if it’s blue or it can make you go quicker if it’s red for example. Space is to be used with no restrictions. Go on the floor, walls, ceiling. Create your own space.

Learn by Doing.
When we are kids we learn by doing. While we still don’t rationalize we learn by tracing and mapping the interactions our body produces with the space around us. That’s how we learn. By doing and not by thinking. While using our hands we are creating physical memories that will be retained by our body and neuronal systems. Making our ideas tangible will have the same effect. We can detect and see and touch what we thought of doing by really doing it. And we can pretty soon detect mistakes we couldn’t even think about before having that tangible “product” in our hands.

It’s not by chance that a lot of leaders and creative minds take power naps in the afternoon. Sleeping improves learning and working memory. It heightens our senses and creativity, it increases alertness and improves health. During our sleep is where our brains is silently making all the connections between the information we absorb at different times.
Ah Ah moments and more common during “nap” times!

While we are kids we love playing with other kids, without making to much judgment. Learning together and sharing ideas and building on ideas of others and “joining” others ideas was almost a sport while we where young. We can bring this spirit today by mixing different elements in a team. We don’t need to know the same stuff. We just need to find a common base to star a work or to put up a great multidisciplinary team.

Just bring on that kid’s spirit.

One last quote form Jonah Lehrer: “By thinking of ourselves as a child, we end up thinking in more child-like ways. The end result is that we regain the creativity lost with time.”

This text was the summary of the talk (How can we use our past to design a better future?) I gave with Inês Brito at the University of Zaragoza/Spain – March 2012

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