Acting Like Children

Our team at work had a team event one night last week.The local science center was hosting a show called “How to Make a Monster”. While this show was interesting we also had an opportunity to roam throughout the science center to explore and experience all of the regular exhibits of the facility. There was quite the variety of activities, most of which were hands on and experiential.

Children engage
Children engaging

Imagine all of the fun to be had … mucking around in the wet sand to create a river!

Spinning treadmills to create power!

Assembling gear systems to create speed!

Design a wind turbine!

Compose a symphony!

Paint with light!

Create a constellation!

Most of us did none of it. Jason (one of my teammates at work) had a very interesting observation of the evening. It was adult night and most of the adults in the place were wandering around just looking at things. We would half heartedly spin a dial and see what happened and then move on with our hands behind our backs to passively examine the next exhibit. Jason noted that if we had been a group of kids there would have been packs running from one adventure to the next, lots of laughter, shrieking, high fives, wins, losses, and “let’s do it again!!” There would have been awe at new things learned, marvel at making something happen that we had only heard about. And a lot of kids thinking “I wonder what will happen when I do …”.

Those kids would have learned amazing things in those hours, and created some fun memories and bonds between them. They would have grown as human beings, they would have tested themselves, supported, competed, connected, expressed, created, experienced …

So why not us adults? Why don’t we do these things? Are we embarrassed to be thought of as children? Are we afraid of not being able to understand an exhibit, solve a puzzle, build a wind mill? Do we think we should know everything an exhibit is designed to teach? Are we afraid of what our colleagues will think of us if they catch us playing?

Adult observing
Adult observing

I’m not sure if these were the thoughts of my colleagues, but I would guess that I was personally guilty of at least half of them. So I started to wonder where the wonder went? What would happen if I went back to the wholehearted delight of childhood adventure and took every opportunity to learn by simply trying something new. But what if it doesn’t work out? Sure we have to worry about costs and consequences of bigger adventures, but doesn’t the act of taking risks and daring new things often lead to great progress and discoveries? Shouldn’t we consider the reward side of the equation too?

I want to put this form of “acting like a child” back into my way of being. I know it will be a challenge as the message “grow up” has been passed to us in many forms over the years, and that programming will be something I will have to be aware of as I try to make this shift. But I think there would be amazing personal rewards if I could recapture an attitude of “innocent learning”.

From a leadership perspective, I also wonder how an organization could embrace this. How can we begin to bring the energy of innocent learning into a business environment? What rewards could an organization reap from this? Innovation? Synergy? Collaboration? Better risk management? Strength of team? Stronger culture? Energy? Fun? Staff retention?

I would love to hear from others on this. What would be possible for you if you were to make this shift? What do you think would happen inside organizations if this way of being became the norm? Would you want to work there?

Published by

Ian Munro @ leadingessentially.com

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

10 thoughts on “Acting Like Children

  1. Oh Ian I love this. Children learn through play and I think I do too, often privately so others can’t judge me 😉 One of my favourite quotes is we don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.

    As far as orgs applying this, some do! Marketing agencies do they have chalkboard walls, bicycles, ping pong tables for creative meetings and all of this inspires creativity, brainstorming, etc.

    1. I love the quote Diana … can I steal it? I know you have a big book of them … you won’t miss this one will you? 🙂

      My pledge to myself is to practice more “innocent learning” which involves diving in to a learning situation without fear of judgement. I guess that means without considering who is watching!!

      As far as the workplace I agree that we do see offices that tend towards allowing for play. Do you think that turns into a culture of innocent learning or is it more directed at team cohesiveness?

      1. It’s not my quote to keep. 😉 I think it does both and it creates a safe place to share ideas, a place where imagination, innovation is valued and sought. It also teaches us not to take ourselves so seriously and maybe helps us to let go of our egos a little as we nurture others who have incredible gifts. Don’t you think? Of course I’m speaking from my own preference. I guess it also depends on your organization, i.e., accounting firm, marketing agency, law office, dentist office, post office all need different types of people with different skill sets and preferences…maybe?

  2. I work for an organization that has “fun” as a core principle of our being. In some ways the word fun represents what it means to be a child. To the word fun I would add creative, un-encumbered by time, almost an irresponsibility. I would also add forgiving. Forgiving of their mistakes and forgiving of others. There’s a book I read many years ago and can’t remember the authors name, but the book was Everything I needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

    I wonder if we could put childhood into work? The childhood with creativity, forgiveness, fun, and irresponsibility.

    Here’s for working like a child

  3. Interesting topic. I am often told I still act like a little kid. Getting all excited about an upcoming trip or a game. The child in me also still has dreams about playing hockey, football and golf. Only trouble is my partner wakes up after I’ve thrown or kicked and I worry it may end up with bruises to her someday. I plan on researching what that’s all about, but could it be related? As for work, it has always been my theory that we can have fun and do a good job at the same time. Not always achievable in these times of budget cuts.

    1. Thanks for the addition Greg. I’d say that is taking the concept to the extreme! LOL. And I love that you extend fun to work as well. In some ways difficult times make it even more important we do this!

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