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.
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?
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?