Take a page from a child’s playbook

What’s the Secret to Collaboration? Take a Page from a Child’s Playbook.
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

We’ve all heard the phrase: “what you see is what you get.” Despite its widespread usage, there aren’t many examples where this adage truly applies, without any trace of doubt in our minds. One exception lies in the way children behave, connect, play, dream big, imagine endless possibilities, and dare greatly.

Children don’t hesitate to speak their minds, especially when they have deep feelings, emotions, and beliefs they need to express. This may inadvertently create conflicts and creative dissonance on the playground, which almost always breaks into a fight about who’s right.

But children are quite pragmatic and reasonable. When a teacher or adult intervenes with objective processing, they eventually apologize for their bad behavior and take steps to correct it.

This is more than just an artificial act of goodwill among individuals forced to conform to authority, kids are resilient – they learn, adapt, experiment, and evolve based on social cues. This is why you’ll find them playing with each other again after ten minutes, with smiles and a renewed commitment to companionship.

However, collaboration in the corporate world doesn’t always result in the harmonious experiences we enjoyed as kids.

As leaders work together to resolve complex problems, strengthen business resiliency, and explore emerging opportunities, they’re emboldened to apply their learnings from the classroom to the conference room.

The next time you’re called to an ideation session, try this 4-step strategy on for size:

  1. Humans are hardwired for connection. Collaboration starts with conversation.
  2. Making assumptions leads to miscommunication. It’s important to say what you mean in a way other people can understand, digest, and operationalize.
  3. Create a forum where everyone is encouraged to express their divergent ideas without being interrupted or criticized.
  4. Emotions may run high and hurtful words may be thrown around. Ensure the discussion is focused on the go-forward vision to ensure radical alignment, collaborative design, and meaningful activation.

The next time you collaborate with your team, don’t forget to adopt the passion and forgiveness of a child. It’s so much easier to chart the path forward if we find ways to come together and get back to solving problems and creating imaginative solutions – one wow at a time.

Parker Lee

Parker Lee is the managing partner of Territory, a design consultancy, who has developed and led teams in transformation, design thinking, and business development for decades. Co-author of The Art of Opportunity, he has created and facilitated dozens of design and visual thinking engagements.

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