As the father of three children, I'm acutely aware that no matter how innovative my company's ideas are, they don't hold a candle to the constant tornado of new games, adventures and projects my kids dream up on a daily basis. More than what their brilliant minds are coming up with, it's how they approach every moment.
Observing them as they navigate each moment and every experience has made me a better leader, as I believe much we can learn from their approach to life and creation. Watch your children next time they're at play --they're fully immersed and deeply in tune with what they're doing in that moment and approach every activity they dream up with enthusiasm and excitement.
As summer approaches, parents will likely have more one-on-one time with their kids. Take the opportunity to learn a thing or two from them. Listen to them on a deeper level, observe them, and consider bringing a few of their key traits and values back to the office.
Foster unrestrained creativity
Children are never short on inventive ideas that keep the whole family playing, having fun and staying loose all summer long. Any parent who has observed their children diving head first into a new game has experienced the creative freedom that comes with idle time and a lack of structure.
As adults, we tend to get stuck in processes, systems and routines. New or unforeseen situations give us anxiety instead of pique our curiosity.
Kids have no such qualms about discovering the unexplored or letting their imaginations fuel their play without trying to steer the ship to a "correct" result. Think about the times you've been happiest at work -- were you coloring inside the lines and following a pre-designated playbook to a T, or were you allowing your ideas to flow, collaborating and disregarding the rulebook?
Leaders have a duty to inspire a creative, unconfined spirit in each employee. This comes, in part, by leading by example and creating a culture that allows for taking creative risks when it's appropriate. Look at how you're approaching work, and whether your culture promotes or confines creative thinking and ideas.
Develop a sense of adventure
My kids don't assess all the risks, run the numbers and research best practices before coming to me with epic adventures they want to embark on during the summer. They see cliffs or a beautiful trail and ask how soon we can hike and jump.
They also know they can come to me with their ideas and I won't judge them or dampen their excitement. Of course, I'm there to provide guidance and keep them safe, but I fully encourage them pursue adventure, as it fosters growth and learning.
My favorite part of going on adventures with my kids is simply observing their excitement and sense of wonder at every step. They're fully bought in to the experience before them.
And isn't that what we want from our teams too? For them to be fully bought in to every project, the vision, and the purpose? If it's waning among your team, your organization could be due for a healthy dose of adventure.
Engage your team to come up with an adventure that involves a change of scenery and possibly a challenge. This does a lot to build inter-office relationships and collaboration, and stimulate the brain to think strategically.
The next step is to work to keep that same sense of adventure alive at the office. Encourage the childlike mindset of diving into adventure without knowing how everything will play out, and apply it to the way your company approaches business problems and creative brainstorms.
Approach life as a blank canvas
My daughter is the creative one in the family, and she recently asked for some canvases so the entire family could paint together over the summer. I watched as she created, uninterrupted, for several hours, and it made me think about just how much adults in the business world have lost the childlike skill of making something from nothing.
Instead, a blank canvas can often be paralyzing rather than an opportunity, simply because we want to know the outcome --that it won't result in failure. But there is an incredible sense of freedom in accepting that there are things you don't know, and trusting that the process will yield results you'll be excited about.
Are my seven-year-old's pieces museum-quality works of art? Does it matter?
Perfection is unattainable -- getting started is not. Remind your employees -- and yourself -- that you don't have to be a master at your craft to view life as a canvas upon which you can make your mark.
Live life to the fullest, rest to the fullest
Children are masters at living in the moment. In every way, kids are on overdrive during the summer, which means they exhibit another behavior adults would be wise to emulate: they rest like crazy.
Even if what they do in the summer looks like all play, kids are working hard. They're writing, drawing, running around, finding new solutions to problems -- things adults would consider "work." And yet they always find time to put their feet up.
There's no doubt we drive just as hard at work, and we should give ourselves similar periods of renewal in our days. The mind is a powerful instrument, so find ways this summer to keep it finely tuned so it's firing on childlike cylinders.