What's the key to achieving truly great things these days? Not a robot-like ability to churn out work, certainly. That's why we have robots. In nearly any industry you can think of, the spoils go to the most creative. And likely this will only be more true in the future.
So if you're looking to increase your kid's chance of future success, it's creativity you need to focus on, not just raw achievement. If you're a parent on board with this message, Wharton professor and author of the new book Originals Adam Grant has a message for you -- it's time to rein in your Tiger Mom or helicopter dad tendencies.
"You can't program a child to become creative. Try to engineer a certain kind of success, and the best you'll get is an ambitious robot," he warned in a recent New York Times op-ed.
If you hear this message loud and clear, one big question remains -- if supervising compulsory hours of violin practice and hawk-like attention to grades isn't the answer, what is? How do you foster creativity in kids, whether you're doing it for the sake of future success or just because you think your kids might just enjoy it?
Business Insider followed up with Grant about his op-ed, asking for concrete advice and got an intriguing trio of tricks.
1. Minimize rules.
"One study compared the families of children who were rated among the most creative 5 percent in their school system with those who were not unusually creative. The parents of ordinary children had an average of six rules, like specific schedules for homework and bedtime. Parents of highly creative children had an average of fewer than one rule," writes Grant in the op-ed.
He elaborated on this the point to BI: "If you want your kids to follow rules, then it's much more likely that, when it comes time to solve a problem, he or she looks to how it's been solved before--what are the conventional ways to doing it-- as opposed to saying, 'Well, how can I approach this? What other solutions haven't been come up with before?'"
2. Praise the child, not the act.
You may have heard you should praise effort, not intelligence in your kids to encourage grit (though apparently, lots of parents misunderstand this advice, according to the scientist who pioneered the idea). If you want to encourage creativity, you should be similarly careful with how you celebrate your kids' efforts.
"You're a creative person," beats "That's a creative drawing," Grant tells BI. "What we need to do is help children see that that behavior is a core part of who they are, so that when they grow up they don't lose creativity," he explains.
3. Reason with your kids.
Laying down the law can be easier than explaining why the law is as it is, but if you're interested in future creativity, you should take the time to reason with your little ones. Citing studies on the early lives of heroes who rescued people from the Holocaust and highly creative architects, Grant suggests parents "help children think about the consequences of their action for others," rather than simply yelling 'no!'.
Not quite sure what Holocaust resisters (incredibly brave as they may have been) have to do with creativity? Morality and creativity are intertwined, Grant explains in another, illuminating TechCrunch interview. "Kids who evolve into creative adults tend to have a strong moral compass," he says. "They've been nurtured by their parents, who've talked with them and modeled values of excellence for them that [seed ] concern for the consequences of their [kids'] actions on other people. At the same time, they're given a lot of autonomy to figure out how they want to live with those values."