Mona Patel is Founder and CEO of Motivate Design, a user experience research and design shop. She is also the author of the bestseller Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate and Think.
There are plenty of people who self-identify as "creatives," but a large group of people don't share this belief about themselves. This doubt can come from fear or uncertainty--but also from a lack of encouragement in their lives.
Once upon a time, we were all creative. As kids, we had vivid imaginations that enabled us to think anything and everything was possible. Somewhere along the way, though, many of us lost this.
As the leader of a UX shop, I obviously focus on creativity. As a mother, I recognize and encourage creativity in my kids. And as an entrepreneur, I am constantly creating, so it recently struck me that entrepreneurs can create stories and memories in a child's mind to prevent the shift of "I am creative" to "I'm not [this] enough" from happening. This allows their creativity to mature as they do.
We piloted "Take Your Child to Work Day" in 2015 to show kids what it's like to be a designer and work through a problem with a process. We took the group through our design thinking process to redesign the toothbrush. The raw imaginative energy blew us away and left us reenergized and inspired as UX professionals. Together, we were working with completely open minds that we, even as designers/makers/thinkers, often lose sight of. Not only did the kids redesign the toothbrush itself, they also created branding and clay prototypes of the product. Within hours, emails, cards and thank yous from kids, parents and employees poured in. We knew this had to be an annual event.
This year, the agenda was a bit more robust for a larger group. We invited our clients, friends and affiliate network's children into our space and gave them a project: Redesign the Classroom. To kick off the activities, I asked the young creatives before me to sketch each other. Because of their ages (8-13), I assumed the packed house would be ripe with creativity. However, some of the students had already made that shift. I was floored to hear "I'm not good at drawing" and "I'm bad at art." I insisted they sketch anyway and promised by the end of the day, they would think they were creative (as long as they promised to have fun).
What are you doing to teach kids?
If you are an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity to teach others, and not just people in your company or on your team. You can create memories that solidify their creative selves. Bring your children, nieces and nephews into your space and let them help you. Learn from their eagerness to create, and show empathy for their imaginations.
Furthermore, this helps reignite your team's creativity. If your sales team isn't performing, ask an eight-year-old to fix them. You'd be surprised by what and how much kids can teach and help your employees. Our VP of operations got an IT lesson from a nine-year-old during lunch break!
Entrepreneurs have a rare opportunity to influence young minds. If you see it as a responsibility, embrace it. If you see it as a gift, give it. If you see it as a challenge, take it on. Choose any process (ours uses design thinking, which I wrote about here), and work with kids to find new ways to fix something that is broken.
By the workshop's end, those who were "bad at drawing" had sketched full floor plans for Hoverboard Trampoline University, and prideful expressionism echoed throughout the room. Groups presented their ideas: an outdoor school to save energy, lighter chairs on wheels to make getting in and out easier and quieter, edible school supplies and more. (You can watch the snippets of the event here.) By encouraging these seemingly crazy ideas, we lay the foundation for creative and confident minds.
I received a thank-you email from James, age nine, the night after the event. He wrote, "I can't wait to come back next year! I really liked drawing the pictures because I wasn't pressured. I could draw whatever I wanted, and I wasn't forced to write/draw anything. It felt very freeing. I really liked that I could use my imagination. That's something I can't do in school."
We need to be careful to support creativity, not stifle it. Where would we, as successful entrepreneurs, be without someone teaching us and showing us we could?