"Unleashing your creativity is simply child's play my nephew pointed out to me ."
My brother reprimanded his feisty five year old son recently resorting to an ear-opening smack on the bum. This was met with a comical retort: “Dad, if you hit me again I’m going to have to hit you back.” Sharp comments like these make the process of parenthood extremely challenging, as you continuously fight back fits of laughter. Children are naturally quick-thinking and can churn out brilliant comments like these without much or in fact any thought at all. It doesn’t stop there.
Watch them tackle the latest PlayStation sensation, it is actually quite an experience. Even for someone like me who used to be queen of the Commodore 64 and able to ace any electronic game within minutes, the latest technology and gaming crazes proves quite daunting and I’m embarrassed to admit that a five year old beats me hands down within minutes. What has changed? I’m the same old gaming queen only a slightly older version. Does age have something to do with it?
Perhaps Pac-man can help, a game I could probably still play now and beat the socks off my nephew. Pac-man is an arcade game developed by Namco and first released in Japan in 1980. I was eight years old at the time, a perfect age to master a new challenge and it definitely didn’t take me long to join the ranks of budding Pac-man gamers, guiding Pac-man through a maze, eating pac-dots, avoiding Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde and trying to swallow flashing dots called power pellets which gave Pac-man the temporary ability to eat the enemies. Pac-man had us hooked; creating personal vendetta’s to see our name featured in the list of top scores.
Pac-Man's success in North America in the same year took competitors and distributors completely by surprise. Completely outstripping Asteroids as the best-selling arcade game and grossing over $1 billion in quarters within a decade, by the end of the 1980s, Pac-man surpassed the highest grossing film Star Wars in revenue. It was developed by Toru Iwatani and based on the concept of eating. The original Japanese title is Pakkuman, inspired by the Japanese onomatopoeic phrase paku-paku taberu where paku-paku describes the sound the mouth makes when it opens and closes in quick succession. Pac-man was originally thought to be inspired by a pizza missing a slice; but Iwatani revealed that his inspiration came from simplifying and rounding out the Japanese character for mouth, kuchi (口).
The gaming industry has evolved somewhat over the last few decades. Today’s generation might not be as intrigued by Pac-man and the ghosts as I was, but children are drawn to electronic games today as much as they were back in the 1980’s. The emergence of mobile phones and IPad’s has just made the gaming world all the more accessible. Why does my five year old still beat me hands down?
Children take to this technological era so readily because they have the ability to drop old limiting behaviours and switch to new ways of thinking within minutes when something doesn’t work. They simply keep trying different options until they find a solution which gets the flow of sequences right. They solve the problem. They don’t switch on the screen with limiting self-beliefs that they can’t do something; they simply have not worked out how to do it yet and keep on trying. Children live in a world of new and unknown concepts; a PlayStation game is quite frankly something else they must learn how to master.
A remarkable recipe for creative thinking naturally installed.
What happens to it as we grow up and move into adulthood?
I am no longer able to stare at the PlayStation screen for extended periods of time. Is it a lack of interest? Is it a lack of attention? Or is it simply an ego crushing exercise as a five year old whips your butt?
Adults on the whole are far less adaptable and likely to continue trying the same things over and over again. We fell off the cliff with the last jump. Did we change the angle? Increase the jump speed? Take another route altogether? Why? We insist on repeating exactly the same process, believing that our next attempt will be more successful. Albert Einstein once said that: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
This limited thinking is not restricted to the gaming zones.
We have all seen someone doggedly repeating the same actions over and over again that are not bringing about the right results. Salesmen don’t meet their targets, yet continue to prod forward doing exactly the same thing every day. We consume too much sugar laden junk food and animal protein and wonder why we keep picking up weight? Our expenses greatly outnumber our income yet we continue to shop as usual. Our creative teams are just not coming up with enough innovative new concepts to keep us ahead of the competition. Why do we insist on repeating the same processes but expecting different results?
Sustained innovation is a measure of business success, and is regarded by many as the most important determinant of long-term survival. Companies that prod forward at the same pace fall behind their competitors and are doomed. There is no technological luxury of a second or third life in business to retry something again. We must get things right the first time, unleashing your creativity is then not a luxury we add on to our practices every now and then it must form part of the core business process.There is a lot we can learn from feisty five year old's that could potentially improve business practices and ultimately help fatten our wallets. The ability to drop old limiting behaviors and switch to new ways of thinking is probably one of the most important. We must keep trying different options, changing the angle, increasing the jump speed or simply think about taking another route altogether before we take that next jump. If the process of eating could inspire a billion dollar arcade game, perhaps we should play the game and swallow the power pellets, then the flow of sequences would be just right and the solutions will appear.
"A drop of ink may make a million think." -Lord Byron