Ross Peet: Why having a child’s mindset plays out well for your business

Recently, I was sitting watching how my daughter was building a fairy. Rather than pondering and coming up with a plan before making a start, she was searching around the house for things which could come in handy, not having a clear idea in mind of the outcome but knowing that she wanted to have a really good time while creating it.

This for me was an eye-opening experience as I spotted a clear difference in our processes. We, as adults, don’t have the same approach when it comes to creating something from scratch; we develop a sense of anxiety about trying to build things and revert to trying to plan out projects instead. We tend to see only the end goal and it’s all very stressful. Because of this, we can slowly lose interest, but then the deadline looms, the fear kicks in and we end up doing it anyway.

Kids are gifted with this amazing ability to have an idea and then unashamedly try to bring it to life, whether that’s with LEGO, Little Bits or toilet rolls and tissue paper. They aren’t scared about the big picture and this makes me think that our general creation process is flawed.

What we usually lack is the belief that we can do it and the playful attitude. Pursuing a great idea should be done fluidly, without trying to map out every aspect of a project at the start, sometimes before pen has even hit paper. Here are a few tips which have helped us along the way in the process of selling to and building ideas with our clients.

 

  1. Frame the question in an interesting manner but don’t constrain the answers

In the agency-client world, an account manager would talk to a client about a potential project, then would go away for some silo thinking, write the proposal and estimate the costs. The client is then likely to review the proposal and submit the official brief, which helps the agency map out everything in advance and plan the budget.

But why are we shoe-horning briefs into proposals? If there are any holes in the brief, one should be able to explore them even if they are remotely tangent, respond back with initial thoughts, explore and refine them with open mindedness. The brief should be flexible enough to consider various directions and this should apply to any given situation. At the end of the day, are we aligning to the brief or the business problem? We should create a framework for our projects, not a yardstick.

 

  1. Use brainstorming tools only to figure out what to do next

Kevin Ashton in his brilliant book ‘How to fly a horse’, challenges a series of creation clichés which lead people to think that innovation is all down to a stroke of genius or a sudden ‘gift’. He argues that the main driver is hard work, perseverance and being in the right environment. He endorses taking steps, not leaps towards your creative goal. He also points out something I adhere to as well; brainstorms should only be used to get you unstuck and suggest your next step, but should not be used as a tool to generate ideas. Surveys quoted by Kevin show that individuals produce more and better-quality ideas than groups because in the latter there is a tendency of getting fixated on one solution and there will always be some members who feel inhibited from taking part fully.

 

  1. Test the ideas with the most potential

Ideas had the power of sending man to the moon and are an asset for any business out there. Choosing a winner from a pool of options is not a guessing game but a testing process. For this, you can start from the following questions:

Is it intellectually challenging? Can it make the world better? Is it profitable? Scalable? Possible?

Experiment with answers as they can take you anywhere. Identify the ones with the most promise to deliver, then go away and pilot them. Being fearless about testing and learning from experiments that might not always work is something we could all get better at.

 

  1. Involve interesting people from diverse backgrounds

Why choose between right or left brain thinking when you can have both? Sourcing input from a variety of people who are analytical and creative allows you to enjoy the combined power of great minds that don’t think alike.

When you fill the room with them, bear in mind just one rule; instead of chipping away at an idea with the word ‘no’, try instead to build on them by saying ‘Yes and…’. It’s much easier to kill an idea than to nurture it as a group.

 

  1. Rinse and repeat until you get a working solution
Ross Peet, managing partner at ideas agency Yes&Pepper
Ross Peet, managing partner at ideas agency Yes&Pepper

Be prepared to fail and look at other options. But do it quickly, in micro experiments which are likely to be time and cost efficient. Find what proves the theory, experiment and gather results to see what happens next.

Learning the benefits of experimenting versus planning can change the way we perceive and do things for every type of business; from small companies operating out of a person’s house to large corporations with thousands of employees.

Businesses should adopt a child’s mindset as there is very rarely one clear way to execute a great idea.

By sticking to it and making the journey less constrained, reducing the background noise and focusing on your vision, you open up more avenues to increase your bottom line and you end up having fun in the process.

 

By Ross Peet, managing partner at ideas agency Yes&Pepper (www.yesandpepper.com)

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