Have you ever witnessed (or been) a parent trying to explain to a 4 year old that cowboys don't wear tiaras or that chickens don't drive tractors? Why interfere with that creative play in the first place? Children learn through play and as we get older, we should continue to learn through play because it is the most efficient way to sync all your senses to one thought or concept. Yet at some point we arbitrarily decide to tell our children that animals can not really talk, dragons only live in fairy tales and only farmers drive tractors.
Why is it so important for us to conform to a societal view of reality and shun any creative thought that conflicts with that? Why do we force our children to play and dream and be creative within hard boundaries?
We want our children to be creative as long as it is within the norm.
"You can colour the picture but stay in the lines."
"You can paint the landscape, but make sure the sky is blue."
"You can play cowboy, but cowboys don't wear tiaras."
But… Constrain… Shackle… Contain...
As someone who is currently sifting trough resumes trying to hire creative engineers, I am saddened by the alarming number of adults who are afraid to colour outside the lines. I want dragon slayers and ninjas. I want radical thinkers who are ok with chickens driving tractors. Where are all the WIlly Wonkas?
In business the common mantra is "think outside the box", yet most companies really do not want that. They want employees who will find creative ways of doing business and making money that are not the standard, but they draw the line at radical thought. If someone who worked for you said " hey, lets just give our product away to a bunch of people in order to drive sales revenue" you would likely think they were insane.
Yet that is exactly what Apple did in the early 1980's and it was brilliant. I lived through it and even as a teenager I saw what they were doing and thought it was brilliant then too. Give schools free computers and outfit them with computer labs. Schools never have any money and at that time they were screaming for this new technology, yet no one was willing to provide the tools. Apple saw an opportunity to create a market and took the radical move to provide schools with computer labs at zero cost or heavily discounted rates. IBM had a fit, but they could have never been able to make that decision to colour outside the lines the way Jobs and Wozniak did. The result was a whole generation of children who fell in love with computers, learned how to use them and went home asking their parents to buy one. Instant market place.
Nintendo threw out the rule book with the Wii when they said "why not just make the player the controller?". Salesforce took on the entire software universe when they said (and I paraphrase) "people should never have to buy software in order to use its functions". Netflix upset the whole movie rental industry by offering on-demand services to a central library of entertainment for the price of a single movie rental.
So there are definitely collections of dreamers and dragon slayers out there, but they are rare and I think that is because we keep telling our children that dragons only live in fairy tales. We passively crush their creative spirit into a neat package we can cope with in our busy, professional, reality-driven lives. Blue sky we can deal with, but pink oceans don't make sense. Green grass is okay, but cows with six legs are not.
Someday some little girl or boy will grow up to become an engineer working for a company developing safety equipment for farm vehicles. They will examine all the possible dangers but miss the fact that a chicken could possibly get into the cab and accidentally press important buttons. He or she will miss the possibility because they they were told as a toddler playing with farm toys that chickens don't drive tractors.
Dream, Believe, Dare, Do!