Take a look at this picture. Does it frighten you?
It didn’t frighten the big people in Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, either. But that’s because they didn’t choose to see what it really was.
As adults, we tend to rely on what we have learned and what we have experienced. We explain the world with logic and rational thinking. As we grow older, we shed our attentiveness and become bogged down in the responsibilities and demands of our important grown-up lives. We try to find responsible, reasonable solutions. Remember being a kid? When you answered questions with what now seem like nonsensical or radical answers? What happened to that?
In an experiment done in 2010, a group of psychologists decided to test the theory that as we leave childhood, so do we leave that creative and innovative inspiration behind. In the experiment, they asked two groups of college students to answer the question “What would you do if school was cancelled today?” However, one group was given an additional instruction, to imagine that they were 7 years old. Those participants who were asked to think like 7 year olds exhibited significantly higher levels of originality. In addition, researchers found that those who scored higher on a measure of “openness to experience” also exhibited higher originality in their responses.
“My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant…I drew the inside of the boa constrictor, so the big people could see it clearly. They always need to have things explained.”
Saint-Exuprey never reveals the age of the Little Prince, and in so reveals that it is not the age, but the attitude that matters. It is a way of looking at the world and not just seeing what is on the outside, but understanding the whole problem and envisioning what could be, not just what is. We tend to approach problems rationally, with preconceive notions and judgments. Often, we already have an end goal in mind, and only determine the steps it will take to get there. But what if we let the experience and process take us to the solution? What if as big people, we could capture the childlike curiosity and combine it with the experience, knowledge, and depth acquire as adults possess? Would we come up with something as outlandish as a piano staircase? Or a garbage can that reaches the other side of the world? As the experiment proves, we have the power to change our attitude, if we choose to. By changing our approach and how we arrive at solutions, we can come up with creative and innovative ideas that any 7-year old would be proud of.