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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

Live, Listen, and Play Like a Kid

Today’s Wednesday Work Wisdom

Today I had the honor of seeing my good friend, Ed Gerety, speak to 200 junior high school students. He was amazing.

What I found most interesting was the response from the audience.

I am used to speaking to corporations where the average age is probably 40 – 50. Here the average age was 12 – 13. There is a marked difference between these groups!

When Ed asked the student to do something, 100% participated (well, several of the teachers sat and stared blankly). When he asked them to do something that an adult might think as “silly,” the audience went wild with laughter. When he told moving stories that might generate “crickets” from an adult audience, he received gasps, cheers, and awwwwws from the teenagers. There was an unbelievable energy in the room. Everyone was hungry for Ed’s message.

When did we, as adults, become so jaded? When did we forget how to participate and play in life? When did we decide that “looking good” in front of others was more important than full self-expression? When did we become so arrogant that we know more than everyone else? When did we stop truly learning and living?

I was inspired by these students. I was tempted to call them “kids.” But after spending an hour with them, I realized that they are more adult than many adults.

Today, I encourage you to look at the world through the eyes of a teenager. Play. Laugh. Participate. Clap. Gasp. Show your full range of emotions.

As Ed said during his presentation, tell people you love them. Be thankful, every day, for what you have. Help others. Stand up for yourself.

I’ve attended a lot of seminars and training over the years. But spending 60 minutes with Ed and a couple hundred students was the most valuable education I have received in years.

P.S. I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when working for a large organization. I presented to 400 executives in the morning followed by 200 high school students in the afternoon. The two audiences could not have been more different. I wrote about how to tap into your “inner innovation child” in an American Express OPEN Forum article. You can also read my article “Unleash Your Inner Innovator” (pdf). It appeared in a British Magazine 10 years ago.