Lessons From Kindergarten

Public school starts this week in Chicago and the excitement level is incredible.  Kids are all over the streets, jumping, playing, talking about homework and just letting off steam after being cooped up in school all day.  It strikes me that they seem to jam as much play into the few hours between 3 and 6 PM as they did for 10 hours a day during the summer.  They also seem to appreciate the time and the outdoors more than they did during the summer.

Perhaps there is a lesson there for all of us in business.  If we limit the time we dedicate to a specific project or task we might jack up the energy level and actually get the job done.  We will not continue to let things linger and will not be reaching for that unattainable level of perfection and just be able to move on.  What else can we learn from these kids?

I was once interviewed for a company newsletter and asked what my favorite business book was and I quickly answered it was Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  I am sure you have read parts of the book or heard songs about it but as a refresher look at this summary and note Fulghum’s website.

The answer at the time was a little tongue in cheek, but I really wanted to get the message out that we too often complicate things.  We spend too much time digesting complicated theory when it is overkill.  We wrestle with the latest ideas while letting common sense thinking slip away.  We are always trying to outmaneuver each other when what is needed is cooperation.  We have a disdain for having fun at work when that is perhaps what is needed most.  There is beauty in simplicity.

One of the key traits of successful and innovative CEOs is their ability to associate.  That is the skill of looking at one situation, analyzing it and transferring the thinking to their own business.  Try it out.  See what you can learn from the kids in Chicago cramming all their fun into a few hours after school.  Look at the kindergarden list and see what can be transferred to your business.

Change is clearly needed in our industry.  This is an opportunity as well as a challenge.  Should we make things more complex or try to simplify?   How about some simple thoughts to get you thinking about how kindergarden lessons could help our industry.  When you start something finish it.  Work with others.  Talk constantly with everyone you meet both inside and outside your company.  Follow the rules.  Work hard and play hard.  When the day is over go home and do something else.  Treat others like you want to be treated.  Return calls.  Help others out.  Be creative and color outside the lines.  Recognize that the there is richness in the diversity.  Be constantly intrigued.  Learn like crazy.  Be fair.  I am sure you could think of a ton more, but I think you get the drift.

As the new school year starts, take a look at the excitement and energy that is all around.  Remember those exhilarating feelings you had when you started each new school year.  Everything seemed possible.  Now try to approach every work day with that same spirit and you might be surprised how much more effective you become and how much fun you can have just doing your job.  You might be amazed!

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